If you live in the southern hemisphere, you’re in the middle of winter right now. If you live in Melbourne, winter has now well and truly arrived! (If you live in QLD it’s probably a steady 25 degrees and winter is merely a concept).
This past week we have been waking up to icy cold mornings and frost on our cars and lawns (frost!). On a couple of occasions this past week I’ve been caught out walking in the icy cold and as a Chinese medicine practitioner this is horrifying.
In Chinese medicine, we pay attention to pathogenic factors. The main culprits being cold, heat, damp, dryness and wind. When we have too much exposure to any or all of these pathogens – signs can show up in the body.
During the winter months, cold is the main factor we need to be aware of. As the environment is already cool, we don’t want to be adding any more cold energy into our bodies. This can be done by eating too many cold raw foods, drinking icy cold drinks, or not rugging up and wearing enough warm clothing.
Cold is contracting and slows down the movement of Qi and Blood. We see this example everywhere in nature. When water molecules are cooled they slow down and eventually freeze into ice.
Signs we may have too much cold in our bodies can include:
Menstrual irregularities eg. Amenorrhoea, heavy periods, irregular periods and period pain.
Cold sensation in the body
Inability to sweat
Aches and pains
Cold hands and feet
Pain worse with cold
White mucus or phlegm
Cold lower back
Cold is never good news; however there are ways we can help prevent it.
Here are some of my top tips for eliminating cold from the body and surviving this winter!
1. Rug Up!
This one should be obvious, but I am still seeing some people walking around with shorts and thongs! There are several parts of the body that are easily invaded by cold. They include the neck, feet, lower back and abdomen. I tell my patients to make sure they are keeping their bodies warm during winter and wearing enough layers. Especially your feet! There are three channels that influence our reproductive health that begin at the feet. They travel up the legs and wrap around our reproductive organs. When cold gets in these channels via the feet it travels up the legs and through our precious reproductive organs, something we definitely don’t want! So keep those tootsies warm.
2. Drink fresh ginger tea
Fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) is a herb we use all the time in Chinese Herbal Medicine. Which is wonderful as it is so easily accessible! Ginger is warming and enters the Lung, Spleen and Stomach channels. I recommend my patients to cut up 2-3 slices of fresh ginger (if you want more – have more!), put it in a mug with some lemon or honey and add warm to hot water. You can keep refilling this mug throughout the day keeping the ginger slices in there. Ginger helps to keep the digestive system invigorated and warm. If you are sick with a cold ginger is also perfect to help clear phlegm and stop cough.
3. Don’t forget about H2O
Everyone always talks about how hard it is to maintain normal water intake during the winter months. ‘It’s too cold to drink water!’ they cry. This is when I suggest turning on the kettle. Far too many people become dehydrated during winter without realising. Instead, try drinking warm water throughout the day and add a squeeze of lemon and a small pinch of pink Himalayan salt. This makes it more bioavailable to our bodies and more readily absorbed. This way you’re getting the most out of the water you are drinking!
I was recently gifted a S’well drink bottle by a beautiful friend and it has been a life saver! Each morning I put in some fresh ginger slices and lemon and fill with hot water. I am a repeat damn-I-forgot-to-drink-my-tea-again offender but this bottle keeps it warm for hours so it’s like a perfect never ending hot cup of tea – definitely recommend!
4. Fuel up on Broth
Bone broth is everywhere at the moment and well touted as a popular health elixir. However followers of Chinese medicine know that bone broth has been used for centuries for health and wellbeing. One of the many amazing functions of bone broth is ability to strengthen the immune system, something we all need in the winter months. I recommend using bones that have a higher marrow content to get the most out of them and having one cup per day.
5. Be okay with slowing down
This is the most important one! During this season the energy moves inwards, we see trees without leaves and animals hibernating. It is natural for us to follow suit. It is okay for us to slow down and rest when we need to. It is okay to politely say no to extra social engagements when all you really want to do is cosy up on the couch. It is important to allow yourself to rest. I see way too many women that keep pushing no matter what and their immune system gets completely depleted or they experience adrenal burn out. No one else will make you slow down and take a break, so you have to be the one to put your health and wellbeing first. Indulge in a bit more ‘you’ time during these months and enjoy every second of it.
Now I want to hear from you, what are your favourite ways to stay healthy during winter? Tell me in the comments below!