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Shattering Winter Health Myths

Winter is the season of sniffles, chills and other minor – but bothersome – health complaints. And like most of my patients, you probably received a lot of folksy advice on staying healthy when you were young.

Folk wisdom is often dead on. But when it comes to common winter complaints, it often misses the mark. Today, we’ll explore a couple of those old sayings… and talk about what you really should do to stay healthy this winter.

Story #1: You’ll Get Sick if You Don’t Bundle Up

For generations, mothers, grandmothers and aunties have made kids bundle up before going outside in the winter. This is good advice for other reasons, but it won’t protect you from winter bugs.

In fact, the journal Rhinology reports that studies show there’s no connection at all between exposure to cold and winter bugs. People who keep themselves warm and toasty get sick as often as those who don’t.1

Which leads us to another heat-related myth…

Story #2: Most of Your Body Heat Is Lost Through Your Head

When I was young, I remember parents always made their kids wear a hat in cold weather. After all, they told us, most of your body heat is lost through your head.

I’m sure parents give the same advice today. But the claim doesn’t hold up.

According to researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, only about 10% of heat loss comes from the head.2 They trace the “most body heat” myth to a 50-year-old study.

In that study, military scientists exposed men wearing artic survival suits to extreme cold. In those conditions, the men mostly lost body heat from their uncovered heads. Of course, with the rest of their bodies well insulated, they couldn’t lose heat anywhere else.

Now let’s take a look at one last “myth.” One that may not be a myth at all.

Story #3: Vitamin C Keeps You Healthier in Winter

For the last several years, the news stories have all been the same. Linus Pauling, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist, got it wrong. Vitamin C doesn’t help you stay healthy in winter after all.

But the real myth here may be that Pauling was wrong. Because the news media appear to be cherry-picking their stories.

For example, in a large five-year Japanese study, people taking vitamin C were sick with common winter complaints less often. In fact, subjects taking 500 mg of vitamin C daily were sick just one-third as often as people not taking vitamin C.3

The evidence for either side isn’t conclusive yet. But with all its other health benefits, taking a daily vitamin C supplement is a good idea anyway.

There are other ways to help avoid the latest bug, too.

Three Ways to Stay Healthier This Winter

Most of us can’t lock ourselves away for the winter. But we can take some simple steps to remain healthier.

The most effective protection you have is also the easiest: wash your hands often. You don’t need anti-bacterial soap, either. Also, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Especially after you touch a telephone, door handle or any other object shared by many people.

Next, block your sneezes with a clean tissue (or two, if you’re a “heavy sneezer”). If you don’t have a tissue, use the crook of your elbow, not your hand. And here comes a key part of this tip… Teach your kids to do the same. They can bring a lot of germs home from school.

Finally, keep shared objects clean. I’m talking about doorknobs, telephones – even pens – that others may handle. A can of spray disinfectant or a box of anti-bacterial wipes comes in handy this time of year.

As you can see, staying healthy in winter really isn’t hard. You just have to know the steps you should take… and what “advice” you can ignore. And now you do!

Yours in good health,

Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
Best Life Herbals


1 Eccles R. Acute cooling of the body surface and the common cold. Rhinology. 2002 Sep;40(3):109-14.
2 Vreeman RC and Carroll AE. Festive medical myths. BMJ 2008;337:a2769.
3 Sasazuki S, et al. Effect of vitamin C on common cold: randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jan;60(1):9-17.

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