The mild season is now over, and we are entering into severely cold New York weather. To stay heal thy and survive this harsh environment, Chopsticks NY consulted with Ms. Asako Miyashita, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in New York, for an easy and practical regimen that we should follow everyday to stave off colds.
It is commonly known that when it gets cold outside, the body temperature goes down and ultimately people get sick. This is caused by the fact that your immune system becomes weak and autonomic nerves become hard to control due to the lowered temperature. “The way to protect your immune system from the cold in winter is to keep warm,” says Ms. Miyashita. She suggests moderate exercise such as walking, stretching before going to bed, and going up and down the stairs.
“People in Japan bathe every day, and this helps warm you up very effectively. Taking a hot bath makes you relaxed physically and mentally, and I highly recommend this at least once or twice a week.” Some people prefer hot and some lukewarm, but try to find a temperature where you feel comfortable when you dip your foot in. Partial bathing like footbaths might work, but Ms. Miyashita recommends bathing your full body because that can warm your kidneys and liver as well. “Even if you cannot find time to take baths that often, you should take them when you feel like your body is chilly or tired. When you are tired you might want to sleep as soon as possible, but you need to take a bath to relax your body, especially in that situation. Then you can get the good, deep sleep that is also the key to maintaining the healthiness of your immune system.” She suggests that if you don’t have a bathtub at home, you can hold a yutanpo (Japanese hot water bag) while you sleep.
People in Japan take o-furo (hot bath) everyday. This is helpful not only for relaxation, but also maintaining the health of your immune system. Try bathing your full body in hot water once or twice a week.
Yutanpo is a Japanese-style hot water bag for warming your body. It’s ecological and effective.
An appropriate diet is also necessary to fight off colds. “Consuming enough Vitamin C and fermented food is key,” says Ms. Miyashita. Vitamin C is a major nutritious component that defends you from cold and flu, so it’s recommended to eat vegetables with dark green colors such as spinach, broccoli, kale and bok choy. “If you notice cold symptoms, drink extra amounts of lemon water (Squeeze a half lemon into 8oz cold or hot water), vegetables and even Vitamin C tablets. I also gargle with bancha-grade green tea with a pinch of salt, which has a good disinfectant effect.” Fermented foods help you keep your intestinal environment healthy with a good amount of bacteria. “I would choose foods like natto (fermented soybeans), pickles, kimchi, yogurt and kaffir for this reason.” Also recommended during this season are ingredients with good fats (oliveoil,nuts, fatty fish) and dishes like nabe hot pot, soup, and casseroles that can warm you up from the inside.
To avoid getting a cold, disinfect your throat by gargling with green tea with a pinch of salt after coming back from outside.
n addition to the points mentioned above, there are some more important things that help insure a sickness free winter. It is really a must to wash your hands and gargle after coming back from outside. Also, try not to let your neck and décolleté get cold because these areas have thymus that control the immune system. This is true all year round, and you need to drink enough water, about 8-10 glasses depending on your body condition. Finally, a warning from Ms. Miyashita to those who love drinking alcohol: “Don’t drink too much. Alcohol makes your liver overwork. Since the liver is an organ that controls metabolism and detoxification, you need to take good care of it.” No need to take medicine if you just keep these things in mind to stay healthy during the cold winter.
sako Miyashita, MS, RDN, CDN
Registered dietitian nutritionist in New York who offers nutrition counseling and lectures for various medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid issues, oncology, and weight issues. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.