Winter is a beautiful time of gathering, sweet cups of cocoa, memories shared building snowmen, and watching the snow gently blanket the earth. Many of us reading this love the winter – from indoors. Yes, it is pretty and fun, but it’s so cold. Why does it have to be so cold?!
Though the temperature outdoors may be less than desirable, there are many things we can do to slowly adapt to these changing seasons, so they don’t come as a major shock to our systems. No matter how deep into winter you may be when reading this, know it is never too late to start building your immunity to the bite of Jack Frost. There is still hope for those frost-bitten toes!
Winter is a time of slowing down, and this includes our digestion. As the sun begins to takes its rest, so does our digestive fire.
During the Winter, favor cooked meals. Hearty stews, buddha bowls, nuts and seeds, grains, and lots of spices will help to keep the digestive fire going. Good spices to include would be curry powders, cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and turmeric.
Cooking meals and eating them warm will also lessen the amount of energy the body must exert during digestion, allowing the body to conserve its energy for cleansing and staying warm.
Layer Up – But Only Outdoors
I know what it’s like to be in a room or the car and feel like it is impossible to feel warmth again. There is the urge to bundle up in our hats, scarves, gloves, and coats in these situations despite not being outside. There is also the case of being in the car on our daily commute, heat blasting while we still have our winter coats on, only to be freezing as soon as we step outside again. By not limiting the use of our outerwear to outdoors only, we are reducing their ability to keep us warm when our bodies need them most.
I’m one of those freaks of nature who love hiking in the winter, but to be able to do so I had to learn to dress for the occasion. This is one of those tips I wish they taught us on those long walks to school in the morning.
- Long Sleeve shirt
- Leggings or long johns
- Insulated snow pants*
- Merino Wool socks (2 pairs)
- Insulated Waterproof boots
* These layers are more helpful in weather below 20 degrees F.
You want all of your base layers to be made of polyester, rayon, spandex, or merino wool. These materials will keep heat in while wicking moisture away from the body. Materials like cotton tend to hold onto moisture (like the sweat that inevitably arises from getting our heart rate up as we trudge through feet of snow). This will take heat away from our bodies, which is the opposite of what we need to happen.
Exercise 3x/ week
During the Winter we tend to slow down and become a bit more stagnant. The problem with that is when we become stagnant, so does every system in our body. Utilizing 20-60 minutes a day, three times a week will be enough to start building your immunity and strengthening the cardiovascular system, helping to keep you warm and healthy through the winter.
The types of workouts you choose are not as important as you finding something that you enjoy. I recommend trying a combination of cardio and weight training to create a well-rounded fitness routine.
Now, according to ISSA certified trainer Heyward Boyce, fitness alone isn’t enough to keep the circulation pumping and assure you warmth the whole day. Fitness alone cannot keep blood circulating for long periods of time. Rather, he recommends hot/cold therapy for something closer to such results (more on that later).
The increased activity will help strengthen the heart and blood vessels, thus improving blood flow; But to keep your circulation up, the important thing is to just keep moving. If you are stagnant, so is your blood. Make sure you’re active and moving around every hour to keep the blood flowing.
Nothing warms up the body as quickly and efficiently as a shot of Fire Cider. This is an old folk remedy that helps to get the circulatory system running efficiently, clear toxins from the body, and boost immunity. 1-3 shots each day of this magical and potent elixir is sure to have you sweating in 30 degree weather in no time (okay, it isn’t that intense… but it is hot).
- 1 medium organic onion, chopped
- 10 cloves of organic garlic, crushed or chopped
- 2 organic jalapeno peppers, chopped
- Zest and juice from 1 organic lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh grated organic ginger root (or organic ginger root powder)
- 1/2 cup fresh grated organic horseradish root (or organic horseradish powder)
- 1 Tbsp. organic turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp. organic cayenne powder
- 2 Tbsp. of dried rosemary leaves
- organic apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup of raw local honey, or to taste
- Prepare your roots, fruits, and herbs and place them in a quart-sized glass jar. If you’ve never grated fresh horseradish, be prepared for a powerful sinus-opening experience!
- Pour the apple cider vinegar in the jar until all of the ingredients are covered and the vinegar reaches the jar’s top.
- Use a piece of natural parchment paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal, or a plastic lid if you have one. Shake well.
- Store in a dark, cool place for a month and remember to shake daily.
- After one month use cheesecloth to strain out the pulp, pouring the vinegar into a clean jar. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquidy goodness as you can from the pulp while straining.
- Next comes the honey. Add and stir until incorporated.
- Taste your cider and add more honey until you reach the desired sweetness.
There are still ways to utilize the power of warming herbs without taking shots of infused vinegar. Here are some of my favorites for boosting circulation and immunity through the winter months:
- Chai Spices (Turmeric, Cardamom, Ginger, Cinnamon) – Enjoy in tea and drinks such as my Anti-Inflammatory Golden Milk
- Cayenne – Sprinkle on food, put in beverages, or take it as a pill
- Gingko Biloba – Most commonly known for its brain-boosting benefits, Gingko is also proven to help improve blood flow throughout the entire body (not just the brain). Gingko can help prevent blood from stagnating and pooling, especially at the bottoms of the feet. This improved circulation helps to keep the body warm, alert, and running efficiently through the winter season.
- Butcher’s Broom – If you have heard of this herb you may associate it with middle aged women trying to rid their legs of spider veins and blood clots. Butcher’s broom, like Gingko, helps to improve circulation throughout the entire bodily system and prevent stagnating blood.
- Olive Leaf – A gentle herb most commonly known for its potent influence upon the immune system. Turns out, this humble leaf is great for a host of reasons, from arthritic pain to cognitive function, to our topic today: keeping the body warm. Olive leaf effectively can help reduce blood pressure while improving upon the cardiovascular system as a whole.
- Green Tea – Sometimes staying warm can be as simple as a cup of tea. Green tea is an ancient remedy for a variety of ailments within the body. It is known to boost immunity, longevity, brain function, and circulation. Maybe instead of reaching for a coffee in the morning, you should go for the matcha.
- Nettle – One of my personal favorites, stinging nettles are full of vitamins and minerals that help to build and purify the blood. The herb is stimulating to the circulatory and immune systems, helping, too, to fight allergies. I recommend taking this herb as a strong infusion of ¼ cup nettle leaf to 1 quart boiling water. Combine both in a mason jar, cap it tight, and let infuse overnight.
I know many of you will read this and immediately think “Hell no.” Hear me out.
Cold showers have been proven to provide a large spectrum of benefits, from improved sleep and higher energy levels to relief from autoimmune disease. Cold therapy cools your skin’s surface and underlying tissues, which results in the narrowing of your blood vessels—a process called vasoconstriction. This process brings blood closer to your vital organs, which need to stay warm so that you can remain alive and well.
Cold therapy works to keep us warm by encouraging the body to start burning fat for fuel and warmth, so if staying warm in the winter isn’t reason enough – it is also an excellent weight loss tool.
Still not convinced? Check out this video by Practical Inspiration on the benefits and precautions that come with cold therapy (non-affiliated).
As prevously mentioned, trainer Heyward Boyce recommends combining cold therapy with heat therapy can also increase the benefits, as heat therapy brings the blood flow to the skin and cold therapy will “squeeze” the blood flow back into the vital organs. Cycling between the two will will help the body adapt quicker to changing temperatures and protect the cells from experiencing any shock or inflammation when exposed to sudden cold.