As cooler weather sets in, and viruses continue to spread we watch the rain dribble down from inside where runny noses and coughs spread like… well, like bacteria. Keeping your family’s immune system strong with these tips by Tiffany Brown.
Why do the kids seem healthier in summer, even though they hoon around til 9pm, crash out, and are up again at daybreak? Longer daylight hours mean our bodies produce less melatonin and require less sleep. We need to make allowances for the change in melatonin production in the darker months by increasing our resting periods to get enough sleep for great health. In theory, this should be easy, as there are longer periods of darkness to encourage our hibernation.
Trying to pack as much in to your busy schedule in the winter as you did in the summer? If you can adjust your expectations and cut back on the running around, your health will thank you. Knocking some stuff off the planner will reduce your family’s exposure to other people’s germs, allow more opportunities for rest, keep temperature more efficiently regulated, and recreate the sense of relative calm you all felt in the summertime.
Becomes almost more important when the weather is cold. The body needs to know it’s alive, and there’s no better way to remind it than a spot of exercise. Kids have a PE component to their weekly schedule, but if they’re not also playing team sports in the winter, why not lead by example and make sure family activity includes regular exercise? Hiking and tramping in the soggy bush, brisk walks in the crisp air, tossing a ball around in the park, cycling, fun runs or winter pursuits like skiing and snowboarding are all great ways to keep fit, and keep your family bonded.
Dusting off the slow cooker at this time of year is not just about convenience. Long, slow simmering releases maximum nutrition from proteins and vegetables. Boost those stews and soups even more by using homemade bone broths as a base instead of commercial stocks, and try to use seasonal, local, and even organic produce where possible. How’s your garden looking? A regular session tending the patch is another good way to put some ticks on your family’s activity chart.
Too often, snack foods for kids are empty of any real nutritional value. No wonder they’re whining for something more only 10 minutes later! In winter, they won’t necessarily need or be able to use the high-energy carbohydrate foods they do in summer, so keep fresh and fruit, muesli bars, and the like to a minimum. Give them boiled eggs, cooked or dried meats, nuts, cheese, or lightly cooked vegetables with cottage cheese, bean dips, or hummus for on-the-go nutrition instead.
THE WRONG FUEL
Does wintertime usually mean your local takeaway joint gets speed-dialled a little more than it should? Takeaway may be an easy option for wintertime, but most fast foods come loaded with empty calories and anti-nutrients like polyunsaturated fatty acids, none of which do your immune system any favours. Planning is the key to keeping the family well-fed and healthy in the cooler months. Start by making the freezer your best friend, and put a little effort in to preparing bulk meals, soups, and freezer-happy dinners when you have the time. Make sure you pull them out with plenty of time to defrost. Aim to keep takeaways to a once-a -week treat (even less often if you can manage it), and rely on your slow cooker for some extra help.
IMMUNE-BOOSTING RELIEF & PROBIOTICS
If sniffles and snuffles start to take hold, it’s time to unleash your arsenal of natural medicine. Garlic is antimicrobial and offers a range of health benefits. A few slices of raw ginger in boiling water can alleviate a cough or sore throat and ward off feelings of nausea. Raw honey has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties; the classic lemon and honey drink can ease throat soreness. Echinacea contains active flavonoids which boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Winter citrus fruits, kiwifruit, potatoes, and leafy greens are all good sources of vitamin C, which is full of antioxidants to provide relief from and reduce the duration of winter infections. Zinc is an essential mineral with antibacterial and antiviral properties. Probiotics are friendly bacteria and yeasts which provide a balance to your gut flora, helping you digest food more efficiently and encouraging robust immunity. Look for probiotic yoghurts with live bacteria specified in the ingredient list. It is especially important to take probiotic foods or supplements if you’ve taken a course of antibiotics, which wreak havoc with the digestive system.
KEEP IT TO YOURSELF
Soldiering on may seem the noble thing to do, but denying your body’s immunity the chance to effectively deal with an invasion does it no favours. It also disadvantages your family when you are not performing at your best, and ultimately takes you longer to recover. Containing your illness and recovering at home helps the rest of us, too, as you will be keeping your bugs to yourself.
YOU MAKE ME HAPPY WHEN SKIES ARE GREY
Bleak moods are a recipe for bleak health, but laughter is the best medicine. It can be tough to keep up the happiness factor during a long, dark winter, but there have never been more ways to help you try. Watch family movies that make you all laugh together, find out about fun family events on the local calendar, get together with great friends, or play interactive and timeless family games like charades or Scrabble. Nominate a time to spend with each other, and let the most cheerful one of you decide what to do. Keep a tally of who makes the rest of you laugh the most, with a reward that can be paid in springtime. You might love this one so much, you’ll keep doing it all year.
KNOW WHEN TO GET HELP
If you or your kids are still feeling lousy after a week or two, seek professional help for your ailments. Be particularly concerned if the patient experiences shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, fainting, or any other severe symptoms.