The first signs of winter may conjure up visions of quiet evenings in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate or a glass of red wine, but the reality is usually quite a different story.

As the weather cools, your metabolism begins to slow down, and if you give in to cravings for carbohydrate heavy comfort foods you’ll feel sluggish and tired, and there’s a good chance you’ll begin to gain weight and put your immune system under pressure.

And in case that is not bad enough, when you are under stress or exposed to germs and viruses, the threat of winter sniffles can rapidly become a reality.  Instead of that serene evening in front of the fire, all you’ll really want is to be left alone with your box of tissues and something to dull the ache in your head.

But by following three easy steps, you can revitalise your system and build your immunity, and enjoy the crisp, clear autumn days, knowing that your body is prepared for the cold season ahead.

You might still be exposed to friends and colleagues coughing and spluttering around you, but your choices now can make the difference between getting a slight cold and suffering a week of misery.

1-2-3 Easy Steps to a Healthy, Happy Winter

Ensure that you are getting all the essential nutrients you need

Start by eating right – you know the rules!

  • Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day
  • Opt for lean proteins including skinless chicken, grilled or steamed fish (salmon and mackerel are particularly good) or legumes
  • Replace refined carbohydrates, including white and brown bread with low GI seed bread
  • Eliminate sugary foods, especially cakes and biscuits
  • Ditch fried foods and take-aways
  • Snack on nuts or a crunchy apple. Or try chick peas cooked, drained and dry-fried till crispy- delicious!
  • Eat nourishing soups and stews made with beans, lentils, vegetables and lean meats
  • Try adding chilli to stimulate your metabolism, or cinnamon to help balance your blood sugar

But don’t rely on diet alone.  Processes such as irradiation and refrigerated transportation may give your fresh foods a longer shelf life,  but they can rob your food of vital nutrients, so supplement with a good quality vitamin and mineral formula such as the Bioharmony Ultimate A-Z Nutrition Formula.

Make sure your body can absorb these nutrients

Simply put, if your digestive is system is disrupted and not working efficiently, your body won’t absorb nutrients effectively.  This means that even though you might be eating fairly well, or taking a supplement, you can still lack of specific nutrients.  And the build-up of free radicals and toxins interfere with the body’s ability to access and break down energy stores, causing tiredness and lethargy.

So if you suffer from food intolerances, bloating, IBS, constipation or diarrhoea, avoid any trigger foods that you know cause problems (wheat and dairy are the most common culprits) and take a dietary enzyme such as Bioharmony Bio-Enzymes for Life or Bioharmony Bio-Amara Digestive to help your body break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats, digest foods and eliminate waste products effectively – and allow your body to absorb the nutrients it needs.

Stimulate your immune system

A strong immune system will protect you from infection from the inevitable winter germs and bugs that you’ll encounter, allowing you to enjoy winter.  Vitamin C has always been a winter essential, but a new report from the Harvard School of Public Health tells us that “There’s no question that vitamin C plays a role in controlling infections. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals.”

Don’t wait till you feel a cold coming on; stimulate your immune system with vitamin C throughout autumn and prepare your body for winter.  Choose a buffered vitamin C formula such as Bioharmony Ultimate C, which is more easily absorbed and suitable for anyone with ulcers or a sensitive digestive system.

Add a little local healthcare with Bio-Sutherlandia.  This fabulous little herb has been trusted for generations in South Africa for a host of ills, but recent clinical studies have shown it to be a fabulous immune booster.

This year, don’t put your life on hold during winter, waiting for the season to change and the sun to reappear.  Use autumn to prepare your body, improve your energy and stamina and build a healthy immunity – then get up off the couch and enjoy the weather!

Conventional wisdom is that we all know what to expect from menopause, but the reality is that the signs and symptoms can vary dramatically. Only about 75% of women suffer symptoms, so you might even get off scott-free.  But you might also find that while all you had expected was hot flashes, you don’t get them; instead your contact lenses could get sticky and give you constant problems.

Of course, the first and most obvious sign is that periods become irregular.  You might have been on a strict 28 day cycle since you were 17, and all of a sudden you never know where you are.  Your period might arrive unannounced and unexpectedly, or not at all.  And while you might think you are too young to be heading for menopause, it is normal to see the first signs from as early as 40.  (So if you are 45 and you’ve just skipped two periods, it’s quite possible that you are not pregnant.)  But if you’ve had a hysterectomy but kept your ovaries, you won’t exactly be able to use this as a marker – since you wouldn’t have had periods anyway.

Let’s be specific for a minute.  Medically, the term menopause refers to the time when you are finished with all the symptoms.  When it has been a full year since your last period and you are no longer bothered by the uncomfortable symptoms of oestrogen rushes.  Basically, when you hit menopause, things get simpler.

But what we colloquially refer to as menopause is more correctly called peri-menopause.  And this is the problem.  This is the time when your hormones are in flux; your ovaries begin to slow down and produce hormones on an ad hoc basis, up one minute and down the next.  Seems when the ovaries haven’t produced enough oestrogen in a while, the brain wakes up and sends a panicked message: Hey, we need oestrogen, now!  The ovaries leap into action and the oestrogen surges, causing hot flashes and a list of other equally unappealing problems.  Then just as suddenly, the ovaries go back to sleep and the moment passes.  And you might even have a sudden chill as the oestrogen subsides.  Fabulous!

Hot flashes can last as long as 30 minutes, which is a long time if you are red-faced and sweating profusely while trying to maintain your equilibrium.  And there’s nothing quite like a hot flash to take your mind off your train of thought in a client meeting or yelling at a wayward teenager.  (Oh well, at least someone might benefit.)

Fatigue is a classic symptom of menopause. But since we’re often busy and under pressure, we often don’t recognise this as a menopausal issue.  Don’t we almost expect to be tired?    And when you’re tired, you probably expect to be a little grumpy or fragile from time to time so you may not consider it a “mood swing”.  And if you have night sweats that wake you up at night or suffer from insomnia, it’s no surprise if you are exhausted.  And if that’s not bad enough, you’re likely to put on weight, particularly around your waistline.

You’ll probably notice the prune effect:  the way your hair and your skin are suddenly dry, and your favourite moisturiser just doesn’t seem right any more.  Of course, it’s not just your hair and skin that is drying out.  Back to the gooey contact lenses – even the moisture in your eyes can dry out.  It can also make you react badly to the odd glass of wine.  And since dehydration is a well recognised cause of headaches, they can appear too.

Needless to say, this problem extends to vaginal dryness too.  Add that to being tired and it’s hardly surprising if your libido goes into recess.

In a dream world, we cope with everything that life throws us, and your lifestyle can make the difference.  Firstly, eliminate all your bad dietary habits.  Avoid caffeine.  So cut out the coffee and chocolate, even tea and move to rooibos or another herbal tea instead.

Cut out curries, chillies and all spicy foods, and eliminate processed starches like pasta, white bread, biscuits and cakes.  Then give up alcohol, and if you smoke, stop now.   (And if tiredness and raging hormones weren’t making you miserable, this might just do the trick!)

Lastly take up some kind of exercise.  While most people need about 15 minutes of exercise a day, or half an hour every second you, women in menopause should exercise for 45 minutes a day, five days a week.

Stress adds to the severity of the symptoms, so try to avoid stress.  Easier said than done, but give it a try.  But the reality is that sometimes we need a little help.

Hormone therapy is effective, but there is no doubt that it can have severe side effects and that there are risks attached.  So if you opt for HRT, make sure your doctor does a full family history to establish  your specific risk profile.

You can also try natural remedies.  Take a look at the MenoClove range which helps to balance your hormones and is easily available without prescription. Containing only natural ingredients, it helps to get your body back in balance. MenoClove includes red clover (a source of phyto-oestrogen) and black cohosh, both of which have been shown to alleviate symptoms including hot flushes and night sweats. There is also a Day/Night version of which helps you get a good night’s rest and boost energy and vitality during the day.

Finally, don’t ignore your bones!  Menopause and osteoporosis are closely linked because as your oestrogen production reduces, your body’s ability to absorb calcium is limited, leading to reduced bone density and weakened bones.  And since osteoporosis is responsible for broken bones and the stooped posture you see in so many elderly ladies, you definitely want to take steps to prevent it.  Take a good calcium supplement like Bioharmony Ultra-Cal Plus every single day and do some weight-bearing exercise.  In fact, don’t wait for menopause to begin to start taking calcium.

Some people always seem to have energy and enthusiasm; they look good and feel great. If you take a holistic approach to health, you can improve your general well-being, and look good most of the time too.

Take a low GI approach to eating

If you know that late afternoon crash, or have no energy even after a good night’s sleep, take a look at your diet.  Sweet, sugary, processed foods and “empty carbs” may be the cause.  Control your sugar cravings and balance your blood sugar levels by including low GI foods like sweet potatoes, oats, brown rice, apples and pumpkin seeds in your daily diet.  Opt for the new low GI breads instead of standard white loaves and eat apples instead of grapes or litchis.  And make sure you always have protein with your carbs.  A low GI diet is also a healthy way to control your weight. If you needing extra help to stabilise your blood sugar levels try Bioharmony Cinnabalance, a nutritional food supplement which combines cinnamon extract with essential trace elements and vitamins. It assists to stabilise and regulate blood sugar levels making it suitable for diabetics and pre-diabetics.

Improve Your Digestion

Bloating, indigestion and constipation are common complaints.  (Studies indicate that as many as 80% of adults’ digestive systems do not work at an optimum level.) If you follow a healthy diet but still feel uncomfortable, you may have a food intolerance (wheat and milk are the most common culprits).  A digestive enzyme such as Bioharmony Bio-Enzymes for Life will help your system digest food more effectively.

Drink eight glasses of water a day

This is old advice, but it is still true!  Not drinking enough water is a major cause of headaches, migraines and constipation.  And if you drink a lot of coffee, you need to increase your water intake as caffeine dehydrates your body

Eat Essential Fats

We all know that essential fats from salmon and other oily fish help ensure healthy skin, nails and hair but, more importantly, they help reduce the risk of heart disease and are acknowledged by experts as a brain food, helping memory and concentration and even helping to ward of Alzheimer ’s Disease in later years.  Eat salmon, pilchards or sardines three times a week.

Fresh fruit and vegetables will help you look and feel young

Antioxidants help combat the destructive effects of free radicals.  Upping your antioxidant intake can make a huge difference to how you look and feel by helping to counter the anti-aging effects of free radicals. Fruit and vegetables are not only rich in dietary fibre, which is good for digestion; they are also rich in antioxidants.

Exercise at least 15 minutes a day

Exercise is vital to cardiovascular health and helps to keep you strong and supple.  We all need about 15 minutes exercise a day or 30 minutes every second day.  (Menopausal women should have at least 35 minutes of exercise every single day.)  It also reduces stress and helps maintain a healthy weight.

Choose something that suits your lifestyle – walk the dogs, hit the gym, take a dance class.  If you are having fun, you’ll find it easier to maintain.

Get Rid of Emotional Baggage

Emotional baggage is a drain on your health, energy and spontaneity. Letting go of negative emotions and taking the conscious decision to have a positive attitude to life will improve your relationships and your happiness.

Reducing stress is key to improving your well being, Bioharmony’s Ultimate A-Z is the ultimate everyday multivitamin for those leading busy and stressful lives. In addition to providing all the vitamins and minerals that the body needs it also provides a high combination of the important vitamin B’s which are essential for coping with stress.