Winter & Health
We got a late start to winter this year. For those of us who love snow, it’s been a sad El Nino year, but I am aware there are those of you who disagree with me. It seems this is a perfect time to discuss winter in Western New York and your health.
1.) Shoveling snow: For those of us who are healthy enough for the endeavor here are a few pointers.
a.) Be sure someone knows you are going out to shovel. Accidents do happen and you don’t want to be outside in the elements without someone else knowing you are there.
b.) Dress appropriately. Be sure you are wearing gloves or mittens for your hands and a hat for your head. Heat can be conserved by taking that extra step of a covering for your head.
c.) Be sure to distribute your weight, and bend your knees when you use a shovel. Bending strictly from the waist and lifting snow can cause injury to your back. Bending your knees enables you to have extra power for snow removal. Alternate using your left and right sides to distribute the stress.
d.) If you can, use more pushing of snow, like a plow versus lifting up the snow and putting it somewhere.
e.) Be sure you take breaks. If you are fatigued, you will not be as efficient at snow removal as you would be if you took the occasional break.
f.) As with all exercise, you should not be exerting so strenuously that you could not carry on a conversation. You don’t want to have restricted breathing when you are out in the cold.
2.) Realize the change in humidity as well as climate.
a.) We live in a very humid climate. There is a lot of moisture in our air. During the winter months, we move indoors and the climate has changed. In order to raise the temperature from out of doors to 68-72 degrees F, much of the moisture in our air is removed.
b.) It is a good idea to use a humidifier in the winter.
i.) Using a humidifier can increase the humidity of the air, and help moisturize your skin. Dry skin is more prone to injury, infection and reaction. Eczema can be kept at bay with a simple humidifier.
ii) Using a humidifier can increase the moisture in your mucous membranes. Your oral and nasal passages have moist mucous membranes to help trap and expel antigens. Virus, allergens, and even bacteria are kept out of your system because of this delightful design. Using a humidifier in your home/ or office will help this process and keep you healthier.
iii) Economics: We all feel warmer when the humidity is higher. If you keep your home/ office humid you will require less heat and feel warmer.
c.) Severe changes in temperature is difficulty on your airways and hormonal changes. Going from the cold to blasting heat, and cold again is difficult on your body. I would suggest setting a reasonable temperature in your car, office and in your home. If you feel cold put on more clothing, if you are warm remove the clothing. Your thymus and thyroid are constantly regulating your body temperature, you don’t want to overcompensate for the elements. Also, use nasal saline washes, or a nasal saline gel frequently to help your body adjust to severe temperature changes. The neti pot, saline drops or gel can be administered throughout the day to protect your mucous membranes from intruders and dryness.
3,) Nutrition desires change in the Winter
a.) Eating local is more difficult in the winter. Our farmers markets are not operational, and any produce that is grown locally is likely to be done so in a greenhouse. Our onions, garlic, and winter squash are plentiful and not very expensive this time of year. I would encourage your health pursuits to eat as local as possible.
b.) When choosing foods, choose foods grown with as little pesticide use as possible. (That is what organic implies.) Also, be cautious of foods that are genetically modified. Where possible heirloom seeds and foods provide the least amount of artificially altered genetic material. Our FDA only asks companies to label food if they aren’t genetically modified (GMO), so look for that label.
c.) Be aware that in the cold weather, your body instinctively desires carbohydrate rich foods. These are foods that I would describe as comfort foods. For example potato, rice, pasta, breads, baked goods and even fruits are foods rich in carbohydrates. Eating this type of food will help your body to store fat to help keep you warm. Beware! This is not so good for the rest of your health. These foods also increase inflammation and provide insulin resistance. Try to overcome this desire with eating protein dense, low glycemic index foods and healthy fats. You will feel full and not pack on the pounds.
4.) Water intake is especially important all year round. But, it is worth mentioning at this point. Many of my patients have come in complaining of headaches. Please take note of this, the leading cause of headache is dehydration! Be sure you are drinking approximately 1/2 your weight in ounces if you are experiencing unwanted symptoms. For example, I weigh 140 Lbs, so it would be a good idea for me to drink 70 ounces of fluids per day if I am experiencing headache or pain.
5.) Exercise is always important, but many of us take a break over the holidays, and know the gyms are busy in early January with people starting a New Year’s Resolution. It’s February now, so go ahead back to the gym. If it is nice, put on warm clothes and walk outdoors. You can make a little Vitamin D out there when the sunshine hits your face. But, if you are committed to stay indoors until spring, check out YouTube. I am amazed at all of the free exercise classes available on YouTube. I even took tap dancing lessons online with YouTube. So, surf the web, and find something you like on your laptop and follow along right in your own home. As always, you should consult with your chiropractor on a great place to start. Especially if you have just sustained an injury.
As we enjoy our winter sports, the cozy evenings indoors with a good book, celebrations with family and relishing those sunny days, keep in mind these helpful tips for Winter. Get adjusted regularly and keep your joints moving. Remember, your nerve supply, blood supply and lymphatic return all flows through your joints. It is important to keep them moving to promote health and fight disease. Getting adjusted even helps fight that common cold. For those of us who haven’t taken the time to take care of ourselves, call today for an appointment with your favorite chiropractor. We are here to serve you, and help you to pursue optimal health naturally.