Tips for winter health – Chinese style

Winter is hard on us. The long nights tend to make us feel low and we are battered by colds and viruses. It is possible to stay healthy during the winter but we need to look after ourselves.

Chinese medicine is based on observation of the natural world and the idea that your body mirrors many of nature’s patterns. Therefore to stay healthy in winter we have to stay true to nature. Here are a few tips for staying healthy in winter Chinese Medicine style:

  1. Hibernate! Winter is when nature sleeps. Humans may have stopped hibernating like their ancestral cousins long ago, but our bodies still experience the natural inclination to slow down in winter. Don’t fight it. make sure you get to bed early and sleep until the sun comes up
  2. Keep warm. This may seem obvious but your body uses precious energy trying to stay warm. Conserve that energy by wearing enough clothes and paying special attention to your core: In Chinese medicine, the abdomen and lower back are considered the storehouse of the body’s energy. Keeping your core warm and protected supports your immune system. If you struggle to keep warm try placing a hot water bottle below your belly button or on the small of your back.
  3. Eat winter foods: Winter is not a time for salads! Raw foods and cold drinks can be taxing on the digestive system at this time of year. Take inspiration from what is available naturally at this time such as beans, lentils, root vegetables, squashes, nuts, and seeds. Foods such as kale, broccoli, onions, oats and quinoa can warm you up, along with warming spices such as ginger and cinnamon. Eat lots of hearty soups and stews and drink lots of warm drinks.
  4. Be (moderately) active. It’s that time of year when everyone is starting a strict exercise regime but this isn’t the time of year for overdoing it, our bodies need to conserve some energy. Physical movement is essential to circulate energy and is important for body and mind to be active. However at this time of year gentler exercise such as walking, yoga or tai qi are ideal
  5. Get some sunshine! Ok there may not be much about, but when it’s there get out in it. Studies show sunshine can help your mood and enhance your sleep, as well as enhancing your immune system. Vitamin D is synthesized in your body through sunlight on your skin, and is vital for our health, so any bit of sunshine helps. Even if you can’t absorb it into your skin you can absorb it into your soul.
  6. Be positive: It may seem like winter is endless but the days are already getting longer. It was still light at nearly 5 today! So plan some exciting things to look forward to

Ginger Tea

This recipe is good if you are cold and tired. It also helps the digestion

  • Put a few of slices of fresh ginger and a stick of cinnamon in a small pan of water
  • Boil for 2/3 minutes
  • Keep the lid on the pot to prevent vapour from escaping.
  • Add a little honey and lemon.

Eleanor Breen 17/01/13
Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol