I’ve been super susceptible to upper respiratory infections my entire life. Back when I ate dairy, I was on a Z-Pak for bronchitis and/or sinusitis almost every month. Almost every month. My antibiotic use got so out of control that I finally had a round that didn’t work because my resistance had built up so much. Yikes. Cutting out dairy in January 2011 (it was my New Year’s Resolution to become vegan that year!) was a complete game changer. While I can still be prone to sniffles, I’ve been on one round of antibiotics in seven years. (And to be fair, it was after Elise’s wedding weekend when I’d been drinking heavily and eating late-night cheese pizza. #veganfail.)
Besides cutting back on dairy, we need to remember that winter is a time to slow down and literally “chill out”. Get to that stack of books that’s been on your nightstand, take a nap (or two), and give yourself permission to slow down. I think a lot of our illnesses during these months comes from trying to push ourselves too hard. Appreciate the introspection and stillness that winter invites.
With that, I’ve rounded up my favorite advice for staying healthy and congestion-free this winter. Check them out below:
01 | Crank down your heat. Yes, you heard me. I know this is the last thing you want to do when the temperatures drop, but it’s #1 on the list for a reason. Dry winter heat is a killer for sinuses, and keeping your thermostat at 70+ degrees is basically a death sentence for nose breathing. When your sinuses dry out, their response is to inflame and produce mucus, which equals congestion. I recommend setting your thermostat at 68 during the day and 65 at night. (We keep ours at 65 all the time.) Besides keeping some moisture in the air, we also want to honor the natural flow of the seasons. Winter isn’t a time we’re supposed to be walking around in tank tops and shorts. Take a hot steamy shower and bundle up in some fuzzy slippers, a cozy sweater, and thick leggings. Your sinuses will thank you!
02 | Neti pot every morning. Again, you heard me right. Don’t wait until you start to feel sniffly-doing this every morning will seriously help to keep congestion at bay. In yoga, using a neti pot is an essential kriya, or cleansing ritual, and during my yoga training we were required to do it every day. Make sure you either use distilled water or tap water that’s been boiled for 3-5 minutes. (Never, ever use straight tap water!) I generally fill my electric teakettle with water at night, flip on the switch to let it boil, and then use the water when I wake up in the morning. (I mix in fine sea salt until the water tastes like tears.) My head feels so clear afterwards, and it’s especially awesome to do before meditation. If you’re already feeling like you’re getting sick, up the frequency to once in the morning and once before bed. (I use this neti pot and love it.)
03 | Take a probiotic. What do microflora have to do with nasal congestion? Everything. More and more research is linking our immune function to gut health, making probiotics one of the most essential supplements you can take. Probiotics have been shown to boost immune function, improve vitamin + mineral absorption, and assist with healthy digestion. (I pop one daily right before bed.) If I start to feel sick, I take one every hour. Yep. Every hour. I did this last weekend when we were having a party and I woke up feeling congested that morning. I followed all of my tips on this list + took one of these every single hour and by 7pm was ready to party. It was incredible! Probiotics are even more essential than a multivitamin, since they help you to better absorb the nutrients that are already in the food you’re eating. The ones I take can be found here.
04 | Drink warm or room temperature water. We may not feel as thirsty in the winter, but our bodies still need just as much hydration. I find myself thirstier, especially if I’ve been somewhere where they have the heat cranked up. (See #1.) We have a glass water filter/pitcher that we keep on the counter so our water is room temp. Heating up some water in a teakettle and sipping it throughout the day would also be warming while still keeping you hydrated.
05 | Diffuse oils. This tip is a new one for me, and I can attest to the difference it makes! I’m absolutely obsessed with doTERRA’s Breathe blend, and generally diffuse it for an hour when I wake up and an hour before I go to bed. Besides keeping me cough/sniffle free, my dreams and sleep are much calmer when I use it. Plus, it smells like a spa you’d visit in heaven. If I’m feeling congested, I’ll mix it with some coconut oil and rub on my chest and neck when I get out of the shower. (As I type this I let out a big “aaaahhhh”…that’s how good it smells!) You could also place 2-3 drops in a bowl of hot water, put a towel over your head and do a little steam inhalation. (Husbands find this very sexy as well…not.) Other good oils to relieve congestion are eucalyptus, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and oregano. Bonus? Diffusers have a humidifying effect.
Questions? Shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below! Breathe easy, peeps.
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