Feeling Dry & Itchy, Sad, Or Sick? Here's How To Help Your Body Adjust To The Cold
Winter hasn't quite arrived, but in many parts of the world, the cold is already here. And that means steamy golden milk lattes, bone broth, and cozy sweaters, but it can also mean sore throats and coughing, excruciatingly dry skin, random aches and pains, and if you're like me, a plummeting mood as the days get shorter and we inevitably spend less time outside in the sun.
For me, these symptoms have always felt like an inevitable part of this time of year. But naturally, as the health editor at mbg, I wanted to know what I can do to prevent them as efficiently as possible. Through personal trial and error, I've found that drinking tons (and I mean TONS) of room temperature water and making Epsom salt baths a self-care priority help a ton. I also reached out to some of our top health experts—from acupuncturists to functional medicine doctors to integrative psychiatrists—to get their best advice on how to adjust during this time of transition.
Here's exactly what they had to say:
Get more light exposure—especially in the morning—and eat more green fibrous veggies.
"Light exposure in the morning, especially as the days get shorter, is a great way to boost your energy and mood. Ideally, get out there before 10 a.m. Just one to two minutes will do! The biggest thing I suggest to boost your immune system is to eat green fibrous vegetables. We want that healthy vegetable fiber because it has fermentable fibers for the gut bacteria. The short-chain fatty acids that the good bacteria make from fiber are linked with better overall health, brain health, longevity, and a healthier immune system, which is important for this time of year." —Amy Shah M.D., integrative medicine physician and mbg Collective member
Try castor oil, and keep dampness at bay.
"For aches and pain, try castor oil packs where you tend to get affected during cold weather. To do this, apply some castor oil to the affected area, place a hand towel over it, and then put a heating pad on top and double up by covering the heating pad with a bigger towel, and get under your blanket. Stay like that for 20 to 30 minutes. Doing this on the low back or abdomen is quite nice, but this can work well over the knees or shoulders as well. (I would not recommend while on period or during ovulation if you are wanting to get pregnant.) Another great tip is to avoid taking a shower less than 45 minutes before you have to leave and head out into cold weather. When your pores are still exposed, you hold yourself in a more vulnerable position by allowing the external cold to enter your meridians and get lodged in the body. But if you must, you must; just be sure to cover your head, the back of your neck, and shoulders with a good hat and scarf. Getting into the habit of draping these areas of the body is a great way to adjust so you won't get invaded by what we call wind-cold." —Walda Laurenceau, L.Ac., acupuncturist and founder of Root and Essence Acupuncture
Keep your perspective (and maybe go ice skating).
"Perspective is everything. While we can't deny that there are some physiological changes that occur in your body during the winter that could contribute to a low mood and overall feelings of sluggishness, working to reframe your view of the wintertime is a powerful approach to help adjust to the colder seasons. For example, it may feel like a loss to be confined to indoor spaces after enjoying the summer. However, another way to look at this is to remember that spending time indoors can be a pleasure in a warm, cozy, and inviting environment. Plenty of indoor time and celebrations are a great way to focus on family and friends and to strengthen the relationships with the people who are important to you. Lastly, instead of feeling limited by the changes in the season, consider what pleasurable activities, such as skiing or outdoor ice skating, can only be done during the colder seasons, and make plans to engage in those so that you have something to look forward to throughout the season." —Aparna Iyer, M.D., integrative psychiatrist and founder of Frisco Psychiatrist
Add honey and ginger to your daily routine.
"Honey and ginger are a nice combo to naturally fight viruses and combat cough. One study found that buckwheat honey is as effective as dextromethorphan, a common cough supressant ingredient, in reducing night cough in children. But it's not just buckwheat honey. Another study found that 3 types of honey—citrus, eucalyptus, or labiatae—were equally effective in reducing cough in children who have upper respiratory infections. Ginger contains compounds that fight several types of viruses, but only fresh, not dried, ginger is effective. Ginger candies that contain sugar and are typically made with dried ginger or artificial flavors do not make good remedies. One of the things I like to make in the winter is this natural ginger, honey, and lemon cough syrup. It keeps nicely in the fridge, convenient when you're not feeling too well, and more appealing for little ones than a chewing or eating raw ginger."—Nour Zibdeh, MS, RDN, CLT, functional and integrative dietician and nutritionist
This time of year can feel busy and overwhelming, so it's nice to get advice straight from top experts on how to give your body a little extra support. Here's to a happy, sniffle-free fall and winter.