Slurping some warm pumpkin soup with nutmeg, inhaling lavender or myrrh essential oil, attending a yoga class, walking in the park, reading a good book, sipping on lemon ginger tea while sitting in your garden, a family lunch filled with laughter…. 

How do these little activities sound?  More like an indulgence and a holiday?  Well, these simple but powerful rituals are the very foundation for building a strong immune system especially for winter.

Over the many years of seeing patients getting sick including my own kids, what I have realised is that it is your ‘inner environment’ (your body) and not your ‘external environment’ (cold weather, viruses, etc.) that determines whether you get sick or not.  For some people, taking the flu vaccine makes them feel as if they’re immune but you still need to pay attention to your inner environment to optimise your wellbeing.  

We all read about these lifestyle changes that are good for us but it is sometimes hard to implement.  Look at the list below and start doing just one daily until it becomes a habit. You can do it!

1. Sleep: Ensure good quality and quantity of sleep.  Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep.  

2. Exercise: Exercise assists with decreasing your stress levels, improving the quality of your sleep and keeps the lymphatic system moving thereby defending the body against infection.  Rebounding on a trampoline does wonders for your lymphatic system.  

3. Hydration: It is hard to drink fluids in winter and many people opt for caffeine-based drinks which can dehydrate the body even further.  A good option would be to sip on herbal teas like ginger and lemon, turmeric, holy basil (Tulsi).  Fresh homemade soups are an excellent way to get in some fluid that is packed with nutrients.

4. Vitamin D levels: 80% of people have suboptimal levels of Vitamin D which assists with whole body immunity.  I suggest checking your levels with a blood test at a local lab.  Daily exposure of sunlight also boosts Vitamin D levels.

5. Stressors: Identify the stressors in your life and if you are feeling overwhelmed in any way, join a Tai Chi or yoga class.  Breathing techniques also reduce stress and adaptogenic herbs like Ashwaganda, Holy Basil, Rhodiola can be useful too. 
Why not join Multiply at International Yoga Day on 22 June at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium for a fun, blissful yoga event? Find out more here

6. Diet: Decrease your processed food intake and eat a diet rich in seasonal fruits and vegetables. 
• Tip 1 – I add turmeric, garlic, coriander, cumin, black pepper, red chilli flakes to any dish that I am making from pasta sauces to soups or curries. Recipe: here
• Tip 2 – Instead of veggie stock, I throw fresh springs of rosemary and thyme in the soup pot and then use a hand-held blender to blitz everything once it’s cooked.

7. Medication: Try not to take antibiotics, painkillers or other over-the-counter medication unnecessarily.

8. Supplements: Here are supplements that I recommend if you always get sick during winter.  Naturally, you don’t have to take all of them but these are quite useful.
These should not be used during pregnancy without a doctor’s supervision. Any time you are using natural remedies like herbal supplements, it’s a good idea to do it under the care of your doctor or nutritionist.

• A good-quality probiotic 
• Glutamine powder
• Liposomal or buffered Vitamin C daily
• A multivitamin
• Echinachea
• Black Elderberry
• Essential oils – like myrrh, oregano or tea tree

In conclusion, look at your daily rituals. Do they consist of checking your Instagram first thing in the morning or do you lie in bed and practice deep breathing?  Perhaps it’s time to rethink the way we live our lives and create fun, new health enhancing rituals with enthusiasm and joy. 

Stay well.
Dr Hema Kalan