With the change in seasons, it’s time to focus on your health. Esther Mills-Roberts reveals the natural remedies that can help…
Dark days, biting winds, the possibility of snow, the stress that the festive season brings, the change in our diets and the fact that we are often cooped up indoors, all means that we need to focus on our health during the winter months. Thankfully, there are some fantastic natural health solutions.
In the change from warmer to winter seasons, there is often a change in our diets. If you’ve swapped fresh produce for stodge, then it’s likely that your digestive system has noticed the difference.
If indigestion is plaguing you, then help is at hand in a two-fold approach. First, take a supplement of betaine hydrochloride with your meal, as this will assist breakdown of food in the stomach, and secondly, consider a supplement of digestive enzymes, which help to further breakdown fats, proteins and carbohydrates alongside your body’s natural enzyme systems. These two together can help ease that feeling of heaviness, bloating and indigestion.
Probiotics have been shown to be paramount for digestive health, and some people prone to bowel disturbance (either constipation or diarrhoea) can benefit from taking a supplement. Make sure you get the right one for you. For example, those prone to diarrhoea could choose Lactobacillus formulations, whilst those with slower gut symptoms most often benefit from Bifidobacteria.
The number one winter wellness supplement could be awarded to echinacea. This powerful immune system supporter helps to maximise the activity of infection-fighting white blood cells and works within the immune system to upscale it’s action. This supplement can be taken for short periods of time or for the duration of the cold-season.
Opt for a good antioxidant formulation which includes key nutrients to support immune function, such as vitamins A, C and E, possibly with phytonutrients such as resveratrol, pycnogenol, quercetin or carotenoids. Don’t forget the absolute basics of iron and vitamin D too, intakes of these nutrients are commonly low in many people’s diets and research proves their specific role in immune health. In both cases supplementation can be useful, especially for vitamin D where the government recommends that adults supplement with 10 micrograms daily in the colder seasons.
Just for Joints
Good old-fashioned favourites like fish oils and mineral-based bone formulations are useful at this time of year. Look out for joint formulations with vitamin K too.
Glucosamine sulphate is well known for helping to lubricate the joints by increasing the thickness of the synovial fluid (thus helping to repair damaged cartilage tissue). But have you though about collagen? Or more specifically, hydrolysed collagen peptides? Research shows that these wonderful collagen components can help to regenerate articular cartilage, found in the ball sockets such as the shoulders and hips, as well as the knees and elbows. Other formulations such as S-Adenosyl methionine and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) can be used for joint inflammation. Green lipped mussel has long been known to be anti-inflammatory and is often chosen for joint health, and krill is also becoming of great interest.
Anti-inflammatory herbs are often used to manage the symptoms of degenerative joint conditions, which people say can become worse during colder months. These include nettle, devil’s claw, cayenne, ginger, boswellia, ashwagandha and turmeric. Ask a practitioner which ones are best for you.
Don’t get SAD
When the days get short and the weather gets cold, some people can feel a little down. Don’t despair, there are things that can help. Light boxes naturally increase blood levels of vitamin D via the skin, helping the brain to produce feel-good chemicals such as serotonin. It’s also important to keep blood levels of B-vitamins high, as low levels have been linked to depression (especially in older people). The quickest way to do this is to take a medium to high potency B complex, but don’t forget to increase it using food, via grains, cereals and pulses.
If you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), then it’s worth speaking to a practitioner about two formulations which might be useful. 5-HTP has been used for this condition successfully, and St John’s wort is very popular for the management of clinical depression. A healthcare practitioner will be able to advise you about the levels of these supplements are most suitable for you.
Coughs and Colds
Traditional remedies have been used for centuries to treat coughs and colds, and there are all kinds of remedies out there to manage the symptoms of these winter lurgies. Herbal expectorants can help to clear your airways, such as menthol, eucalyptus, cajuput, clove and juniper. These are the basis of many vapour balms and rubs and used in pastilles and lozenges too. When it comes to cough balms, you will see ingredients which help to clear phlegm and sooth irritating coughs, glycerine, for example, lines the throat, stopping tickles, whilst hyssop and burdock can help catarrh.
As well as ‘immediate’ products to treat a cold, don’t forget the importance of supplementation to safeguard against low levels of nutrients in your diet. A multi-nutrient really can help, and if you do get a cold, research has shown that vitamin C can reduce duration when taken often.
About Esther Mills-Roberts
Esther Mills-Roberts is a degree-trained nutritional biochemist and registered nutritionist. She has a private practice in Stratford Upon Avon.
Esther studied nutrition and biochemistry at Nottingham University and worked for a number of nutritional supplement companies before eventually setting up as a consultant on nutritional marketing, PR, quality standard, labelling and new product development.
She has also lectured and educated many about the science of nutrition, written for a number of health titles, written her own books and has featured on both TV and radio. Esther is a member of the Guild of Health Writers, London.