Local Lessons: 5 Tips for Winter Wellness

Today’s post is written by Dillan DiGiovanni, a certified integrative nutrition health coach and teacher. He creates programs for healthier people and workplaces from his office in Union Square. Dillan will be regularly contributing his expertise on health and wellness to the Beat in the coming months.

Dillan Headshot copyIt’s early January and I haven’t had a cold yet. This tells me I’m walking my talk as a health coach to stay healthy.

This wasn’t always the case. I know what folks are dealing with right now, because for most of my life, I struggled with chronic colds that progressed to sinus infections. As soon as one cleared up, it would start all over again. This meant a lot of missed work days and feeling less than their best for most of the winter.

Some people have to work harder than others to find and maintain their health for many reasons, which I completely understand. I still get sick maybe once a year for a day or two. I consider that pretty normal and a huge improvement from the past.

Here are simple five tips I’ve been following for the past five years, and recommending to my clients, for wellness through the winter.

1) SLEEP: I can’t stress this one enough. If you want a strong, healthy immune system, you need to sleep. A lot. Every night. I don’t mean sometimes or twice a week. I mean every single night for seven to eight hours. If you’re not allowing enough time to enter the deep sleep stages, you’re depriving your body’s ability to heal itself. Try to do that less by sleeping more.

2) EAT GREENS: Leafy greens are your friends. They are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and they cleanse your gut and colon. This means bad things don’t have a chance to hang around and fester and cause issues. Greens strengthen your immunity and are especially good for clearing up respiratory and sinus symptoms. Iceberg lettuce won’t really cut it. The darker and greener the leaf, the better.

Dillan Yogurt

3) PROBIOTICS: These are the healthy bacteria that live in our gut and help digest our food and boost our immune systems. The more you have, the more you can fend off the bad guys. Think of it like a military strategy: you want guys on the ground, snipers, air support, tanks, etc. Each bacterial strain is like another superpower. You can find probiotics in yogurt, other fermented foods or in capsules.

4) REDUCE STRESS: A stressed system is susceptible to more illness. You can eat the greens, get the sleep, and eat more probiotics but if you’re constantly worrying or stressed out about life, your immune system will have to choose between keeping you alive to combat the stress or succumbing to the bad bug you caught. Think about it. Take it easy. It’s winter. Enjoy this time of year by eating warm, home-cooked foods and rest and relax more. Consider learning meditation to find focus and calm yourself anytime, anywhere.

5) REDUCE SUGAR: Sugar is an enemy to a healthy immune system. It puts nothing good in your body and only takes important nutrients out.  In the past, my mornings began with hot chocolates and scones from Starbucks. Every day. This habit took a toll on my health and my wallet! Since I’ve stopped eating so much sugar, I’ve had fewer colds in the past five years than I did in one average week. And it’s not like I live in my house and never leave. I interact with a lot of people every day. Eat less sugar and you will notice less sickness.

Those are five of the most basic, simple steps you can try to increase your wellness this winter. Which one can you start right now?

P.S. Start the new year off right with Dillan’s Morning Person Meditation on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in the Tree of Life Tai Chi Center in Union Square. You can learn more and register here.

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