This time of year, you might start to wonder – how does weather affect health? Winter and it’s chilly temperatures can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to our health. While we may not always appreciate the cold weather, it serves an important purpose. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist conditions. The winter frosts kill more than just plants – they wipe out strains of bad bacteria as well. This should be good news for many, but unfortunately, there are a couple of side effects to the cold weather that aren’t so positive.
How Does Weather Affect Health?
Headaches and Migraines
Those who are subject to frequent headaches or migraines know how disruptive they can be. Unfortunately, these conditions can sometimes spike in the winter time. Headaches are typically caused by constriction of the blood vessels in the brain. When we subject our bodies to cold temperatures, the blood vessels in our extremities constrict in order to send as much blood as possible to our body’s core. The decreased blood flow in the brain can potentially exacerbate headaches or migraines. In addition to the cold, other aspects of the weather, such as sun glare or stormy weather, can cause headaches.
Shorter days and stormy weather in the winter months, in combination with the colder temperatures that keep us indoors, mean significantly less sun exposure. Though humans aren’t as reliant on sunlight as plants are, it still has a profound effect on us that shouldn’t be ignored. For one, lack of sun exposure can create or exacerbate a vitamin D deficiency, which affects mood and energy levels in addition to bone and muscle strength.
The lack of sunlight leads many people to feel lethargic or melancholy in the winter time. To combat these mood swings, you can try to mimic the effects of the sun with a full spectrum light source or, if you’re up to it, spend more time outside when the sun is out. You can also talk to your doctor to see if you should be taking a vitamin D supplement.
The dry air in the winter sucks the moisture from your skin, potentially leaving it chapped or flaky. In addition, strong and cold winds are abrasive on your skin, irritating it and potentially damaging the protective lipid barrier. The resulting appearance of flushed, red skin is known as “wind burn”. Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it’s also your first line of defense from bacteria, so make sure you take care of it. Be sure to moisturize dry skin regularly to keep it from getting irritated.
How does weather affect health? Whether it’s the cold or the flu, many people ultimately succumb to some type of illness during the winter. Scientists have only recently discovered a link between cold temperatures and weakened immune systems. Essentially, our cells responsible for fighting off invaders displayed a more sluggish response in colder temperatures. In addition, winter drives more people inside for longer periods of time. When the temperatures drop, we turn on the heat to compensate. This may not be a problem in a clean home, but warm air ventilated throughout offices and schools with large numbers of people is a recipe for the spread of germs. Add this to the fact that people generally tend to be less active in the winter, and the immune system has a full-time job trying to prevent sickness.
So What Can You Do?
When the temperatures start to drop, many start to wonder: how does weather affect health and what can you do about it? The best thing you can do to ensure you don’t get sick is to take care of yourself and your body. Get plenty of rest, make sure you’re consuming plenty of nutrient-rich foods and vitamins, take immune support, and try to avoid heavy loads of stress.
If you’re interested in giving yourself the best defense possible to make it through the rest of the winter, consult with a functional medicine doctor. Dr. Lorraine Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are. Schedule your appointment today!