Fall is officially here and I couldn't be more ready. After an expansive summer full of outward expression, it's time to slow down. This is a time for turning attention inwards. Get in tune with your thoughts, emotions, rhythms, and creative endeavors. Let curiosity take over when you can and let it help you forget about the rigid schedules that this season brings. Within busy days allow yourself stillness, rest, and time for nothing. This is the first step to immune health and supporting your bod through the season. There's a reason the sun sets a little earlier and gets up a little later, it's trying to tell you to do the same. Unfortunately, in our society, we aren't allowed to adjust our sleeping patterns accordingly, and we put a little extra strain on our bodies because of it. Run down tired bodies can't protect themselves very well from invading pathogens, let alone thrive. Here are a few things to add to your fall routine if you're a regular in the Dr's office this time of year, if you feel something coming on, or if you just want to thrive with the seasons.
1. BRING THE HEAT
I'm talking SPICES! Challenge yourself to broaden your spice cabinet this fall. Bring in cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper to warm drinks, oatmeal, and smoothies. These spices are natural warming digestive aids, helping you to warm up digestion, break down food and absorb your nutrients for optimal health. Load up your lunches and dinners with ginger, turmeric, cayenne, oregano, basil, rosemary, paprika and coriander. All of these herbs mentioned have natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that help to fight off infection.
I also mean bringing in WARM. Warm foods such as soups and stews support us while we transition into cold weather. Bone broths are an amazing preventative and curative choice. Herbal teas using the spices above are an amazing combination of infection-fighting properties! Herbal chai tea sans milk and black tea is an amazing way to support your bod while transitioning into fall!
In order to take care of yourself, you have to take care of yourself. Meaning, scheduling in the time to do the things you love. What helps you feel balanced and grounded? Are you making time for that? If your answer is "I don't have time for that, I'm already too busy", then you reeeeeally need to make time for that. This doesn't have to be you committing to hot yoga every day for the next month, or waking up at 5:00am to get to the gym before work every day. This can be as simple as taking your Sundays to grocery shop, prepare your meals for the week, and running a bubble bath for yourself at the end of the night. This is making sure that you get to those things that make you feel inspired; visiting with friends, hiking, walking by the ocean, taking a yoga class or a dance class or just sitting and journaling your thoughts.
What does this have to do with getting sick?
Stress levels are directly related to your immune system's ability to protect yourself. When we're really stressed out - we actually shut down our immune system temporarily. Shutting down our ability to fight incoming infections, in turn, makes it easier for us to get infected by something. When we shut down our immune system, we are shutting down our bodies response to invaders (including physical symptoms like runny nose, phlegmy coughs, fevers, etc.). This sounds like it would be a great thing "no symptoms!". The problem is once the stressor is gone (over Thanksgiving weekend or after exam week) our immune system kicks up again, realizes it's been infected by something you get hit even harder with an immune response. Even worse, if this period of stress has been around for long enough, your infection may have even manifested into a full-blown condition. Prevention of a condition is always easier than the treatment of one.
3. LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE
There are a select few foods that have incredibly supportive roles when it comes to the immune system and fighting infection. The allium food group; being garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and chives have incredible anti-microbial properties. It was thought that these properties could only be attained through fresh garlic, but leaving your chopped garlic out for about 10 minutes prior to cooking activates the enzymes that enable this response. So grab the garlic and cook away! There are two minerals that are superstars when it comes to immune health; selenium and zinc! Increasing selenium rich foods has been found to help clear influenza from the body. Some of these include; fish (tuna, cod, halibut, sardines, salmon), sunflower seeds, mushrooms, shellfish, eggs, and the highest source being brazil nuts - just one brazil nut is enough to supply your daily requirements of selenium. Zinc is essential for immune function, enhancing the actions of important immune cells. You can find it in foods like pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed butter, sesame seeds and tahini, squash seeds, dark chocolate and cacao, garlic, chickpeas, and the highest being oysters. Food sources are always my first choice when it comes to vitamins and minerals, but taking 30-50mg of zinc with a meal when you feel something coming on ON TOP of eating a supportive diet will help significantly to prevent colds and can even reduce their severity.
The immune system is a complex web that works in many different ways. Because it’s so complex, there are many different herbs that can help to support your immune system depending on what exactly you’re dealing with. There are a handful of herbs with strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are a first go-to for the common colds. There are antiviral herbs to help deal with influenza and other viral infections. There are soothing herbs that support a raw and inflamed throat and your mucous membranes. Alternatively, there are herbs to break up and expel mucus from the respiratory system. As you can see, there are many different actions that herbs can have on the body, and it’s important to know what you’re looking for when trying to be rid of something. Talking to someone with a deeper understanding of these plants and their actions in the body is the best way to get the positive result that you’re looking for. A great place to start is with tinctures and teas of the following immune supporting herbs; Echinacea angustifolia (echinacea), Zingaber officianalis (ginger), Alium sativum (garlic), Hydrastisis canadensis (goldenseal), Astragalus membranaceus (astragalus), Curcuma longa (turmeric).
Knowing when it's time to slow down doesn't make you weak, lazy, or unmotivated. Listen to your body when it's telling you it needs time for rest. Get to bed earlier, sleep in a little later, and yes, even take a sick day when you need one. Your mother tells you this for a reason, it does a body good!
Remember that as seasons change, so do we. Nourish yourself on every level so you can make the transition smoothly this fall! <3