Gill Stannard

Monday, March 30, 2009

Staying well in autumn

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 that most of us approach our health oblivious to the seasons.

Conventional medicine takes a punt each year on disease trends from the northern hemisphere and for prevention, offer putting our faith in a flu shot. But in traditional naturopathy we mark the seasons differently.

The “energetics” of autumn in both Western and Eastern complementary medicines, attribute this time of year to the lungs. While colds and flu seem rife in winter, it is actually the change of seasons in autumn and spring that tends to see the peak in respiratory infections. If we don’t look after ourselves appropriately in this season, we are more vulnerable to catch respiratory infections and also, in energetic terms, be prone to grief and nostalgia.

Autumn is a time of harvest before nature rests in winter. Over summer most of us expend more energy being in the world. There are music 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, we’ve conquered nature. Without the need for natural light to define our waking hours, or cold weather to drive us to bed early, we tend to loose track of our inbuilt rhythms.

Natural ways to protect your lungs this autumn

Cod liver oil: this might seem an old-fashioned remedy but it is a great way to strengthen your body’s first line of defence again airborne viruses and bacteria. Cod liver oil makes your mucus membranes, such as the lining of your nose, mouth and throat stronger and more resilient to passing bugs. It is also a rich source of omega 3 oils as well as vitamin A and D. Luckily cod liver oil is available in capsules so there is no fishy taste. As an added bonus, there is now good evidence based research that cod liver oil can slow the onset of arthritis, heart disease and depression.

Sunlight: in safe doses, is also a great source of immune and mood boosting vitamin D. A deficiency of vitamin D we now know is not only associated with osteoporosis, but an increased risk of cancer, infections, depression and so much more. As the light changes and the temperature drops in autumn, we need to get a regular dose of UV on at least 15% of our skin (unclothed and without sunblock). According to the MJA, in summer a light skinned person might need only 8 minutes of Melbourne sunlight a day to make enough vitamin D (quadruple that for darker skin), as we journey through autumn its closer to 25 minutes at lunchtime or twice as long mid-morning or afternoon.

Vitamin C: boosts your body’s ability to fight disease. It is worth a little daily insurance in the form of a mere 500 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.

Rest: if you are missing your 8 hours of recuperation every night, you are increasing your odds of becoming run down and being unable to resist an 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 your dreamtime. If you are having trouble sleeping, check out these simply treatments for insomnia

Orange vegetables: Immune-strengthening vitamin A can also be found in humble orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato. Add an extra serve, a day. If you need inspiration, try this easy and delightful pumpkin soup.

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