Boston Women’s Journal - December 2005/January 2006

Ain’t No Cure for the Wintertime Blues?

Winter is here again in New England. My local farm stand has long since closed. As always, I face the season with mixed feelings. I love the cozy clothing and the beautiful snowscapes that grace our area of the country, yet I long for the awakenings of spring, the warmth of summer and the colors of fall, when going out means just putting on a pair of shoes. I miss my gardening work, and outdoor activities that require no elaborate layering or use of a snow shovel. We choose to live here, with all its unpredictability, but why not try to alleviate some of the common difficulties we all face? Here are some strategies we can use to help us get through the “Wintertime Blues.”

Our appetite, in part spurred by our genetic programming, encourages us to eat heavier meals as the temperature drops. We naturally tend to move from salads to soups, more protein, and more starches. Peaches, plentiful this year, are almost impossible to find. Greens now come from a very long distance away, and are often hard, waxed, or irradiated. I am now buying mostly frozen organic vegetables. Without the fresh fruits and vegetables to make healthful meals we must either spend a great deal of money to purchase them, or rely on frozen or canned products. Frozen foods are almost always better than canned, as freezing preserves more of the nutritional value of the food. Try to be conscious in balancing your vegetables, fruit, starch, and protein. We still need them all even though we may not crave them.

One suggestion I have for many of the people that I see in my practice as a Medical Intuitive and nutritional counselor is to include a “green drink” each morning. There are many brands available. Most have dehydrated vegetables and wheat grass, and often fruit. They can be better than a multivitamin as they are very easily absorbed by your system. One scoop provides an instant source of fruits and vegetables for the day. One drink and you can have a guilt free day, at least as far as the food pyramid goes. All places that sell health foods have several brands, but look carefully at the ingredients as many have a lot of sugar in them. Also, if you have “hay fever” certain grasses that are often included may not work for your body. Another helpful thing to stock is vitamin C. As a water soluble vitamin your body passes whatever it doesn’t need, and although it doesn’t prevent colds and flu it makes their duration shorter. Some people need buffered forms or Ester C for sensitive stomachs. Echinacea and zinc are also good things to keep in the house for those days when a cold sneaks up on you. Slippery elm drops can ease a sore throat. As with all supplements check with your health care provider before using, especially if you are on prescription medications.

Some of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SADs, an aptly named problem that comes from lack of exposure to the healing light of natural sunshine. We need the vitamins and light the sun provides. Recent studies say that at least 15 minutes out in the sun each day is required for our bodies to function well. Not everyone is significantly bothered by this. Skiers have found a way to get their sunlight in winter, but some of us really need our dose of light daily. When I lived in Norway I was shocked by the effect of having very reduced sunlight. I was cranky and listless. I believe I would have fought for a piece of fresh citrus fruit had one been available. Just about everyone in Norway goes away to some tropical place during the winter, even folks of limited means. I wonder how they survived in the days before air travel! If you feel that SADs might be a problem for you there are lamps available that simulate sunlight. They can be found easily and have specific instructions for use. They should be used in the morning as they may disturb sleep cycles otherwise.

The lower humidity of heated winter indoor air can also be a problem. This can lead to dry skin and respiratory problems. One way to address these issues is to have cold water humidifiers around the house. Be careful though, to use distilled or filtered water. Dump the water frequently and clean the humidifier weekly to be sure to avoid the growth of mold and mildew. Our skin and hair need special attention in the dry winter too. Often scalps and hair need extra oil as we don’t sweat as much. You may need a nice hot oil treatment or a shampoo and conditioner formulated to restore moisture. And get out that moisture creme. Just because no one is seeing our feet when there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean we can ignore them. Feet need special moisture care in the winter as do legs, arms, hands and faces.

So get out that sled and zip up your parka! With the right preparation we can all enjoy the winter and stay healthy.