Be Well: Natural Remedies to Stay Healthy this Winter

Stifle the Sniffles
There’s more than one needle that can help protect against the seasonal sniffles. Bolster your immune system against the common cold by starting acupuncture appointments two to three months before the sneezin’ season begins, says Meghan Mabe, Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist at Northwestern Health Sciences Bloomington Clinic.

“Acupuncture itself can really bring our bodies down to that ‘rest and digest,’ which is when our immune system is optimally functioning so it can help fight the infection and inflammation in our bodies better,” says Mabe.

Go (Leafy) Green
Listen to parents everywhere and eat your vegetables. Nature came through for us with the rack of nutrients we need to ramp up our immune system in fall and winter veggies. The best foods to add to your diet, Mabe says, are soups with bone or vegetable broth, beta-keratin-rich foods like sweet potatoes and carrots, ingredients in the allium family like garlic and onions, and, of course, those leafy greens.

If you do happen to come down with a cold, not all is lost. Fight back, Mabe says, by keeping yourself hydrated, taking time to calm your body down with a bath or meditation, and drinking elderberry syrup or tea to help fight sore throats.

Take a Break
Sitting at your desk for eight hours a day is not good for your back (huge surprise—we know). Try to take several breaks a day to get up, walk around, and stretch—and try to use your full range of motion. Amy Horton, DC, chiropractor at Bloomington Clinic, recommends standing up for five minutes every 30 minutes, or for ten minutes every hour. Your back will thank you.

“If you’ve got a light set of weights that you want to lift a little bit do that,” Horton says. “Do 10 reps and sit back down—whatever is fun for you. Turn on the music and dance for five minutes. Just do something that moves and have fun with it.”

Fidget for Fun
Between Zoom calls, emails, and your to-do list, we all struggle to find time to leave our chairs and limber up. An easy solution for desk-dedicated folks, Horton says is to keep your joints healthy just by fidgeting in place. She recommends marching in place, writing the alphabet with your ankles, or swinging your knees while sitting.

Step Up Your WFH Set Up
Let’s add ergonomics to the list of things we took for granted before we made the work from home switch. Standing desks and slanted footrests are great ways to maintain a healthy posture and keep your lower back ache-free during those long workdays. No standing desk? No problem. Stack books on your surface or put your laptop on a tall piece of furniture.

Give Your Nerves (and Nervous System) a Break
As we enter the lengthy months of cold and snow, many of us feel those winter blues setting in. Whether it’s seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or general depression and anxiety, massage therapy can help lessen those feelings while loosening our muscles.

“Those feelings of being able to relax are actually the nervous system taking a break essentially and not feeling like it has to fight with the world,” says Sarah Weaver, a massage therapist and acupuncturist at NWHSU’s Bloomington Clinic. “By helping the nervous system get to that state, people end up being able to get to themselves a little bit more easily.”

If you’re still feeling lethargic and tired after talk therapy sessions, massage therapy can supplement. While talk therapy addresses mental and emotional symptoms of anxiety and depression, massage therapy presses into physical symptoms like chronic headaches, teeth grinding, and general tiredness, Weaver says.

Massage at Home
We’ve all had those headache-inducing, stressful days at the home office. If you have a tennis ball, foam roller, or willing housemate, you can get some of the benefits of massage at home between appointments. Weaver recommends rolling a dead tennis ball (or using your hands) on your hamstrings, or one along each side of your spine. One of the most common places that Weaver says her clients hold tension is their upper traps—your shoulders and neck along your spine, where many people carry the bulk of their stress. Give yourself a neck massage or take turns with a partner to feel that tension melt down your back.

Read more tips in the latest edition of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s Be Well here.