Do you dread the colder, darker days? Your mood, energy and overall wellbeing can all drop in the winter, so it’s not surprising lots of us associate this time of year with shivering away indoors, feeling below par. The lack of daylight can trigger the ‘winter blues’, causing symptoms including low mood, fatigue and cravings for stodgy food.1 Meanwhile, cold and flu bugs tend to be more prevalent at this time of year. There are a number of reasons this may be the case, with studies suggesting everything from colder temperatures and weak sunlight, to spending more time indoors, mixing with others, could be to blame for the surge in viruses.2
Winter doesn’t have to be this way, though. There are some simple steps you can take to stay well and fight off coughs, colds and flagging spirits, so you can breeze through the chillier months sparkling with vitality.
1. Keep cosy
It may sound like an old tale but there’s evidence wrapping up warm will prevent colds taking hold. One study from Cardiff University found people whose feet became chilled were more likely to develop a cold when exposed to the virus.3 The reason? Lots of us harbour dormant infections in our noses but have no symptoms. However, if you become chilly, the blood vessels in your nose constrict, shutting off the supply of warm blood that’s packed with white blood cells to fight off infection. So the virus lying dormant in your nose gets stronger and cold symptoms develop. There’s also evidence cold, rainy weather can make you feel more depressed.4 But while you can’t control the weather, you can keep cosy all winter, fending off colds, coughs and low mood. Snuggle up in lots of thin layers to keep you insulated – this also means you can easily add and remove layers as needed. Don’t forget thick socks, gloves and a hat if you’re heading out.
2. Head outside
This may seem counterintuitive but it’s important to get as much daylight as possible – yes, even on the chilliest, most miserable winter’s day. Research from the Psychiatric University Clinic, Basel, Switzerland, found 50 per cent of people with winter depression reported their mood lifted after just one week when they walked outside for an hour each morning.5 Your immune system will thank you, too. Studies have found walking in nature can boost levels of the immune system’s virus-gobbling white blood cells – so you may pick up fewer coughs and colds if you incorporate a stroll into your daily routine.6
3. Eat – and drink – yourself healthy
There’s some truth to the old adage you should ‘feed a cold’, with a US study showing that eating encourages the production of a type of immune system cell that helps devour viruses.7 Choose hot, hearty meals – research from the University at Buffalo, New York, US, has found warming comfort foods can boost your mood, helping you feel more content and connected,8 a positive for your overall wellbeing.
Make sure you stock up on Manuka Honey when you’re filling your kitchen cupboard with wellness-boosting foods. Honey’s one of your biggest culinary allies throughout the winter, with a 2018 review of studies describing it as a single food that combines many medicines, as it has a range of properties that help soothe inflammation and fight infection.9 Manuka Honey, in particular, has been shown to have powerful antibacterial properties, while emerging research also suggests it may battle viruses.10
Why not power up your winter wellness with higher UMF-rated Manuka Honey? One of the many things that UMF honey measures is MGO, which stands for methylglyoxal, and is the magic ingredient that gives Manuka Honey its antimicrobial properties.
The higher the UMF rating, the bigger its antimicrobial benefits. You can add Manuka Honey to porridge or slather it onto toast – or simply have it neat from a spoon, a delicious way to enjoy. Or you could use Manuka Honey in a hot drink. Hot, flavoursome drinks can help stimulate the nasal and throat secretions that soothe coughs, stuffy noses, sore throats and other cold symptoms, according to research.11 Hot honey and lemon’s a cold-weather classic for this reason – with lemon, rich in immune-supporting vitamin C, and honey, shown to soothe coughs,12 it’s the perfect drink to reach for.
3. Johnson C and Eccles R. Acute cooling of the feet and the onset of common cold symptoms. Fam Pract 2005 Dec;22(6):608-13
4. Mirzakhani L and Poursafa P. The Association between Depression and Climatic Conditions in the Iran Way to Preventive of Depression. Int J Prev Med. 2 014 Aug; 5(8): 947–951
5. Wirz-Justice A, Graw P, Krauchi A et al. ‘Natural’ light treatment of seasonal affective disorder. J Affect Disord 1996 Apr 12;37(2-3):109-20
6. Science Daily: Boost your immune system, shake off stress by walking in the woods https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003132112.htm
7. Bazar KA, Yun AJ, Lee PY. "Starve a fever and feed a cold": feeding and anorexia may be adaptive behavioral modulators of autonomic and T helper balance. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(6):1080-4
8. Troisi JD and Gabriel S. Chicken Soup Really Is Good for the Soul. Psych Sci 22 issue: 6, page(s): 747-753
9. Khan SU, Anjum SI, Rahman K et al. Honey: Single food stuff comprises many drugs. Saudi J Biol Sci 2018 Feb; 25(2): 320–325
10. Khan SU, Anjum SI, Rahman K et al. Honey: Single food stuff comprises many drugs. Saudi J Biol Sci 2018 Feb; 25(2): 320–325
11. Eccles R et al. The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. Rhinology 46(4):271-5 · January 2009
12. Cohen HA et al. Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. PEDIATRICS Volume 130, Number 3, September 2012