Five ways to prep your body for a healthier winter

Kylie A. Study, M.Sc, MSTOM, Dipl.OM

        The leaves have fallen and there’s a chill in the air. And although it’s a beautiful time of year, you may have noticed some changes in your health as the seasons change. The falling leaves and dampness could affect those with sinus and allergy issues. The damp and cold could also affect those with lung conditions such as asthma. Have you noticed you’re feeling more groggy and achy? Joints could also feel achy with the change in seasons.
        You’ve probably gotten your yard and home ready for winter, but what about preparing your health for winter? Here are some ideas on how to prep our bodies for the upcoming winter season.
        1. Fight the fatigue with healthy sleep habits. Our bodies naturally make a chemical called melatonin, which regulates when we’re asleep and when we’re awake. Melatonin is released in our body hours before sundown to help get us ready for sleep. When the sun is setting earlier in the fall and winter, our bodies produce melatonin much earlier in the day which can make us feel sleepy. Getting up early and trying to spend some time in the morning in the sunlight could help your body release melatonin later in the day to help with grogginess. Safe exposure to sunlight early in the day can affect the gland that makes melatonin and can help to delay the natural release of melatonin by this gland.
        Also good sleep hygiene like getting to bed earlier and keeping a bedtime routine can be helpful to ensure we get enough rest so we don’t feel as tired. If you still feel tired or have a hard time adjusting, consider exercise in the morning to help fight daytime fatigue.
        2. Breathe easier by supporting your lung and sinus health. Falling leaves, cold air and damp weather could affect lung and sinus issues. Sinus congestion, sniffles, sinus pressure and allergies can flare up in the fall for some people. Also, those with lung issues such as asthma may be affected by the colder air.
        Try to limit time outside to avoid lung and sinus irritation and cover up the mouth and nose with a scarf while outside to protect from cold air. Diffusing or doing a steam of essential oils can help with lung support and essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint may help open nasal passages. These essential oils also have anti-microbial properties which could help reduce your risk for infections. The air inside can become dry when the heat is turned on causing our nose and sinuses to feel dry. There are many natural products available to lubricate the nose and soothe dry irritated nasal passages such as a neti pot/sinus rinse.
        3. Give your body a boost with nutrition. Eating well any time of year is important for our overall health. In the fall and winter when we’re feeling cold, warming foods like soups and stews can warm us up and are easy our on digestive system. Adding nourishing, in-season produce, such as hard squashes, can provide your body with many vitamins, minerals, nutrients needed to keep your body and immune health strong.
        Mushrooms could be included in the diet to support immune health by supporting our immune system’s non-specific defenses to colds. Not a fan of the taste of mushrooms? There are mushroom extract supplements for those that don’t want to eat them. These natural supplements can contain many mushrooms or single mushrooms like cordyceps. Other natural ways to boost our body are through the use of elderberry products. This deep purple-blue berry is full of anti-oxidants and has been suggested in studies to support our immune system and shorten the duration of the flu. Elderberries can be found in syrups, lozenges and also dried berries to add to your daily cup of tea.
        4. Reduce stress and stiffness with movement. Exercise is good for joint health and can also help with stress levels. Joints that are feeling achy from the change in seasons may benefit from gentle exercise. Consider walking or chair yoga for gentle joint support. Exercise can also be used to help with stress levels. Stress can have many effects on our health including influencing hormones in the body which could contribute to our immune health.
        5. Ease tension and breathing with cupping. Cupping is a natural therapy that is most commonly used for muscle tension, but can also be used to help with other conditions. Cupping over the lungs and diaphragm could be helpful over the winter months especially because it may help those with asthma or phlegm in their lungs take deeper breaths.
        The technique of cupping involves the adhering of glass cups to the skin using suction. This technique has been used for thousands of years and recently the temporary marks left by cupping have been seen on professional athletes. Cupping is believed to increase circulation to an area and release tension. As circulation is increased and tension released, a red to purple colored mark is left on the skin. This mark can last for hours to days and will fade over time.
        Kylie A. Study is a licensed acupuncturist and natural wellness practitioner at the ProMedica Natural Wellness Shop in Sylvania. For more information and health tips, visit


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