|10 Tips on Your Heat and Your Health |
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Staying Healthy Tips by Elson M. Haas MD.
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- First look at your Wardrobe, your clothes. Are they seasonal? When the weather is colder, think layers; be a "seasonal stripper." This helps you adapt to being indoors or out, and makes it easier to warm up during the day or with outdoor activities. Wear a T-shirt (silks are great), another shirt, sweater and jacket. For your lower body, you have leggings or long underwear, and different weight pants. Use natural fibers whenever possible as they allow the skin to breathe, are less irritating, and more balanced electromagnetically. We also go in and out of differently heated environments, and this can affect our inner thermostat and immune system. Even though you may be buried under those layers, make sure you keep your body clean and fresh for better health protection. Also, wash your hands to reduce germ exposure and spread, clean under your nails, and floss your teeth to stay kissing clean.
- Feet are the key to keeping your body warm. When they become cold from temperature, stress, or poor circulation, your body won't feel warm. Many years ago I co-created Sole Sox (anatomical reflexology socks, available through The Element Emporium). One of the tips from our sock label is: Put a sprinkle of cayenne pepper in your socks to keep your feet warm. Don't overdo it and be careful with the spice in your eyes. Warm herbal footbaths and foot massage with warm oils is great at this time of year.
- There are many Foods to feed your furnace. You basically want to eat foods that are more concentrated in protein and energy, and need more heat to prepare. Cooked whole grains and beans are great. Soups are a must. I like miso soups with seaweed for the extra nourishment. Cooked and spiced vegetables are quite tasty and healthy. Baked hard squashes, such as acorn, butternut, or spaghetti squash are all sweet and warming. Nuts and seeds provide good oil, lots of nutrients, and protection (See next Tip). Animal proteins can be increased over the winter if you eat these foods. Otherwise, you can keep warm with the above foods and the right spices, like the stimulant and warming cayenne and chili peppers, ginger, garlic, and onions (See Tip #5).
I like my Recipe from Staying Healthy with the Seasons that combines equal amounts of brown rice, lentils, and sunflower seeds. Slowly simmer twice the amount of water with one half to one cup each of these foods; so that's 3 to 6 cups of water. It takes about 30-45 minutes to make. Also Kim Chee (Korean spiced cabbage) will warm your innards and help your circulation.
- Consume the Good Fats, as natural vegetable oils from nuts and seeds, or from high-quality and fresh cold-pressed (organic) olive oil. These essential fatty acids support healthy cell membranes, which protect us from viruses, and lubricate the inner tissues. They also provide nine calories per gram, which is more fuel; however, you don't want to over-consume them. Bad fats stress the body and clog the blood vessels; they may also alter hormone and immune function. The omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish are cardio-protective and are part of very nutritious foods. Some examples of these fish are sardines and mackerel, salmon, and trout. Eating these fish two or three times weekly has been shown to be beneficial to health in various studies. Remember, Eskimos survive in a frozen climate by eating whale, bear, and walrus fat, but it is not processed and they are one with their igloo and tribe. The right oil foods supply vitamins E, A, D, and K (the fat-soluble vitamins). Get a little sun over the winter to provide vitamin D and support your bones. See Chapter 4 in Staying Healthy with Nutrition for more on Fats and Oils.
- Many Herbs help to support body heat. Recipe: Ginger root tea is one of the best. Simmer a few slices of root in two cups of water for about 15 minutes, cool a bit, and serve with a touch of lemon and honey if you wish. You can also pour the mixture over some leaf herbs, such as peppermint. Garlic and onions are warming when used fresh or added to meals. Cayenne and other chili-like hot spices are great to add to dishes. Salsas are also a useful way to get warming and nutritious fresh foods, including garlic, onions, peppers, and more. Black pepper is also warming, but it is also irritating to the GI tract for many people. I don't tolerate it well, and some people are even allergic to black pepper. See Winter in the Seasons book. Maintaining your heat can protect you from colds. If you do start to feel a cold coming on, drink lots of hot liquids, such as herbal teas and soups. Take Echinacea root extract and try olive leaf in capsules as directed on the bottle; both are known as immune boosters.
- Exercise is also crucial for good circulation and building body heat. Aerobic activity helps strengthen the heart and improve circulation. Weight training builds muscle, and the more muscle you have, the better the metabolism. This fact is an important one for people trying to lose weight. A regular exercise program helps the body function best, keeps the attitude more upbeat, and maintains health, probably more so than any other lifestyle factor. One of the other benefits of exercise is body purification – the cleansing of the blood and all the body tissues. It also supports deep breathing. If you work out and sweat or go to a gym, be sure to watch your hygiene and shower and cleanse your body appropriately.
- Steams and Saunas help heat the body and cleanse it of impurities. This may be temporary, yet is also a very therapeutic process. Skin brushing with a dry brush or loofa sponge is helpful. The skin is a large surface organ, and stimulating it is cleansing and invigorating. Remember that one of the blessings of winter is a nice hot bath. There is also the world of aromatherapy to indulge in for many reasons; put some natural oils in your bath or on your body to relax and invigorate yourself. If you feel you need to cleanse, feel toxic, or have exposure to much electromagnetism at work or with air travel, try the good old seasalt and soda bath. Pour a cup of each into a hot bath and soak. Read a good book; listen to soothing music, with a candle, by yourself or with your very close friend.
- Yoga Stretching and deep breathing can help you center and energize. A special form of heat yoga, called Bikram Yoga, has become quite popular. The room is heated up over 100 degrees and the hour or more session opens up the flexibility and the skin pores. It's kind of like doing yoga in a sauna. Yoga is also a great stress reducer. And since stress affects the nervous system, which in turn alters the circulation, it is one of the key causes of cold hands and feet. Relaxation is very helpful at reducing this phenomenon. Yoga is the art and at the heart of creating balance and union with your own body and the universe, both within and without, all at once. It's a good practice to keep the channels open to the great cosmic breath, which feeds us all.
- Meditation and Visualization are important internal exercises as well. Keep your spirit channels open to receive your highest guidance. And speaking of channels, be aware that too many electrical appliances and too much TV can interfere vibrationally with what you truly wish and need to give and receive. We need to use our deeper thoughts and feelings to create something new in our health and life. This, in turn, makes our world a better place. Keep a journal, work on organizing creative projects, and apply what you've leaned – project yourself into the next year as a healthful contributor to yourself, your family, and your community. Make your new plan for 2002 this month and see how close you come when you re-evaluate in a year. Look at what outmoded ideas you have, clear out any obstacles, and make way for your new ways of being and practices.
- Relationships are a bonus for the colder, damper winter months. If you are lucky enough to have someone to care about and/or care for you, plan some special activities (teatime, in between storm walks, foot massages). Doing simple things together – gather firewood, check out bulbs and root vegetables to plant, create a new recipe and a meal – to build bonds that help us flourish, even in the darkest times. This is the perfect time to give of our selves. For many of us, the gift of personal connection is much more important than receiving material objects. Visit an old friend or elderly person, or anyone you know who might be lonely and could use your good energy and caring to pick up their spirit. Schedule some time to just "hang out" instead of filling every minute with activities. The more we give, the more we have. Who said that?
Copyright Elson M. Haas, MD, 2003 All Rights Reserved
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About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD
is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more