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Staying Healthy in Cold Weather
According to Ayurveda, November is the first month of winter and the cause for a dramatic shift in diet and behavior. Winter and its dietary prescription of more proteins and fats to rebuild the body and mind while insulating us from the cold winter months will last from November through February.
Spring, with its harvest for cleansing greens, bitter roots and berries that will last from March through June and summer, spanning from June to October, provides a cooling harvest of more fruits and veggies. Be sure to sign up for my free monthly seasonal eating guide, The 3-Season Diet Challenge – where each month you’ll receive recipes, tips, seasonal grocery lists, articles and videos about the foods to eat more of in that month.
November is a special month as, in most of the US and northern hemisphere, winter is upon us. If you reside in the southern hemisphere, please follow our March monthly eating guide to stay aligned with the season you are currently experiencing.
As the weather turns colder, our bodies begin to prepare for the winter challenges that tend to creep in – weaker immunity and the challenge of staying warm. Thankfully, the winter harvest has the purpose of boosting immunity and storing more fat for insulation. Our need for a stronger digestive fire (as measured by an increase of digestive enzyme production and faster metabolism) increases, so we can efficiently break down the winter roots, nuts, seeds and meats that are widely abundant. (1,4) Body glucose is also naturally elevated in the winter, allowing for any excess sugar to keep the fat stores, energy reserves and insulation of the body high. (4)
Interestingly, in the winter, the body boosts both the “fight or flight,” sympathetic nervous system as well as the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system activity. (4) The winter “fight or flight” response seems to be related to dealing with the stress of the cold winter, and the parasympathetic response seems to be involved in preserving calories, resting more, and digesting the harder-to-digest but long-lasting foods of winter. (2,3,4) With both the “rest and digest” and “fight or flight” nervous systems activated in the winter, focusing on calming and de-stressing while boosting digestion is the seasonal call for a healthy winter.
Winter Lifestyle Take-Away
- Try to get to bed earlier in the winter. It’s best to get to sleep between 8-10pm if possible.
- Shift your diet to increase the intake of healthy fats and more proteins in the winter. If you are a meat eater, I suggest the diet be only 10% meat-based proteins, and the rest can be in the form of nuts, seeds, cheeses, legumes and protein-rich grains such as quinoa and amaranth.
- Take 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and/or ghee each day with meals, above and beyond what you cook with. Use olive oil on foods, rather than cooking with it.
- Practice daily self-massage with oil (Abyhanga). This combats dryness and supports the beneficial microbes on the skin.
- Relax and sit down when you eat. This activates the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system to help calm the mind and boost efficiency of digestion.
- Keep your head warm. The body loses most of its heat through the head. The colder the body becomes, the more “fight or flight” immune-compromising stress is activated to cope with the winter chill.
- Calm the mind with a meditation See my One Minute Meditation or my Transformational Awareness Technique (TAT) meditation eCourse to learn how to meditate.
- Consider my Winter Immune-Boosting Kit, which consists of our Liquid Sun Vitamin D3, Turmeric Plus, Ashwagandha and Chyawanprash to keep you and your family healthy all winter.
- Vitamin D3 – 4000IU a day with the main meal (2000 daily for kids)
- Turmeric Plus – 2 caps with breakfast (1 for kids)
- Ashwagandha – 2 caps with breakfast (1 for kids)
- Chyawanprash – 1-2 teaspoons daily, or more if you have the sense that you are getting rundown. Only for children over 2 years old.