Diet & Nutrition

Have a healthy winter

It's important to protect the head and neck from the cold morning air during winter. Photo: A.Muralitharan   | Photo Credit: A_Muralitharan

We are so used to the sun smiting us through the summer in Tiruchi, that winter seems to be a gentle joke played on our memory by Nature. But, as the sudden dip in temperatures in recent days indicates, winter is well and truly upon us.

For a few precious weeks, we will open our doors to a chill morning, the sounds of traffic, human activity and birdsong all buried somewhere in its foggy depths, and wonder whether we shouldn’t be snuggling back into bed.

There’d be other ways we’ll indulge ourselves during winter – snacking on greasy comfort food and giving up exercise ‘because it’s too cold no?’

Great as it is to get pleasantly toasted in the winter sunshine, and seeking refuge in the warmth of scarves, socks and sweaters, it is also worth taking the effort to enjoy the season in a healthy manner.

Combating infections

Our skin is most affected during winter, as the dry air tends to rob it of moisture and makes it flaky. So moisturising the skinis absolutely essential.

Boosting immunity through a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is also another building block of a safe winter.

Speaking to MetroPlus, city doctors say that there is a higher incidence of infectious diseases of the respiratory and digestive systems during the cool months. “Most respiratory problems will multiply during winter,” says Dr. K. Saravanan, M.D. (Internal Medicine). “Gastro-intestinal diseases also go up during winter because the quality of food and water being consumed is not good,” he adds.

The flooding of drains due to the rains often leads to a contamination of the underground drinking water pipelines, a major reason for the increase in the typhoid cases being reported, says Dr. Saravanan.

Urinary infection caused by poor personal hygiene and damp or infrequently-washed clothes is also common.

The best way to combat problems like running nose, cough, wheezing is to drink water that has been boiled (not just mildly heated) to 100 degrees Celcius, and allowed to cool naturally, says Dr. Sarvanan.

“When eating out, avoid street stalls. In restaurants, order food that is completely cooked,” he suggests. “Try not to eat dishes made from ingredients that have travelled a long distance, such as seafood or fish, and stick to locally available foodstuff,” says Dr. Saravanan.

It is very important for those leaving home early to use caps and mufflers to protect the head and neck from cold air exposure, says Dr. M. A. Aleem, a neurologist. “Some people who are exposed to the chill air can suffer facial paralysis (Bell’s Palsy), caused by the failure of the nerve that controls muscles on one side of the face,” he says.

Headaches and viral infections like conjunctivitis are also commonly reported during winter.

In addition to ensuring hygiene in the diet, it is also important to keep your home environment clean, say the doctors. “Children should be stopped from playing in puddles so that they don’t get dermatitis (skin infection),” says Dr. Aleem.

Lifestyle diseases

For those who suffer from lifestyle health problems like heart disease and diabetes, Dr. Saravanan suggests a slight change in the fitness routine for winter. “As exercise and physical activity is less during chill weather, the heart rate increases in the early hours of the day. That’s why you have many heart attack cases being reported from 7 a.m to 10 a.m. in winter,” he says. “But we cannot just blame the weather and stop exercising. People with diabetes, heart disease and cholesterol problems can walk inside the house for 45 minutes or use a treadmill to get some indoor exercise.”

Pregnant women may be more prone to leg cramps in cold weather, for which vitamin supplements may be taken on the advice of a gynaecologist.

Diabetics commonly experience peripheral neuropathy – a burning sensation and numbness in the limbs – more often during winter, says Dr. Aleem.

“The chances of stroke are also higher in winter as blood’s ability to coagulate increases and can lead to clots,” he warns.

Arthritis patients, especially senior citizens, may find their limbs stiff and swollen when they wake up on cold days. “If they are not asthmatic, they can use carpets during winter,” says Dr. Saravanan.

The winter in Tiruchi may not be as severe as in some other parts of the state, but it’s still a season we all look forward to before we get royally roasted by the sun yet again from end-February …

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 3:16:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/diet-and-nutrition/have-a-healthy-winter/article6574739.ece

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