Based on my book Staying Healthy with the Seasons, which is based on the simple Oriental philosophy that our health is reflected by our attunement to Nature and her cycles, here are some simple, yet practical ideas for staying healthy during autumn, as our days get shorter and colder. Embrace the harvest of your year, and stay healthy!
1. Open up to the harvest of your year. Be willing to work hard and discipline yourself as you head into this new season. If you’re a student (we are all students of life), get back to your studies. Yes, it’s time to shift from the frivolity and laziness of summer. Nature is so giving, and it helps to be receptive to her and what the Earth has to offer. What do we have to give to life for all the energy, love, and beauty we all receive?
2. Relationships are important to all of us. This is a good time to deepen and clarify our love and family connections. This helps us discover more about our own needs and those of others close to us, as well as learn to listen to them (both the needs and the people). Also, learn to be alone and listen to your inner guidance and truth. Some folks focus relationships on their computers and TVs, cars or other electronics. Can you still your mind chatter, and let your body breathe deeply to your soul? Give it a try and your spirit will be calmed and can also fly free of the burdens of time.
3. Open to the creative Spirit. We can receive new ideas and actions necessary to fulfill our purpose and move us forward in our life. This can help to improve motivation with new energy and excitement for life. This could be writing about past experiences or our future goals, working on a book or personal story, reading a self-help book and applying it to improve our life, or taking up a new exercise. In other words, start a program now that you can develop and work on in the colder, darker months.
4. The foundation and fortification with our foods and diet is an important focus now. Again, this is harvest time and there are a great many foods available to us – apples and pumpkins, sunflower seeds, zucchini and other squash, cabbages, peppers and tomatoes, plus many grains and beans. Learn some new recipes and enjoy good foods. Most of us need more protein and heat generating foods in the colder months, even the energizing spicy peppers such as cayenne and chilies. This will keep our blood and energy moving.
5. Exercise activity is crucial now as in any season. As the weather cools, stretching is even more important, as is having indoor exercises we can do. Yoga and other flexibility-enhancing movements are helpful at keeping us youthful. A yoga proverb suggests, “We are as young as our spine is flexible.” Our weight work and aerobic activities are vital to staying fit, toned, and strong to support our immune function and circulation. A vital body rarely gets sick.
6. Nutritional supplements are often useful this time of year. Many of my patients add some nutrients that support immune function so as not to pick up “what’s going around.” Taking some Echinacea now is helpful as is the Chinese herb, astragalus. Maintaining daily vitamins C and E along with selenium and zinc is also immune protective and clears our body of certain toxins. Roots are helpful at tonifying our body at this time. Ginseng is quite good for building strength and endurance. Burdock root is good for the skin. See the Autumn section of Staying Healthy with the Seasons for further information.
7. Detoxification is the word for early Autumn. I am doing a whole month of detoxing by myself as well as a three-week detox group at this time. Doing an effective Detox Diet or avoiding sugar, wheat and dairy for a couple weeks (as I write about in The False Fat Diet) is often quite revealing and helps us to feel better – lighter and more youthful with greater energy. I often recommend taking a two to three week break from the big five – sugar, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, and dairy products. Doing this, it may be challenging, yet most people feel much better and the body can clear many problems it has. Since it’s getting cooler, we’ll also need to exercise and spend time in the sauna or steam room as a means to sweat to clear toxins. Regular sweating is important to health and longevity.
8. Prepare for the cold season. Gather your fuel and food, breathe and exercise, as you should. In Chinese medicine, the fall season focuses on the lungs and large intestine. Overdoing it can lead to congestion and toxicity, as well as constipation and the clogging of the nose and sinuses. This leads then to upper respiratory infections as the germs grow in the mucus and then inflame the membranes. Staying clean and clear this season along with a healthy immune system will help keep you well. Try a facial steam and breathe in the herbal mist (you can use mints, rosemary, chamomile, lemon verbena, and other herbs) to help clear the sinuses.
9. Should you get any colds or flus, it’s best to take action immediately. If I feel a cold coming on, I start with hourly doses of vitamin C, about 1000 mg, plus increased doses of vitamin A (not beta-carotene) 25,000-30,000 IUs three times daily for just three to four days, and then lower that dosage to 10-20,000 IUs twice daily for about a week (then take a break since excess vitamin A can be toxic if taken too long). I also use fresh garlic with several cloves at a time dipped in honey and chew them; I may repeat this several times on the first day of being sick. That’s a spicy and aromatic natural antibiotic and immune defender; you can alternately use the odourless garlic caps, several caps three times daily if you don’t want to smell, but they’re not quite as effective. Echinacea and goldenseal alcohol extract can also be used to support immunity and cleanse the membranes. Some help may be achieved with olive leaf extract as a mild anti-viral herb. Of course, drink lots of water, herbal teas, and hot soup. You can press several cloves of garlic into your bowl of soup before you eat, instead of eating the garlic straight. And of course, steams and sweats can help heat the system and strengthen your disease-fighting immune system.
10. Take a rest now because the demanding holiday season is just around the corner. Don’t burn your batteries out before November. Kindle your inner flame and firepower, which is protective from the invasion of harsh climates and germs. The Winter blues come partly from a loss of this fire energy. Shifting and balancing with the seasons is vital to staying healthy.