Natural Health Tips for Ski Season – Vitamin D and Immunity

by Dr. Brent Barlow, ND
Vitamin D is one of the most important essential nutrients for The immune system. It actually functions like a hormone by binding to and increasing the activity of many different types of white blood cells. Sub-optimal levels of Vitamin D are associated with decreased immunity and linked to increased susceptibility for the common cold and flu.

Vitamin D can be found in many foods but it is not realistic to obtain optimal levels of vitamin D from your diet. Most of the vitamin D in your body is produced when sunlight contacts your skin, which begins the conversion of cholesterol into vitamin D. However, during the winter months it is not possible to get enough high quality sunlight to create optimal levels of vitamin D.

There are three things you can do to ensure optimal vitamin D levels. First of all, get tested by your doctor to identify your current vitamin D status. Secondly, if you are deficient, which the vast majority of North Americans are, take a vitamin D supplement at a dose high enough to correct the deficiency. Thirdly, get outside and expose your skin to sunlight on a daily basis. Take this prescription up to Big White or Silver Star and catch some sun this winter!

Natural Health Tips for Ski Season – Having More Energy
Fatigue is one of the most common reasons people make appointments to see naturopathic doctors. When you lack energy it is very hard to do many of the things in life that you enjoy. This is especially true during the winter months when it is cold outside and everything seems to take a bit more effort.

Many people rely on coffee, sugar, and energy drinks to give them a boost. However, this approach provides the body with temporary energy at the expense of your own internal ability to create long-term sustainable energy. In fact, the above stimulants create energy by increasing the amount of stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands, which further depletes your system in the long run.

The most important thing you can do is ensure you are getting enough good quality sleep. Head to bed early enough so you can get at least 7-8 hours per night. B vitamins are crucial for energy production in the body. Most foods lose B vitamins during processing, packaging, or cooking so taking a B complex supplement often helps. A highly demanding and stressful lifestyle depletes the ability of the adrenal glands to function optimally. Have your adrenal glands assessed by your doctor and consider appropriate treatment.

Natural Health Tips for Ski Season – Warming Up Part 1
Staying warm on the ski hill can be a challenge for many people. Feeling cold leads to stiffness, aches and pains, and may lead to pulled muscles or injury. Cold weather often prevents many cold-sensitive people from heading up to the ski hills for a day of skiing or snowboarding.

Even though Big White and Silver Star are on the warm side of the Rockies there are still a number of colder days up at these mountains. So how do you stay warm? Many people rely on coffee, energy drinks, or a wine skin to “warm up”. However, this approach usually results in a cooler core body temperature and a decreased tolerance to cold.

There are three very simple things that you can do before you leave your house to increase your tolerance to cold. First of all, make sure you are well-hydrated all winter long. Dehydration prevents proper circulation to the extremities and leads to cold hands and feet. Secondly, eat breakfast! A good breakfast should contain a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Thirdly, try hydrotherapy in your shower before you head up to the hill. Have a hot shower for 3-5 minutes followed by 20-30 seconds of cold water. This will increase your core body temperature and metabolism throughout the entire day.

Natural Health Tips for Ski Season – Warming Up Part 2
In last week’s column we looked at 3 simple things you can do at home to keep you warm on the ski hill. Today we will examine 3 simple things you can do on the hill to stay warm and enjoy your ski or snowboard day more.

First of all, keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day by consuming more frequent small meals and snacks. Having a snack or small meal every 2-3 hours while you are on the hill will keep your blood sugar more stable and help you stay warm. Make sure you have some protein with all your snacks to help stabilize your blood sugar.

Secondly, instead of heading inside for a coffee or alcoholic beverage try some warming herbal tea. The best types of tea to increase circulation, metabolism, and warm the body are ginger tea and cinnamon tea.

Thirdly, sprinkle a few flakes of cayenne pepper in your socks and gloves. This will help increase circulation to your extremities all day long. Be sure not to add too much. I would not advise doing this with young children or if you have any open cuts or wounds because it could irritate or burn your skin.

Natural Health Tips for Ski Season – Natural Pain Relief
The only thing better than a hard day of skiing or snowboarding is two days of skiing and snowboarding. However, many people have difficulty with stiffness, bruises, and pain after a day on the snow. In this week’s column we will look at three things you can do at home to support your body’s healing capacity and prevent pain from holding you back.

Many people rely on over the counter NSAID medication to relieve their physical pain. However, while NSAIDs may reduce your perception of pain they actually inhibit your body from repairing the source of the pain. NSAIDs prevent the white blood cells of the immune system from repairing damaged tissue.

The following natural treatments promote the circulation of white blood cells and thus support the natural healing mechanisms of the body. First of all, pick up a package of Epsom salt and follow the directions for a rejuvenating bath. Secondly, mix one table spoon of castor oil to an old cloth and apply it with a hot water bottle on top to any sore spot on the body. Leave it in place for 25-40 minutes for optimal results. Thirdly, take a hot shower for 4-5 minutes and follow it up with 20-30 seconds of cold water.

Natural Health Tips for Ski Season – Snacking on the Hill
Skiing and snowboarding up at Big White and Silver Star sure makes you hungry. Good food can be a part of the mountain experience.  However, many people are unsure of how to eat when they are up at the hill. In this week’s column we will look at how proper snacking and nutrition can improve your performance and enjoyment this winter.

First of all, timing is important. It is much better to eat more frequent snacks throughout the day than two or three large meals. Eat a snack or small meal every two to three hours to ensure stable blood sugar levels. When blood sugar drops mistakes and injuries tend to happen due to fatigue.

Secondly, ensure your snacks and small meals contain a mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. If you are going to have some sugar as a treat make sure you have some protein and healthy fat along with it. This will prevent blood sugar peaks and valleys.

Thirdly, consume small to moderate sized portions. Large meals take longer to digest and often cause afternoon fatigue by forcing the body’s resources away from your muscles and toward digestion. Overeating may also make you less tolerant to the cold by decreasing peripheral circulation.

In next week’s column we will explore some of the healthiest snacks while you are up at Big White and Silver Star this winter.

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