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Keep the blahs away with ample sleep, good food and vigorous long walks

Between colds, flus and the bad-weather blahs, winter can be a tough season. Here are some natural steps to ensure a healthy winter season for you and your family.Get your rest. Sleep is a nutrient that is important for health and happiness.Use a humidifier. Dry winter air contributes to the increased rate of respiratory tract infections.Eat plenty of vegetables, including fruits (yes, fruits are vegetables). Vegetable soups, roasted vegetables and bean dishes are very warming in the winter months. Fruits always make a healthy snack or dessert.Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D — up to 2,500 IU daily for children 1 year or older and up to 4,000 IU daily for anyone 9 years or older. We get no vitamin D from sunlight in winter months and a glass of milk has only 100 IU, so most of us require supplementation.Omega-3 essential fatty acids are so important for healthy immune function and mood. They also help prevent cracked lips and dry hands. If you like fish, great sources that are low in mercury and other environmental toxins include sardines, Alaskan salmon, herring, cod and mackerel. If you don’t like fish, taking fish oil capsules will do the trick; just make sure your brand is tested for rancidity, heavy metals and environmental toxins.Stay active. Getting outside when the sun is shining can have a remarkable impact on our health in the winter months.I know, I know, it’s not fair to bring this up during the holidays, but sugary sweets slow down the function of white blood cells that devour bacteria and can have negative effects on mood. Refined carbohydrates like sugar (white, brown, sugar cane crystals, dehydrated cane juice, etc.) corn syrup, honey and maple syrup are all culprits. For homemade sweets, stevia extract is a wonderful, healthy, natural sugar substitute. Apple pie, anyone?If cold or flu symptoms start, liquid extracts of echinacea root and elderberry taken by mouth help symptoms while reducing the duration of illness. Goldenseal (warning: a very bitter herb) works great in a neti pot for reducing nasal congestion or by mouth for sore throats. Richard Malik is a naturopathic doctor with a practice in Lakeville offering comprehensive health care for the entire family.

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