'Tis the season to deck the halls and stock our cupboards. The weather has turned colder this week, so as I stay in wrapping presents and making Christmas Bunting, I'm grateful for the time to be able to prepare for Christmas – see, there's always a silver lining! Usually, it's a time when we all rush around, multitasking, and holding the house together. Then suddenly, we get a cold, and it reminds us that we are all human!
With vigilance around COVID-19 always on our minds, it's easy to forget the more harmless strains of the cold that are lurking around at this time of the year. It starts with a tickle in the throat, a slight chill that gets us to put on an extra jumper, or that slight ache between your eyes, and before you know it, you're out of sync for the rest of the week.
Even with the extra cleaning and sanitiser that is now the norm, with more than 200 strains of the virus, avoiding them all is a pretty tough job, so here are ten hints and tips with everything we need to keep those colds at bay.
#1. A cold shower – Yes, you read that correctly. While a cold shower may be the last thing you want on a cold and frosty morning, changing the temperature of the water in your shower will boost your immunity. Switching from hot to cold every two minutes will increase two types of white blood cells called monocytes and lymphocytes. The immune system is stimulated by your body working on warming itself up from the cold water. The more you do this, the more your body can deal with bacteria and viruses.
#2. Drink up – Your immune system relies on water. The water in our bodies is carrying nutrients to your cells, and toxins away for elimination. It also keeps our temperature stable, protects our joints and keeps us hydrated. Drinking plenty of water will also help to dilute the mucus, helping to eliminate bacteria and viruses that can make you ill.
#3. Sleep – I've mentioned the importance of sleep for our health many times, and you how poor sleep can affect the immune system. If you are struggling, then magnesium, also known as 'Nature's tranquilliser', is needed to help you our muscles and nerves relax, so taking a good quality supplement will help you fall into a peaceful sleep. You could also try the Lavender Bath salts, which not only has a relaxing lavender essential oil to help you drift off, but bath salts are mineral-rich and can boost your magnesium levels by being absorbed through the skin.
#4. Laugh out loud – Many studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves our immunity and reduces pain. But what's important for anyone who is feeling stressed or a little down is that laughter triggers the release of endorphins – the feel-good hormones that make us feel happier and relaxed. To make the most of this FREE and FUN resource, try following a funny sitcom, read a funny book, start a joke jar, or try laughter meditation.
#5. Cut out dairy – As comforting and warming as that warm milky drink is, try to avoid dairy of you want to get better quicker and stay healthy. Dairy is a mucus forming and inflammatory product, and if you have too much, it may take you longer to shake off that virus. Luckily, the coffee shops have some great alternatives, so experiment and see which works better for you this season.
#6. Immune-boosting foods – Following the point about magnesium, there are plenty of magnesium rich-foods you can include in your diet this season. Try pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables. Other immune-boosting foods include garlic, red meats and lentils. Green leafy veg contains Iron, fish has vitamin B12, and for a natural vitamin C boost, grab yourself some organic berries, papaya, kiwi, peppers broccoli or Brussel sprouts.
#7. Sugar and Spice – Another way to ensure we are supporting our immune system, is to make sure we are not overloading it with low-nutrient foods like sugar. Sugar can have an inflammatory effect in the body and feeds the yeast and bacteria in our body, which can then prolong a condition or illness. Giving up sugar is not easy, so don't feel guilty if you give in to temptation and eat something sweet. Just be more mindful of what you are eating and try to keep it to the occasional treat.
#8. Get moving – OK, so this may be the opposite of #3. However, research tells us that those who exercise, even moderately, are 25 per cent less likely to develop a cold than those who rarely lace-up. Exercise increases the blood flow, which is an important factor in our immune response as our blood is what carries all the virus-fighting cells.
#9. Massage Therapy - The lymphatic system also plays an important role. Unlike the blood circulatory system, your lymphatic system lacks a pumping organ for the movement of lymph. The smooth, upward movement of lymph is assisted by the pressure created by the muscle and joint movement, and the heartbeat. And, as a bonus, a properly conducted massage is known to help improve lymphatic flow. So, if you need another excuse to get a massage, now you have one.
#10. The Power of a Hug – This year, physical touch has become something we need to exercise caution with, especially for those in the vulnerable categories. However, for those people in your bubble, a tender touch would help you get over your cold faster. A hug can help to decrease the level of the stress hormone, Cortisol, in your body. Cortisol decreases your immune response, so snuggle up to a loved one and enjoy the immune-boosting properties of a warm embrace.
The days are getting colder, have a warm heart.