7 Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter | News | Loyola Medicine
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

7 tips from Eastern medicine for staying healthy this winter

Want to stay healthy during these cold winter months? Mainstream medicine practiced in the West recommends eating right, exercising and getting a flu shot. Eastern medical traditions take these ideas a step further.

“Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us to live in harmony with the seasons to protect our health,” said Aaron Michelfelder, MD, a family medicine and integrative medicine physician at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill. “Making certain adjustments to our diet, sleep regimen and lifestyle will make us more in sync with nature and better equipped to cope with the plunging temperatures."

Dr. Michelfelder recommends the following Eastern medicine tips to “winterize” your body and protect your health this season:

  1. Eat warming herbs and foods. The environment and the food we eat can create imbalances in the body, according to Eastern medicine guidelines. Using warming ingredients for meals that are in season to counteract any imbalances created by the cold weather. Warming herbs and foods include cinnamon, ginger, garlic, spicy foods, sweet potatoes, squash, meat and nutrient-dense soups and stews. Save raw, leafy greens for the summer.
  2. Eat less. We typically are not as active during the winter so we require less food. Cut down on your caloric intake.
  3. Sleep more. Traditional Chinese medicine recommends following the sun and sleeping more in the fall and winter because we have fewer hours of daylight. It is best to get nine to 10 hours of sleep as opposed to the recommended eight hours in the summer and spring.
  4. Slow down. We should expect ourselves to slow down naturally and be less active during winter months. This is a hard concept for many Americans to grasp given our busy culture.
  5. Meditate more. As our bodies naturally slow down, it is best to slow the mind as well through meditation. Don’t resist what the body is naturally meant to do this time of year.
  6. Turn to acupuncture. An acupuncture winterizing treatment naturally restores balance and boosts energy levels.
  7. Practice self-care. Get a massage, engage in social activities and take a vacation, if possible. Self-care will help you recharge your body.

“Our immune system is naturally suppressed in the winter,” said Dr. Michelfelder, who also is a professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Try not to fight the seasons. If we are not aligned with the natural cycles of life, we won’t be able to recharge our immune system to protect our health.” 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.