Expert Tips

Winter health hacks

As the weather worsens it can be tough staying motivated to train. For others, it can exacerbate existing depression or anxiety, or result in SAD. Here are 13 ways to fight back

 

Switch up your snacks

“Tryptophan is an important amino acid for mood and depression,” says Dr. Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist. “Your body makes serotonin (the ‘feel good’ brain chemical) from tryptophan. Tryptophan occurs naturally in foods such as dairy products, fish, bananas, dried dates, soya, almonds and peanuts. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin unlike conventional anti-depressants which don’t ‘supply’ serotonin but act as SSRIs, serotonin reuptake inhibitors which keep the level of serotonin high in the brain,” explains Dr Glenville.

 

Keep your energy levels up

The cold weather and lack of sunshine often leaves us feeling tired and unmotivated. Ensure you’re getting the correct nutrients: “This includes fresh vegetables and fruit, fresh or tinned fish, free-range eggs, unprocessed meats, unroasted nuts and seeds, whole grains such as oats and brown rice, beans and pulses and dairy products,” says nutritionist Cassandra Barns. “Ultimately this means limiting your intake of high-sugar foods, refined foods and most things that come in a packet.”

 

Look after your joints and bones

In the colder months especially, it’s important to pay attention to your joints and bones. You may be able to relate when someone says they can feel the cold right through to their bones, as many people with joint problems find their symptoms flare up at this time of year. Luckily, Sense* have expertly designed a superfood supplement for joint and bone health, available in capsule form for convenience (£14.99, www.boots.com) or in a powder form (£21.99, www.boots.com), which can be added to your favourite smoothies, juices or stirred into food.

 

Work out with friends

Chilly weather can definitely knock your motivation down but falling off the wagon with your exercise routine can dampen your motivation even further. When it’s cold sometimes the last thing we want to do is put on our gym clothes and go for a run – but the endorphins from exercise can help give you that extra boost.

Manage the cold and flu season

In the chillier months, our increasingly busy and hectic lifestyles often mean our health can take a hit in the way of colds and flus. Dr. Glenville explains how getting enough sleep can help. “Sleep is important for your health as it gives your body time to recharge its batteries and repair cells,” she says. “When you don’t get enough or you have a restless night you can feel irritable, lack concentration and can become more vulnerable to infections as your body does not have the strength to fight its own battles.”

 

Don’t rely on the sun for Vitamin D

“You may be more affected by SAD because of a lack of vitamin D, as it is thought of as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Vitamin D receptors are present in your central nervous system and vitamin D can affect neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are linked to depression.” If you can, get a liquid vitamin D3 and drop it under your tongue.
It will go into the blood vessels under your tongue so it is absorbed quickly, rather than having to be digested if you take a capsule.

 

Laugh all year long

Having a laugh is one of the best remedies for stress and low mood – it triggers healthy changes in our body. “Many studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves immunity and diminishes pain. But what’s very important for anyone, who is stressed or feeling down, is that laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the natural feel-good chemicals that make us happier and relaxed,” explains Dr. Glenville.

 

Cheer up your mind through your gut

“We’re learning more about the importance of the ‘friendly’ bacteria and other microbes that live in our gut. Our gut is often referred to as the body’s second brain as it is teaming with billions of bacteria that help influence immunity, mood, digestion and even brainpower,” says Barns. Try natural food supplements that provide expertly targeted nutrients, supporting gut membranes, digestive enzymes and healthy stomach acids by replacing the harmful bacteria with nutrients that help to heal and maintain a healthy gut.

 

Bring the light to you

“If you feel especially down on dark mornings, consider using a special light lamp alarm clock. The lamp gradually turns itself on (and gets brighter and brighter) to mimic natural dawn sunrise, to wake you up slowly before your alarm goes off. Research has shown people feel more positive and find it easier to get out of bed in the darker months after using this kind of device,” says Barns.

 

Everyone is going hemp crazy and rightly so

Hemp is a natural ingredient that contains phytocannabinoids. They’re natural substances found in cannabis sativa plants. When we absorb them, they interact with our nervous system, brain and immune system. They do this by mimicking – or helping to increase – the activity of natural chemicals produced in our own body known as endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids have effects on many systems and processes in our body, including digestion and appetite, mood, stress response, sensations of pleasure and pain, our immune system and reproduction.

 

When life gives you lemons…

“Drinking a glass of lemon juice with water every morning is the perfect way to kick-start your digestion, and boost your immunity at the same time,” says Dr. Glenville. “This is because lemons contain bioflavonoids, a group of nutrients, which boost immunity by protecting the cells of your body against environmental pollutants.”

 

Don’t let central heating wreck havoc on your skin

“Dehydration and dry skin are common during the winter season, due to the effects of central heating and the harsh weather. Drink plenty of water and top up the good fats in your diet such as oily fish, nuts and seeds. Warming soups and herbal teas also help rehydrate. You may need to switch up your skin care regime to products that are richer and more moisturising to compensate,” explains Jacqueline Harvey, wellness expert.

 

Give your health a hand – with reflexology

The colder months can have a negative impact on our mood and you may feel find it harder to control your stress levels. “Try hand reflexology. Reflexologists believe that massaging key points in your hand can ease stress and tension. Try pinching the area between your thumb and forefinger about two centimetres into the palm to combat stress. This point is thought to correlate to the adrenal glands, responsible for releasing stress hormones into the body. Pinch the point firmly for three seconds and repeat three times, or massage the area with circular movements,” says Dr. Glenville.

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