Through the Fire
“It is deep January. The sky is hard.
The stalks are firmly rooted in ice.
It is in this solitude, a syllable,
Out of these gawky flitterings,
Intones its single emptiness,
The savagest hollow of winter-sound.”
― Wallace Stevens
Are you worried about staying healthy this winter ?? I’m here with some thoughts and suggestions. Sorry to start off with telling you this, but the best time to prepare for being healthy this winter was last year! Of course we know that staying healthy is a year round “job”. Fall is the ideal time to boost up your immune system in preparation for winter but, good news, it’s really not too late.
I’m going to start my suggestions with one that is both easy and controversial. Sun. Vitamin D. We have gotten afraid of the sun because of all the cancer scares. Sunlight has gotten a bad rap. It is a powerful healer and the best way to get Vitamin D, which is essential to our body and helps with the following:
- bone health
- supports the immune system
- protects against dementia and brain aging
- essential for decreasing symptoms of asthma
- strengthens teeth
Read more about it here. And don’t forget about the emotional benefits of the sun. Many of us out here on the US West Coast where it is cloudy and rainy in the winter suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder due to lack of sunlight. Those of you in snowier parts get the sun but it is too cold to get outside benefits of it. When it is possible, get outside and expose at least some skin to the sun. Obviously, for my friends in the Frozen North where it is below 0º for days on end, this is not helpful. Check out indoor light therapy.
A very simple thing that we all can do is keep ourselves hydrated. This is just as important in the winter as in the heat of the summer. If you are cold, drink warm or hot water. Add some lemon juice to it. Drink herbal teas. Caffeine tends to be dehydrating so don’t be counting those cups of black tea and coffee as hydration. This is a good time to add soup to our diets for all kinds of reasons, hydration being one of those. Sip on simple bone broths and brothy or blended soups. I love soup for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In the winter, it’s better for our digestion to eat more cooked for, so go for soup instead of a salad to get those vegetables in. I have written here about how easy it is to make a really good bowl of soup.
It sounds silly but staying warm is essential to your health in the winter. Use your heat wisely. Wear lots of layers. Wearing a scarf does actually help prevent you getting a cold. Plus, wear one that is bright and cheery and that will help as well. I find myself not feeling as well when I am somewhere where there is an extreme difference in the outside and inside temperatures ( well, I do live in California!!) So, work on finding that happy medium between being bundled up enough outside and not roasting when you are inside. That is where layers of clothing come in handy. And, don’t forget about warming yourself up from the inside with those hot beverages and soup, with spicy peppery food that will raise your temperature.
You regular readers know that, of course, I have particular foods to recommend that you include in your diet, especially in the winter. High on the list is garlic.This superfood has many benefits among which are that it is anti viral and bacterial. We need that in the winter. I recommend eating a lot of it, and at least one clove in its raw form. A great way to do this is chop it very finely and add to that bowl of soup right before serving. The heat of the soup will soften it and and mellow its sharp taste a bit too. We have extra need for lacto-fermented foods in the winter as well. Keeping our digestive system at its best will help our immune system be strong. Lacto fermented foods not only add good bacteria into that system, it helps feed the good bacteria that are already there. Try beet kvass. Have a shot daily. If you don’t already eat it daily, add in some sauerkraut. About a half of a cup or even a few tablespoons will be good medicine. Up your fats – the good ones such as butter, and coconut oil. Stir in an extra spoonful into that bowl of soup along with the garlic. If you drink coffee, maybe now is the time to try Bulletproof coffee, which is basically adding butter to it. I’ve added butter to my tea. Try it. Lastly, bone broth! this article Some of my personal chef friends don’t quite get the whole bone broth vs. stock vs. “regular” meat broths. And now, counter top electric pressure cookers are all the rage and you can make bone broth quite quickly instead of the 2 days originally recommended by the Weston Price Foundation, the source of much information about the benefits of bone broth. Bone broth is made using a process which extracts a huge amount of minerals out of the bones which is why we want to consume it. I use it when making soup or take the basic broth, simmer it with some added herbs, and sip it as a drink.
I want the tone of this post to be positive, things to DO instead of things to NOT do, but I do need to mention the number one food to avoid for your winter health and really your over all health. That is processed sugar. There is altogether too much pressure in January to change this, to become this, to diet, to be a better you, etc. etc. etc. I will just say that sugar is an inflammatory, it lowers your immune system, and really only provides a temporary relief from what ever sort of situation you are wanting to sweeten. How can you make your life sweet ? and there is plenty of information every where on the internet about other food sources of sweetness.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention sleep. Sleep your way to health is a good motto. Think about our ancestors who didn’t have electricity. They went to bed when it got too dark for a candle or a gas lamp to be effective. Good idea. I think in the dark times of the year, we need more sleep. The Earth is dreaming now so let’s join her.
I polled my friends about what they do in the winter which included all of the above mentioned things. Quite a few of them recommended this drink. I have yet to make it but have been hearing about it for a long time so I include this recipe for Fire Cider.
Hot, pungent, sour, and sweet, fire cider is certainly not for the faint of heart. Yet this fiery concoction has been revered for generations as a simple and effective remedy to relieve sinus congestion, ward off colds and flus, aid digestion, and increase circulation. It’s an old folk remedy. This one came from the website, kitchn and is based on Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe. She is a renowned herbalist.
1/2 cup peeled and diced horseradish
1/2 cup peeled and diced garlic
1/2 cup peeled and diced onion
1/4 cup peeled and diced ginger
1/4 cup peeled and diced turmeric
1 habanero chile, split in half
1 orange, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 lemon, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 to 3 cups raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
1/4 cup raw honey, or more to taste
Place all of the vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices in a clean 1-quart jar. Fill the jar with vinegar, covering all the ingredients and making sure there are no air bubbles. Cap the jar. If using a metal lid, place a piece of parchment or wax paper between the jar and the lid to prevent corrosion from the vinegar. Shake well.
Let the jar sit for 3 to 6 weeks, shaking daily (or as often as you remember).
Strain the vinegar into a clean jar. Add honey to taste. Refrigerate and use within a year.
I’ve given you lots of links to explore things further. I’ll add another here for some soup recipes if you need inspiration.
Now, get yourself a nice cup of herb tea, find your favorite blanket, curl up and take a break for some reading. Stay well.