Have you noticed a change in the seasons?
While Melbourne may at times have “four seasons in one day”, unlike other parts of this continent our climate does fall into distinctive quarters. Despite the variations in temperature and some light, many of us approach our health oblivious to the seasons.
The “energetics” of autumn in both Western and Eastern complementary medicines, connect this time of year to the lungs. We often associate colds and influenza with winter but it’s actually the change of seasons in autumn and spring that tends to see the peak in respiratory infections. The good news is that taking good care of ourselves in this season gives us a head start in resisting infections.
Autumn is a time of harvest before nature (oblivious to modern farming techniques) rests in winter. Over summer we tend expend more energy being in the world. There are more festivals, parties, weddings and picnics. But the body needs a little time to recuperate from all this, before the next cycle begins.
The problem is, while we may have conquered the limitations of nature, our body follows it’s own primitive rhythms and hasn’t yet adapted to going at full speed all year round. Other than adjusting our habits to work with the seasons, there is increasing evidence to support the use of natural immune strengthening herbs and nutrients.
Autumn immune boosters
Cod liver oil: this might seem an old-fashioned remedy but it is a great way to strengthen the body’s first line of defense again airborne viruses and bacteria. Cod liver oil promotes stronger mucus membranes (such as the lining of your nose, mouth and throat) making them more resilient to bacteria and viruses. It’s also a good source of omega 3 oils as well as vitamin A and D.
Vegetarian friendly alternative: beta-carotene is a form of Vitamin A found in many plant foods especially dark orange and green vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato and kale.
Vitamin D: there’s a statistical correlation between low vitamin D and increased respiratory infections. Adding to the growing research on D’s role in prevention and treatment of depression, some cancers and much more. While sunshine is a great source of Vitamin D, most Australians can’t get enough. Check this handy guide on how much to take.
Vitamin C: boosts your body’s ability to fight disease. It’s worth taking some daily insurance in the form of 500 – 1,000 mg a day (for adults), increasing the frequency of the dose to 4 times a day if you feel the lurgy creeping up on you.
Wash your hands: It may seem strange but it is true, simply washing your hands with soapy water for at least half a minute stops the common cold from travelling from your hands to an easy route of entry via your eyes, nose or mouth. Ordinary soap works almost as well as antibacterial products, the tips is getting a lather up, drying well and repeating often.
Teach children to wash their hands properly by singing “Happy Birthday” (or similar length favourite song) while lathering up.
Rest: Falling short of 8 hours recuperation every night increases the likelihood of becoming run down and decreasing your body’s resistance to infection. Sleep is free, all it takes is a little planning. Book a date with yourself each week for an early night to top up on dream time. Read this article on insomnia if you’re having trouble getting enough hours, falling or staying asleep.
Meditate: An eight week study of men and women over 50 years old found that those who meditated daily had significantly less respiratory infections than the control group.
Exercise: The meditation study also showed the daily exercise was almost as effective as meditation, to ward of respiratory infections. Why not do both!
Boost your diet: Add more garlic, onion, ginger and turmeric to boost your immune system. Swap ice cold drinks for hot herbal teas. Include dark green and orange vegetables in your diet everyday (see the resources section for delicious meal inspiration.)
Are you taking the right remedies?
People often swear by different remedies, from eating a raw clove of garlic every morning to supplementing with echinacea or olive leaf extract. To find out if you’re taking the right remedy for your body, the correct form and dose, and how they may interact with existing health conditions or prescribed medication – book a Wellbeing consultation. It will save you time and money, and set you on the path to a healthier autumn and winter.
Updated 2016: Original post March 2009