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Over 50s guide to thriving in winter

Deborah Hutton

4 minute read
Couple in winter clothing walking their dog on the beach

I don’t know about you, but how I start my mornings is so important to me – it completely determines how the rest of my day will run.

Now that we’re in the midst of autumn and charging towards winter, I no longer have that summer excitement of throwing open the curtains and popping on my gym gear. It’s so much harder to get motivated in the mornings, which definitely has something to do with leaving my warm bed when it’s still dark outside.

Winter also brings the cold and flu season, which like it or not, starts to take on a more sinister approach as we get older.

Over the last couple of years in my quest to help women over 50 find balance, I discovered nutritionist and superwoman Lee Holmes, and she has changed my life! Lee is a holistic food and nutrition coach, a certified health and wellness coach, author of numerous best-selling cookbooks and a wholefoods chef. I recently interviewed her about how to avoid getting sick in winter and here’s what she had to say.

Deborah Hutton (DH): Does it really get harder to maintain our health during winter as we get older or is it just a myth?

Lee: As the cooler months settle in, it can become a lot more difficult to stay on top of our health. Every winter without fail, some of us end up in bed with the flu, making best friends with a hot water bottle and a jumbo-size box of tissues.

Along with chilly temperatures, this time of the year brings with it an increased amount of disease-causing bacteria and viruses. And since it’s cold, people are more likely to spend longer periods indoors at close proximity to others. This makes it easier for infectious droplets of mucus, which are coughed, sneezed, or passed on via hands, to transmit from one person to another.

When our immune systems are vulnerable, our health can be compromised. As we become older, our immune systems have to work harder and harder to help fight cold, cough and chest congestion, as well as protect against more serious diseases and ailments.

Elderly man interacting with woman while holding glass of juice

DH: How important is it to eat well in winter?

Lee: Unfortunately, humans are tropical animals – many are sun worshippers that crave the gorgeous feeling of warmth on our backs. Throughout time we’ve only learnt how to adapt to the cold rather than survive in the cold – covering up with clothes and gorging on stodgy foods is our natural response!

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to help our immune systems fight foreign invaders. As we move into the heart of cold and flu season, consuming plenty of immune-boosting foods is absolutely crucial to building and maintaining a strong immune system.

DH: What are your top three tips for avoiding a cold or flu in winter?

Lee: My first tip is to increase your intake of immune-boosting nutrients and ingredients.

Vitamin C and garlic are two of my favourites. Vitamin C is a powerful flu-fighting antioxidant which can help to keep bugs at bay by enhancing your immune system and increasing the production of necessary antibodies and white blood cells in your body.

Garlic is an immunity-boosting superstar that’s available all year round. One clove of garlic contains more than 100 sulphuric compounds that are powerful enough to wipe out bacteria and infection (it was used to prevent gangrene in both World Wars).

My second tip is all about sleep. Whether you survive on five hours a night or go into hibernation for nine hours, we all need to sleep. Studies have shown that sleep enhances the efficiency of the immune system, so now you have an excuse to snuggle up in bed on a Sunday morning.

My final tip is to keep on moving, even when the sun doesn't want to shine. Warm up on a cold day with an early morning jog, some late-night yoga or even a long walk with the pup to defrost those limbs. Exercise, friend or foe, is in fact excellent support for our immune system. Not only does it help flush out bad bacteria from our airways, but by increasing your heart rate your body changes white blood cells and antibodies into supercharge mode.

For more from Deborah Hutton, check out The Check Up’s dedicated section.

Deborah Hutton is a television presenter, former magazine editor, entrepreneur, author, speaker and Australian media personality. Facing 50 and the shock of being diagnosed with a serious skin cancer, Deborah spent more than a year assessing and redefining herself and realised along the way, women not only needed support but also wanted to connect and talk. As a result, she launched her digital media community ‘Balance by Deborah Hutton’ in 2011.

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