Winter can be a shock to the system. Take care of yourself, inside and out, with these winter wellness tips.
1. Manage Dry Skin. Dry skin can compromise the barrier ability of our skin and can be harmful to the microbiome that helps protect it. This altered environment can also shift the kind of microbes that populate our skin and could lead to irritation beyond that of mild dryness. The most important thing you can do to care for your skin’s microbiome is to be mindful of activities that could lead to excessive dryness, limiting them when you can:
• Instead of using hand sanitizer at home, try washing your hands with a mild unscented hand soap (not antibiotic!).
• When showering, use warm water instead of hot.
• Research has found that, in individuals with chronic skin conditions, using unscented moisturizers with oat-based active ingredients significantly improves skin irritation and its microbiome. This has not been studied in healthy skin, but it may be good for general skin microbiome health.
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2. Up your Vitamin D Intake. Low vitamin D levels can make you susceptible to illnesses. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for health. It keeps your bones strong, can improve your mental health and helps you sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, almost 1 in 4 U.S. adults is considered low in vitamin D. Boost your levels by getting sunlight and eating foods high in vitamin D, like canned fish, fatty fish (salmon), egg yolks, beef liver and fortified foods (cereal and milk). Your health care provider can do a blood test to check your vitamin D levels. Supplementation may be necessary.
3. Stay Hydrated. During Midwest winters, cold, dry air moves in from the Rocky Mountains or Canada. The dry air contributes to fluid loss, and the cold air can cause fluid shifts to keep you warm. You may not feel it, but we lose some water from our body every time we breathe. With all the heavy winter clothing, we also sweat more as we work to move around, making us lose even more water. To make matters worse, we may not even notice its happening. Our body shifts our blood toward our core in the winter to conserve heat. This tricks our brain into thinking our blood volume is good, even if it is actually too low because of water loss (dehydration). As a result, our thirst signaling does not kick in. Don’t be fooled by the cold weather; take preventative action.
• Check the color of your urine throughout the day. Ensure it is clear or light-colored. Dark yellow urine may be a sign of dehydration for some.
• Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to replace water lost overnight. Avoid drinking water right before bed if you struggle with nocturnal urination or heartburn.
University of Illinois Extension and Black Hawk State Historic Site are holding their second Winter Wellness Event on Saturday, Feb. 25. This free family event focuses on ways to be healthy in mind and body. Stop by the Singing Bird Nature Center, 1510 46th Ave., in Rock Island, Ill. between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to enjoy the activities. Get all event details at go.illinois.edu/WinterWellness.
Kristin Bogdonas is the Nutrition & Wellness Educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark Counties. For more information, resources, and events, visit extension.illinois.edu/hmrs.