Winter has an impact on your health. A little planning goes a long way to keeping you healthy.

5 Ways Cold Weather Affects Your Health

In Balance & Thrive, Body & Health by alexabrett1 Comment

The winter months mean lower temperatures, thick sweaters, and soup. But how do those environmental changes affect your health? Your body is a chemical lab, managing one reaction after another. A drop in temperature affects your homeostasis (your ability to maintain biological functions at an optimal level). Your cells have to work harder to create the ideal environment, fight off intruders, and keep you healthy. The impact of cold weather on our health is not trivial.


5 Ways the Cold Weather Affects Your Health

1.   Cold Weather Can Affect Your Mood

A drop in temperature, usually means cloudy skies and less light. Our bodies need sunlight to make Vitamin D and serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter and mood regulator). Vitamin D is necessary for many physiological functions such as, insulin, heart, brain, immune and much more. A reduction in Vitamin D can make you feel depressed and sluggish. Serotonin has a great impact on your mood as well.

What can you do?

  • Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels, and supplement appropriately.
  • You can increase your levels of serotonin naturally by going for a walk in sunlight at every opportunity, using bright lights in your home during the daytime, doing light-therapy, getting a massage, thinking happy thoughts or recounting happy memories (3 things that went well journal), and exercising.
  • More than 80% of your serotonin production happens in your gut. Eat a healthy diet for optimal serotonin levels and improved mental health. Your diet should be as close to nature as possible, meaning vegetables and healthy protein.
  • Go see your doctor for a full workup and evaluation.
2.   Being Cold affects Blood Circulation

Your body tries to maintain an ideal internal temperature at all times. It’s first priority is to protect its vital organs. When the temperature drops and it struggles to keep up, it will reroute blood circulation to where it is most needed by constricting blood vessels. That’s why your hands and feet get cold so fast—they’re not that important in the big scheme of things. The result is that oxygen is distributed less evenly throughout the body, leaving you feeling tired.

What can you do?

  • Dress for the weather, take a warm bath or shower, drink hot beverages, and eat warm meals.
  • Optimize your blood circulation with a healthy diet. Some foods that help blood circulation and optimize health are fish, vegetables (eat the rainbow), low sugar fruits (think berries), and walnuts.
  • Treat your liver with respect. This organ is the main filter in your body. It becomes sluggish when you eat sugars and processed foods. It thrives with dandelion tea or leaves, lots of vegetables (e.g.beets, carrots, limes and lemons, and cabbage), and spices like turmeric, and fresh garlic.
  • Exercise regularly. It promotes general wellness, brain function (g00d for serotonin and hormones) and vitality.
3.   The Cold Can Affect Your Appetite

Your body needs more energy to keep its thermostat going, so you tend to crave more energy dense foods. The trick is to stick to healthy diet while providing your body with what it needs. Drops in serotonin also affects your appetite and what you crave. Serotonin increases with carbohydrate intake. The pitfall, though, is that the fix is temporary and usually followed by a sudden dip in energy. You’re better off sticking to frequent, healthy meals.

What can you do?

  • Force yourself to move more, this will help warm up your body, improve your circulation and increase your serotonin levels naturally. 
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet.
  • Try to eat a little bit of protein at every meal. This helps keep you full longer and keeps your blood sugar steady.
  • Eat more snacks. Again, think balanced: protein, healthy fats, and vegetables.
4. The Cold Weather Can Make You Lonely

We may not hibernate for the winter, but we definitely change our social patterns. Unfortunately, this also affects our chemistry. We produce hormones and brain chemicals when we socialize that can help us fend off our winter blues. People need physical and emotional contact with others in order to feel whole and optimize their health.

What can you do?

  • Make sure you get your cuddle time in. Hug your loved ones, pet your dog and play with your kids. Physical contact increases oxytocin (the so called love hormone) and serotonin.
  • Organize a regular, weekly get together with friends (e.g. rotating potluck dinner parties, book club, knitting or quilting club, game night).
  • Have lunch with your co-workers
5.   Being Cold Increases Your Stress

Any type of stress increases cortisol (stress response hormone). Being cold is a stress response. Chronic discomfort can raise your overall stress level and contribute to adrenal (the glands responsible for helping you during stressful events) fatigue.

What can you do?

  • Work on your life balance. Stress is accumulative. If you reduce your stress in other areas of your life, it will go a long way to helping your body deal with stress caused by temperature changes.
  • Talk to your naturopathic doctor about ways to support your adrenal system.
  • Get enough sleep. Your body cannot function optimally without proper sleep.
  • Do meditation, and diaphragmatic breathing. Proper breathing releases hormones that directly counteract rises in cortisol.

Getting through winter comfortably takes a little planning. The take away is that, in order to help your body through the winter months, you should eat healthy, dress appropriately, optimize sunlight exposure, exercise and socialize. 

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alexabrett5 Ways Cold Weather Affects Your Health

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