February is well behind us and it's time to "March onward"! Keeping healthy through the end of winter just got a little easier with these five ways to increase your immune system that are all free or nearly free!
1. Run for it (or brisk-walk, or cycle, or wheel, or...you get the idea!) Moderate physical activity throughout the winter season has its benefits - among them, improved circulation in your arteries helps to move the lymph, the fluid in which the immune system is very active. The condensation of water vapor from your own breath helps to drain out discharge that would otherwise be stuck in your sinuses. I myself this week worked off a mild cold with some light jogging (and a few other simple naturopathic home care goodies).
2. Hot and Cold - try a time-tested hydrotherapy technique called the "contrast shower" - enjoy your hot shower for 3-4 minutes, then switch to cold water (as cold as you can stand it!) for 10-30 seconds. Then go back to hot and repeat the cycle a few times. Always end with cold! WHY, you ask? The hot and cold contrast encourages more lymph-moving circulatory activity, and when you end with cold, your body naturally shunts warm blood to your core, increasing your core temperature and making you more resistant to infections.
Cost: maybe a few extra pennies per shower
3. Rest Up - we're getting longer sunsets these days (yay!) but winter still has a lovely way of reminding us to hibernate a little more - take advantage of the long, cold nights as a cue to go to bed a little earlier and let your body - including all your immune faculties - restore and rejuvenate while you sleep.
4. Get Garlicky - sulfur compounds in garlic are not only flavor-giving but are naturally anti-microbial! As a bonus, garlic doesn't kill off your resident populations of friendly, beneficial bacteria or probiotics. Garlic is most antibiotic when eaten raw, so get out that garlic press and add some pungent goodness to your next hummus, bean dip, guacamole or pasta sauce.
Cost: 10-25 cents per clove
5. Change with the Seasons - in late winter, it's important to protect our bodies from the stress of the seemingly day-to-day weather changes: one day a sunny thaw, the next day rain, the next day a quick refreeze and snow. I tend to see more coughs, colds and flus in the clinic when the weather has been changing back and forth like this. Here's where I recommend a batch or two of Change of Season Soup - a mixture of traditional Chinese herbs that can be taken by most people (check with your health care practitioner for all herbal medicines), just boiled into your favourite soup stock recipe and freeze in portions or use in soups, stews, sauces etc. throughout 3-7 days. The combination helps the body adapt to the stress of quickly changing weather patterns at the change of seasons.
COST: $5 per packet
So there you have it! Five easy, super low-cost ways to enjoy the rest of winter in good health and March onward right into a healthy spring!