As the gentle energy of Autumn settles around us, wrapping us in her hazy sunny days and crisp evenings it’s time to prepare ourselves for the turning inward that naturally occurs as we approach winter. Autumn is a time of benevolence, when the activity of summer has slowed. Pastimes become gentler and more leisurely, and we begin to turn our attention within to our own thoughts and dreams. It’s also the time to address your autumn health practices.
As the energies of Autumn contract and gather inwards, they cause us to also slow down in readiness for the stillness of the coming winter. The contemplative nature of the season allows time for inner reflection and awareness. It provides a space to gain clarity before setting plans and goals to initiate when Spring arrives.
In readiness for this increasing awareness and understanding it’s a time to embrace peace, and avoid engaging in personal dramas. This is the time to develop the practice of distancing, of stepping away from conflict, judgement and other triggers in your life. This is the time to take a deep breath and count to ten, before responding to potential conflicts.
April is a time of transition for your whole body. As the evening air takes on a bite after the gentle warmth of the afternoon sun your body become more susceptible to health problems. Illnesses that went underground over summer re-appear, as new strains of flu and other infections also make their appearance.
If you don’t use this time wisely to build your health and charge up your immune system, by June you can find yourself sick. You become more susceptible to winter illness and less capable of throwing off any illness that you may develop.
Change Your Habits
By adjusting your lifestyle to utilise the seasonal energies best you can strengthen your whole system. There are a number of changes which can contribute to building your health.
Most people naturally change their foods as the weather cools. Summer salads make way for heavier meat and root vegetable stews and soups. But also adapting life practices including exercise, meditation and sleep so they’re healthier supports you through the colder months.
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
One of the most important lifestyle changes to make for Autumn and Winter health is to recognise your body needs much more sleep as it turns inward. Having about seven hours sleep every night is one of the best ways to protect yourself against winter illness. You can’t play “catch-up” later. Your body doesn’t recover by sleeping in on the weekend after a sleep-deprived week. So erratic or poor quality sleep simply does not support your health.
If you can’t get to sleep or stay asleep, speak to your natural health practitioner now, before Winter, for advice and treatment to change this pattern.
Push yourself to rest and take it easy. Develop great bedtime routines to maintain your wellness and keep away ‘office illness.’ These 7 surefire ways to get a good night’s sleep will get you started.
As Autumn settles in it is the time to treat yourself with compassion. Be conscious this is the season to be gentle and wrap yourself with TLC. If you are someone who is constantly there for everyone else, now is the time to turn that caring inwards and say ‘no’ to others.
It is only by caring for your own needs first that you can adequately care for those around you.
Exercise is a great way to boost immune health.
It increases oxygen levels in the blood. Oxygen levels in major cities are repeatedly measured at levels significantly below normal. Most people also breathe poorly, taking in less oxygen. When you consider that many chronic diseases including cancer are associated with low oxygen levels, the importance of boosting oxygen intake becomes obvious.
Exercise makes you feel more alert. It boosts your levels of endorphins to make you feel positive. As well it improves oxygen levels in every cell of your body. But during Autumn it’s vital to tone down your exercise program. This prevents your energy becoming depleted as that adversely affects your immune system.
Yoga, t’ai chi or Qi Gong are very balancing and are the perfect exercise option for autumn. Deep breathing exercises and yoga stretching both serve your immune system as well as your respiratory organs through the winter. Brisk walking and bike riding are other great ways to exercise in Autumn.
Avoid heavy aerobic exercise outdoors in the cooler autumn months, as it may reduce vital energy and weaken your system.
Susceptible Organs During Autumn
The lung and the colon are both organs of elimination and relate to “letting go” on all levels. According to the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine if your immunity is weak these organs are affected during Autumn. You suffer respiratory problems including coughs, breathing difficulties and sinus problems, or gut issues like constipation and/or diarrhoea.
These are the organs that are affected when you hold on to grief and sadness. If you are holding unresolved grief and sadness they eventually affect the health and function of your lungs or large intestine. They’re sending you the message that it is “time to let go”.
Dryness becomes more of a problem during Autumn. Dry throat, dry eyes, dry skin, thirst, and constipation are just some of the problems. All the mucous membrane surfaces through your body can be affected. Symptoms caused by dryness within our body can be exacerbated by the dry, heated air in our homes.
If you are bothered by dryness in any way the first step is to remove foods that have a dehydrating effect. Coffee and alcohol are real problem foods, and spicy foods worsen any problems associated with dryness and best avoided
Some moistening foods to eat more are mushrooms which are in season right now. Others are leeks, root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, sweet potato etc), baby spinach and cabbage. Apples and pears (now in season), ground flaxseeds, and eggs are more that moisten.
Nuts, seeds and legumes like kidney beans and chickpeas, are great sources of fibre to add to vegetable dishes, stews, soups or just snack on. Avoid bran as a source of fibre as it can irritate the colon.
But if dryness is widespread throughout your body you need to address the problems at a whole-body level. This can be complicated and best treated by your natural medicine practitioner.
Supplement For Autumn Health
For best results plan your supplement program to support your whole immune system as well as your lungs and large intestine.
The Supergreens, spirulina, chlorella, barley grass and wheat grass are excellent to tone your large intestine.
There are a number of supplements that are particularly beneficial for boosting the immune system in preparation for winter. Vitamin C is one of simplest. You need to take it either as a powder or tablet supplement as you will not get enough to protect you just from foods. Take a minimum of 1000 mg every day, although some people need more.
Combining Vitamin C with zinc, Vitamin D, selenium and Vitamin E gives your immune system a fortifying boost.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role to help you fight off illness. Most people are depleted in Vitamin D and their levels drop significantly lower over the winter months. Have your levels tested now and begin taking a high quality Vitamin D supplement straight away, before your levels plummet.
There are many herbal preparations that strengthen your immunity and protect the mucous membranes of your respiratory and digestive systems.
Some common ones are Astragalus membranaceus, Hydrastis canadensis, Sambuccus nigra and Olive Leaf extract.
Garlic has traditionally played a strong role in the prevention of winter illness because it is so effective. But, it only works if it smells ‘garlicky’. Cooked garlic tastes great but eating freshly cut garlic is the only way it keeps you healthy. If you can’t stand the taste dip it in honey or crush it on top of your meal – just don’t mix it through hot food.
The easiest way to use herbs for health is with herbal infusions (teas). There are many excellent teas formulated to strengthen immunity and prevent or treat respiratory illness. Thyme tea is one that can calm constant coughing. Hot water with lemon and manuka honey can provide the perfect antibacterial aid to flushing out flu. Seek out organic preparations containing useful herbs. Let them steep to gain the full benefit.
Homeopathic prescribing is specifically aimed at strengthening the whole person, including their immune system, to help fight off illness. For treatment at this level Homeopathic medicines need to be selected by someone professionally trained.
And If You Still Get Sick…
Here are some natural ways to ease the symptoms of Autumn and Winter illness without resorting to drugs:
- For sinus infections add good quality eucalyptus oil to a steam bath
- Avoid phlegm producing foods including all dairy foods (milk, cheese, ice-cream, cream) plus eggs.
- Help clear out mucous from your lungs with pungent foods like ginger, garlic, coriander, mustard, horseradish, daikon, or vegetables like celery or cabbage
- Increase the amount of Vitamin C you are taking to your bowel tolerance level
- Drink lots of water
- Homemade bone broth or chicken soup have healing properties to reduce inflammation
- Stop eating sugar and carbs as they can feed infection
- Moisten the air with a humidifier
- Soak feet in a litre of hot water containing a tablespoon of mustard powder to relieve congestion
- An old-fashioned mustard plaster clears chest congestion and unclogs sinuses
- Drink ginger tea to prevent congestion
- There are many awesome Homeopathic remedies for fighting off Autumn and Winter illness quickly and effectively. Speak to your natural health practitioner about which is the right one for you.
Perhaps one of the best things you can do to protect against Autumn and Winter illness is to wash your hands frequently. So many viruses are transferred with every handshake it makes perfect sense to prevent them getting a hold in your body.
Which tip do you like best to boost your autumn health?
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only. They are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation with your health care provider. Do not use this article to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think your condition may be serious or before discontinuing any prescribed medication. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.