25 Nov Cold Weather And Your Health
Cold and flu run rampant in the winter months, but bacteria and viruses, contrary to popular belief, are not more proliferous nor more malicious. Rather, the immune system experiences an enormous amount of stress due to extreme cold temperatures.
The cold makes the body work harder and tire more quickly, due to an increase in energy and nutrition expenditure for everyday functions, such as circulation and metabolism. Meanwhile, the nervous and endocrine systems go into overdrive to keep the outer tissues and inner organs from freezing.
Because the environmental conditions tax the body in this way, areas of weakness develop in an otherwise healthy immune system, allowing for viruses to sneak in.
Protecting yourself from the prevalent head colds and fevers that come with the holidays has less to do with antibiotics and doctors, however, and more to do with simple self-care.
The most important, straightforward preventative—even though it seems so obvious—is to keep warm. But before you shout “Of, course!”, throw your computer out the window, and crank up the heater to mimic the tropics, consider the qualities of the winter cold.
When temperatures drop, moisture in the air decreases. We experience this lack of moisture most prominently in our noses. The inner lining of the nose is extremely sensitive with a membrane designed to detect microscopic particles. This membrane ends up measuring the composition of the air and reacts accordingly. When humidity decreases and frosting increases the air starts getting very scratchy to this delicate organ, and the mucosa start producing an excess of liquid. This protects the nose from the harsh environment, and we feel this protection in the form of the all-too-familiar and annoying perpetual runny nose of winter.
And while firing up the modern convenience of the HVAC fixes the cold problem, it increases the dryness already present in the atmosphere, which can lead to other problems such as cracked and damaged skin. There’s a less energy-expensive, more nutritious, and hydrating way to combat the cold: hot beverages. Preparing and consuming hot liquids such as teas, broths, and milks all have immune boosting effects as well as aiding the body with its warming mechanism and providing water to replace the depleted humidity.
Bone broth is the most healthful of these concoctions as it contains a high amount of protein—an essential building block to repair damaged tissues. And while green tea gets honorable mentions everywhere for antioxidants, consider making your own various herbal infusions with the help of your local healthy food store clerk to introduce a wide gamut of healing properties into the mix. Often people think of herbal remedies as strictly medicinal which can seem unsavory and complicated but experimenting with flavors and spices—such as echinacea (immune support) and ginger (warming element) apple cider or marshmallow root and licorice (both helpful demulcents) black tea with cream and honey—gives credence to the saying, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
Never underestimate the value of comfort in preventing sickness and speeding healing. While the heat and liquid from beverages ease the stress on your body, the taste is equally important in rejuvenation. A happy mind and warm hands are a healthy body.