Late September sees us leaving summer behind and easing gently into autumn. Even though there may only be subtle differences weather-wise, as with any seasonal change, it pays dividends to observe Nature’s cues. Otherwise we can so easily be caught off guard and find ourselves with a pesky cold, cough or worse.
There can be plenty of extra demands on our immune system at this time of year, so it’s well worth giving it a little more attention so that we are literally fighting fit to face whatever the colder months ahead may bring!!
During late summer and autumn, Nature presents us with a cornucopia of beautiful harvests: heirloom apples and pears (sold at farmers’ markets); pumpkins and squashes of all shapes, sizes and colours; cruciferous greens such as kale and cavolo nero; alliums such as onions, leeks and garlic; and not forgetting the trusty roots like carrots, beetroot (in all shades!), sweet potatoes etc. Cue nourishing stews and soups.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) teaches us that balance is everything and one area where this holds true is in what we eat. When it is cold outside (and inside this house!), the last thing our digestive and other cells need is more cold – however juicy and nutritious it may be on paper!
The “digestive fire” as it is called can be stoked up with warming foods or put out with excessive cold, raw, dairy and sugary foods. The latter can leave us feeling tired and make us feel quite low emotionally. Poor digestion can also weaken our immune defences, as approximately 80% of our immune system resides in our digestive tract!!
Autumn is a good time to reintroduce lots of homemade soups, with a wide range of vegetables and perhaps spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, coriander and cumin. Garlic, onions and leeks provide lots of TLC for our lungs which can start to feel the effects of the damper and colder weather too.
This is not to say abandon all juices and raw foods. It’s good to have a little raw each day but listen to your body and balance out any raw with a lot more warming and cooked foods.
Top of the list is – surprise, surprise – water!!! Maintaining a daily quota of about 2 litres spread throughout the day helps the cells to function and cleanse optimally, including those of the immune system!! As with food, it’s good to opt for warmer drinks at this time of year, including water. A little lemon juice and/or grated fresh ginger are nice additions.
Good herbal teas for colder weather are those that include cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and other warming spices. Teas containing liquorice are a good standby for any tickly coughs and sore throats.
Boost your mood with light and sunshine when you can
Without a doubt, we feel better when exposed to daylight and a bonus burst of beautiful autumnal sunshine can really help to put a smile on our face. As we move further towards the end of the year, however, opportunities for both start to shrink, especially for those whose jobs dictate commuting both ways in the dark!!
Factoring in a good dose of light at weekends as well a short walk at lunchtime can help boost our mood, which in turn helps to strengthen our immune system.
Recharge with immune-boosting sleep
Before the advent of electric lighting, once darkness fell, most people went to bed or at the very least relaxed. Good quality sleep plays a vital part in our immunity. Whilst we are notching up the zzzzzzs, our body is busy cleansing and repairing.
If we burn the candle at both ends, however, neither function can be done particularly well. We start the next day with a backlog of toxins and a community of cells (and us) feeling tired and stressed, both invitations for bugs to come a-visiting!! Regular early nights are a wise choice at this time of year.
Keep that lymph moving
The lymph system is an integral part of our immune system. It’s a vast network of lymph nodes and vessels, not too unlike the circulatory system but without its own pump, and relies heavily on adjacent structures such as muscles to help squeeze it into action. This is one of the reasons why exercise is SO important.
During colder months, the lymph fluid can become more sluggish, so it’s worth giving it a little extra TLC, such as staying well hydrated and taking regular exercise. Brisk walks, skipping, dancing, rebounding and running are particularly beneficial for the lymph.
A little extra help
Especially at this time of year, a few well-chosen supplements can help our immune systems. My particular favourites are
- Vitamin D3 – reduces the risk of upper respiratory infections (see references).
- Vitamin C – a time-honoured favourite for boosting immunity.
- Pre/probiotic – replenishes good bacteria in our gut, which helps to keep nasties at bay.
Enjoy your autumn, naturally and healthily 🙂
Judith Reid is a naturopathic nutritionist and passionate about all things natural, elephants, travel and dance. Judith’s philosophy in life is very much in taking personal responsibility for one’s own health and believes that living more naturally is common sense. To read more about Judith click here
If you’re looking to boost your immunity this autumn, we stock a range of easy to use and effective supplements for the whole family. Don’t forget to take a look at our unique herbal teas too! All available in our natural health shop
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