Lemon and Ginger Tea, a warming cup of tea in a freezing winter setting.

We are now in the month of June, Winter is upon us and many of us are suffering from colds, flu, and viruses.

With the weather here in Melbourne blowing from hot to cold and the wind factor freezing – it provides the perfect weather for bacteria and viruses to thrive.

So how do we stay healthy during the winter months? How do we boost our immune system and how do we recover quickly from a cold or the flu?

Hand Washing

I know it sounds silly – but “coughs and sneezes spread diseases”, therefore, make sure that you wash your hands at work and at home, as bacteria and viruses can sit on other peoples hands and get passed on to hard surfaces such as door handles, bench space etc. A good hand washing routine with good old soap and warm water assists to decrease the incidents of germs spreading.

Banish Winter Tiredness

By getting out into the natural sunlight and daylight. This helps to balance our circadian rhythms and also assists our bodies immune system function. Many people feel tired and sluggish during winter. The shorter days make us want to hibernate, but it is still important for us to move our bodies and to get out into the  natural sunlight.

  • Exercise is also important and a quick 30 min walk outside will assist to increase your energy, reduce stress and improve your circulation.
  • Relieve tiredness and stress with exercise as well as mediation and relaxation.
  • Exercise at home – use your couch, the hallway, stairs. I used to walk up and down my hallway when I was pregnant and It was pouring with rain outside. I also used our stairs as step to walk up and down on. The couch – I used to do squats on and you can do sit ups, push ups on the floor. Exercise is also a good way to boost up our immune system.

Eat more Fruit and Vegetables

Fruit and Vegetables contain lots of antioxidants, flavonoids and fibre. Eating a variety of fruit and veggies assists our immune system and our body to be healthy and improves our energy. You should aim for 5 veggies and 2 pieces of fruit a day. In winter make sure to eat more green leafy veggies and orange foods – pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, mandarins, oranges.

Also, drink water as this helps to remove toxins from the body. Eat according to the season. In winter – from a TCM perspective, our Yang retreats inside the body and it is the season of the water element – The bladder and the Kidneys. So water is important, we also need to eat foods that support these organs such as salt, seafood, leafy green veggies, seaweed, kelp, spirulina, broad beans, kidney beans, lentils, black beans. Eat warming foods – this means eating food that is warm and that will warm you up – soups, casseroles, hotpots, stir fries. Please avoid eating cold food – ie food straight out of the fridge, salads, as these foods are to cold to consume in winter.

Cook with Herbs and Spices

Cooking with herbs and spices also boosts up our immune system as well as flavouring our food. Onion, garlic and ginger are all immune boosting spices and they are also warming foods. Turmeric is great as it contains the active ingredient curcumin – which is an antioxidant and it is also anti-inflammatory and assists to reduce inflammation in the body. It is warm in its properties and warms the whole body. (Boosts Yang energy).

Garlic, ginger, onion and tumeric are all warm in property according to Chinese Medicine. These food help to boost our Yang and also assist to warm the interior of the body, so they are great for people who suffer with poor circulation in winter and who have constant cold hands and feet.

Consume Herbal Tea

Tea is high in antioxidants which also assists to support our immune system. Lemon and Chamomile tea reduce stress and anxiety in the body, by calming down the nervous system and also assisting with sleep. These teas are great to consume during the day as well as in the evening.

Green tea and Rooibos tea are extremely high in antioxidants and should be consumed daily. Green tea  also assists to increase energy levels and boosts the metabolism.

Other Herbal tea infusions which are great to increase our immune function are Echinachea, Lemon Myrtle, Lemon Grass, Ginger and Astragalus. Try my Immunity Tea as well which has been specifically designed to boost up the immune system and function. Our family drinks this daily and combines it with the Energy tea. This is a staple in our household in winter.

Take Vitamin Supplements

Preventative medicine – use Food as Medicine but, I also tell my clients to consume  Vitamin C and zinc during winter. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and when taken at the onset of a cold, can reduce the severity of a cold. As preventative medicine, I have my clients taking powdered Vit C and zinc daily throughout winter. The maintenance dose can be changed at the onset of a cold.
Also, consume a Vitamin D supplement, as we don’t get enough Vitamin D in winter. I prefer my clients to take Vitamin D oil, as it is more readily absorbed into the body.  Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that affects our moods, hormones and bone density. Low vitamin D can manifest as depression, low mood, fatigue and an  inability to sleep. Vitamin D is essential to our bodies function and enables us to produce melatonin – a hormone that helps us to sleep. Vitamin D helps to absorb other important vitamins in our body including Vitamin A, Calcium, and Iron.

Finally wrap up warmly! Make sure that you wear a singlet underneath your tops and a scarf around your neck. This prevents the cold and wind from entering our body through the lower back and through the back of the neck. In Chinese Medicine – these areas are where a cold begins.

If you feel like your getting a cold – increase your dosage of vitamin C, go to bed early and also take a warm bath, as we can sweat out the patogen. This is also why in Europe, saunas and steam rooms are important.

Book in for our Winter Wellness Special – $20 off an initial consultation and treatment to assist your body to boost its immune system and stay well this Winter.

A warming cup of Ginger and Lemon Herbal Tea on a table in a snow swept background.

For more tips – read our blog on the 7 best herbs to cook with in Winter.

Written By Dr Julia Bartrop – Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner, busy mum of 2.