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Staying wet when it’s dry

We are in the middle of a very cold and dry winter. Even though we live indoors, the climate around us has a huge effect on our physical, emotional and mental bodies. But because we’re used to living indoors, we can often disregard how much impact the weather is actually having.

When we start talking about the way the body works, it makes a lot of sense that the dryness is actually a “pathogen” working against the body’s natural inclinations.

I see many patients who have symptoms related to dryness, and they don’t even know it. Constipation, dry skin and scalp, sinusitis, low energy, joint pain and depressed mood are just some of the patterns that I’m noticing in my practice and in myself personally. At the root of all these symptoms, is a simple place to start – the body needs more moisture.

The gut and sinuses are lined with mucous membranes. This type of tissue likes to stay warm and moist. In the dead of winter, these barriers can break down in the dry, cold and not be as effective in their role as a protective barrier. Hot showers, steam inhalations and nasal oiling can all be very helpful in supporting the respiratory tract. Eating warm, moist foods will be very supportive to digestion. Think foods like oatmeal, soups and stews, cooked whole grains and roasted vegetables. Foods like crackers, bread or chips are brittle and dry and that will carry through into your body deepening the internal dryness. Making sure every meal has some good fats added to it can be very helpful. Butter, ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil are just a few examples.

Good fats also help to lubricate joints from the inside out. Each joint is full of synovial fluid which needs to be nourished in order for the joints to function optimally. Essential fatty acids are also essential to skin health and help to hydrate the skin from the inside out. The foundation of your nervous system is made of fats and that is how good cell-to-cell communication occurs, so loading up on fats will brighten your mood and help your cells create more energy. Fats are responsible for having us feel satiated, so they are important to include so we don’t overeat and put on excess weight, which is common during the winter months.

It can be harder to drink water when it’s so cold outside, so it’s very common to see people get dehydrated and not even notice. Constipation, lethargy and dry skin are typical symptoms. Try sipping on warm herb tea throughout the day. I especially like herbs like ginger, cinnamon and cayenne to warm me up from the inside out. Start your morning, before tea or coffee, with a pint or two of warm water with lemon. You need to lubricate the gastrointestinal tract to have things move, so if your bowels have been sluggish, this is especially important.

We may not be able to do anything about the weather, but we can support our internal milieu so that it stays balanced all season long.

Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.