Winter and Health

As we move into winter, we can all feel the changes: less sun, less daylight hours, less time to do all the necessary things that need to be done.

Even though we wake up at the usual time and are having the same amount of sleep, we are still exhausted. We probably feel more lethargic and sluggish.

And we can feel the change in our lifestyle too. We are probably not spending time outdoors walking or picnic-ing. We probably choose to stay indoors watching tv with blankets and the carbs and junk food (popcorn, chips, cakes, chocolate). No ice cream for winter.

And because we are spending so much more time indoors, eating more, exercising less, it is no surprise that it is the month where our health takes some sick leave. We more susceptible to getting sick with colds and flu. 

But this does not have to be.

I will give you in these next few articles tips on how to deal with winter, what to eat and how to cope.

So let us begin.

How does our body deal with winter?

Our body is fascinating, complex and amazingly adaptable. During winter, our body knows. And our bodies adapt.

Some very interesting and important changes occur to meet these winter challenges head on so it can cope.

The Skin

Since the weather is so cold and often dry, a change in physical health takes place. It is actually quite a noticeable change and something we all dread: dry skin.

The outer layer of our skin, the epidermis, contains many different components, one of them being water. When this layer in our skin does not contain enough water, it becomes dehydrated. This often happens in cold and dry weather. This leads to cracked, damaged and flaky skin.

The Eyes

This weather also affects our eyes. The membranes in our eyes are extremely sensitive to a drop in humidity. When there is not enough humidity, they become dry and gritty.

Runny Nose and Eyes

To help compensate for the dryness in the eyes and nose from the cold and dry weather, our body produces moisture. Our eyes and nose start producing a lot of mucus. This leads to a runny nose or watery eyes.

The Lungs

To function adequately, your lungs need warm and humid air. Our lungs have adapted to this as when you breathe through the nose, the air has a chance to warm up. This supports easy and healthy breathing.

However, when air lacks humidity, there is not much moisture to lubricate the bronchial tubes. The cold causes the airways to construct which can lead to coughing, wheezing and can worsen asthma.

The Heart

In winter, our heart has to work harder to pump blood to keep our bodies warm. This adds extra strain to the body and can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

Immune System

Winter affects our immune system. The immune system becomes slower in its reaction to respond to threats. 

And some viruses, like flu, thrive in cold environments. So considering we spending so much time indoors with possibly other sick people, this increases the chance of getting sick.

Arthritis

Many people with arthritis can predict the cold and sometimes even rain as their pain gets worse.

Research now has a reason for it. It is the barometric pressure (force exerted by weight of the atmosphere). In cool (and damp temperatures), the pressure drops and this puts pressure on the joints which start swelling.

How our bodies warm themselves up

When our bodies get cold, it goes into saving mode. The body does its best to defend and get you back on track. The body's aim: to save your internal organs and sacrifice the extremities such fingers and toes. This technique helps to conserve some heat. .

The other change is the dreaded, uncontrollable shivering. I assure you it is for the bodies best interest but get warm as soon as you can as it is not a natural, healthy state. See, when our bodies contract, it goes into spasm. These spasms are a way for the body to produce heat.

So...

Now we know how the body is affected in winter, join us for the next part where we will explore this topic a little more and give practical tips on how to support the body.

Your thoughts?

Use the comment box below to let me know your thoughts. Which of these changes do you experience? 

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