Winter Wellness Q&A with a Nutritionist

Posted on 26 June 2019

Winter wellness with a nutritionist

A lot of us don’t have access to a Nutritionist or would prefer to take health and well-being into our own hands and hope for the best. Well today, we sat down with registered nutritionist Sara Lake and put the hard and frequently asked questions to her in the hope she can demystify fact from fiction to the unknown… 

Now, to start with, one that frequently gets asked, do supplements really help us during winter to keep the nasty bugs away? 

Unfortunately, there is no health supplement that is going to make you immune to seasonal ills and the best strategy for staying well is always to support your body year-round with a nutritious diet. That having been said our lifestyles of convenience can lead to a less than optimal intake of key immune nutrients such as zinc, selenium, B6, iron, folate and the vitamins A, C and E, and lack of sunlight in winter can also diminish our vitamin D levels. This type of ‘micronutrient malnutrition’ is particularly common in the elderly, so it’s a great idea to supplement with a good multivitamin if you’re not sure your daily nutrition is up to scratch or if you are reaching your mature years. 

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What foods should I look to increase over winter, is there anything specific I should add into my diet to assist optimal health? 

In winter we naturally want warming, filling foods and this can lead to a neglect of fruit and veges. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into winter cuisine is a great idea, for example in casseroles, soups and fruit based warm desserts.  

Is it beneficial to get out and exercise in Winter? Will it really help my body function?  

Exercise is not my specialty, but I have read some interesting research showing that, in general, moderate exercise enhances immune function, whereas intense exercise can blunt your immunity (hence why over-exercising often leads to sickness). As well as potentially boosting your immunity, exercise is a great way to boost your mood and decrease psychological stress. 

Is there any truth in Grandma’s remedy of hot Lemon and Honey drinks? Or maybe the odd splash of whiskey?  

Hey, who am I to question grandma? There have been some studies showing that lemon (particularly the oils in the rind), ginger, garlic and manuka honey can have a mild antimicrobial effect. Although it’s unclear how much this would impact on the course of your cold, a bit of symptomatic relief is always nice.  There’s nothing documented for whiskey, but again, if you’re feeling awful, a steaming hot toddy can improve your outlook, and that’s good too. 

Why is soup always the go to meal to give someone or to make when they’re sick, does it even assist in kicking that flu to the kerb?  

Soup has a lot going for it when you are ‘under the weather’. For a start, a good soup or broth (see our bone broth recipe here) can be a powerhouse of easily absorbable nutrients. Secondly, soup is an easy food to consume when your appetite is low and lastly, it helps keep you hydrated during a time when you may be losing water through coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea. 

We’ve been told we should keep hand sanitizer within arm’s reach during flu season, would you agree? 

This one gets a hard yes from me. I learned the trick from a GP that told me it is their secret to staying well when seeing a stream of sick patients. Hand sanitiser or just regular hand washing is a solid idea in winter. 

I struggle to drink water in winter, it makes me feel cold. Is it still necessary to drink copious amounts during the cooler seasons? 

In general ‘drink when you are thirsty’ is good enough, however there are exceptions during winter and the big one is if you are enjoying winter sports, especially at altitude. The extra effort that your body puts into regulating your internal temperature when you are exercising and sweating in the cold, coupled with a reduced sensation of thirst, can lead to dehydration. Rehydrating drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates can help a lot, but plain old warm water will do the trick as well. 

During Winter, we find our mental wellbeing can take a hit, lack of sun, motivation, warmth. Is there a way to get through this?  

Look after yourself, and if you’re feeling drab, lower your expectations to perhaps the level of curling up in bed with a book and a hot water bottle. Although you may not feel like it, getting outside can help with the winter blues too, as it helps keep our circadian rhythms in synch. Of course, if you’re feeling persistently down and unmotivated and it doesn’t lift with some TLC, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can become serious if not addressed with a visit to an appropriate health professional. 

Now I’m sure we are not alone with this question, but WHY do our joints/bones stiffen up or get so sore during the colder months? Is our body lacking nutrients? Is it from getting older? Or is it just plain cold outside and this is our bodies way of letting us know?    

That’s a very interesting question! Nobody doubts that joints become stiff and sore in winter, but science has not told us why this is, although there are some theories. Cold temperatures cause diminished circulation in the limbs because your body redirects blood flow to keep your core organs warm, so it could be a lack of blood and nutrient flow to the joints which causes the tissues to become less flexible. The other factor is cold-weather induced inactivity, which further reduces circulation to the joints.  

Last but not least... since a lot of us don’t have access to a Registered Nutritionist to give us the run down we are eager to know YOUR top go to recommendations for health this winter….GO!  

My best advice is to remember that health is multi-faceted. It’s not ‘just’ about nutrition, although this is important, but also includes getting enough rest and sleep, having functional social connections, managing your stress, getting some exercise and of course, seeing a health professional if required.  

Thanks for your time today Sara – we appreciate you taking the time to do a Q & A with us, and we know our Puraz followers will too!  

You are so welcome, it has been my pleasure. 

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