I actually like the cold, harsh weather and long, dark evenings. They build character. Of course, they also excuse you to bundle up in front of a fire, watch movies, and sleep late. I, however, have to take extra precautions when the temperature drops. In both the Chinese and Indian traditional medicinal systems, every person is said to be born aligned to a particular season, and which season it is can be deduced from the person’s characteristics. People who easily get cold, especially in their fingers and toes, are usually winter types. This means we have an affinity for this time of year, but are also vulnerable to it. Whether you’re the winter type or not, however, here are some recommendations for staying healthy and vibrant throughout the cold:
Dress warmly: Sometimes it can be a pain to break the habit of dressing lightly. However, it’s more of the pain when the cold weakens your body and knocks you horizontal for a week. Think of it as a chance to try on clothes you’ve even forgotten you owned over the last six months. Also, think about where you usually get sick or cold (Chest cold? Ear infection? Sore throat? Fingers fall off?), and focus on covering that area in particular.
Exercise regularly: Wood-chopping is probably the best. Failing that, I recommend anything that makes you sweat, gets the blood flowing, and warms you up internally. It’s great for the heat bills, not to mention your health.
Eat cooked vegetables: Forget that raw food stuff. Cooked foods have had heat imparted to them – they’re warm. When we talk about being warm or cold, what really matters is what’s on the inside. Ever stepped out of a hot shower and been freezing cold? During the shower your body was trying to compensate by cooling down internally. Exercising also warms up your insides. Try the root vegetables especially – they will impart their winter-surviving energy to you.
Cut down on congestive dairy products and sugar: In a dry, hot climate you may crave these foods, but during a cold, wet winter you’re much more likely to suffer from chronic colds and sinus-related problems on a constant basis. This is the first half of the cure for the common cold. It is also the second half.
More protein and fat: Extra fat keeps most animals warm in the winter, and protein is necessary for building strength. Whether it’s grains and beans with olive oil or whether it’s animal products, have a little more fat than you did in the summer and late summer.
Eat naturally preserved foods: For thousands of years we’ve been finding ways to make our food last beyond the harvest season. Eating food that’s been pickled, smoked, fermented, or otherwise preserved will help you continue to get the nutrients and minerals you need through the winter.
Sleep more: If you feel like hibernating, that’s not an accident. Even if you can’t go to bed as early as you’d like, turn out the lights you’re not using and try to cut down on background noise. Don’t eat late, either; try to keep an atmosphere of near-bedtime around you. This is a time of being internal, more of input/study than output/action.
Finally, ginger tea and raw garlic will cure everything if you don’t follow these recommendations. The chicken soup listed below might help too.