The autumn equinox marks the start of preparation for the cooler autumn and winter months. This transition into a new season brings change. Changes to our physical and nutritional needs mean we may gravitate towards warmer, nourishing foods such as stews, soups and antioxidant and mineral rich root vegetables. As many of my clients will know, I follow the naturopathic principles of undergoing a gentle, yet effective cleanse during this transition to support the body’s adjustment to this change. It can also be incredibly supportive in preparing your gut and building your immune system against those seasonal sniffles.
Here are 9 tips to mark the Autumnal equinox and to prepare your immune system for the cooler months to come:
1. Vitamin D
The half life of Vitamin D is 3-6 weeks, so even gathered stores over the summer, rapidly decline by the time we get to the winter. Only 10% of our daily intake can come from food, which means the rest is required from consistent sunlight or via supplementation. Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement over the darker months to support your immune system and combat seasonal mood related issues.
2. Immune support
Your immune system is similar to a savings account; making regular investments in advance will give you security to fall back on in the long term. Start supporting this natural defence against seasonal colds and flus at least 3-4 months in advance of the coldest months. Supplement your diet with immune boosting ingredients, biomass mycelial mushrooms, N Acetyl Cysteine, Elderberry; these can all be found in our Food-Grown Immune support.
3. Herbs and spices
Use plenty of warming herbs and spices in soups and stews to support circulation to induce support the immune system. Ginger, rosemary, black pepper, garlic, paprika, horseradish, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin and onions are all nourishing – especially if you feel under the weather.
4. Soups and stews
Batch cooking chunky soups and stews can save an enormous amount of practical and mental time. Freeze some in small portions for satisfying and wholesome ready-made meals for lunch or supper –just add a side of steamed vegetables or salad of seasonal leaves.
Increase zinc rich foods (dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood and fish). Zinc plays a fundamental role in hormone balance, immune support and antioxidant protection.
Cleansing to nurture and replenish vital pathways in the liver and gut. Research has shown that this can increase your body's ability to detoxify and battle against unwanted coughs and colds. This can also help control hormonal imbalance, allergies, depression and anxiety that can come with seasonal change. Our cleanse works on a functional medicine approach, supporting your body's biochemistry and cellular health. For more information on my reasoning behind formulating a cleanse that works at this level, see '3 Pitfalls with quick fix detoxes'.
Eating protein with each meal can help to promote satiety (feeling filled up) and once we digest proteins, they form the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Good neurotransmitter health supports how we think, feel and behave and most of us could do with extra mood support as we move through autumn.
8. Colourful fruit and vegetables
Build in colour with a mix of seasonal vegetables and fruit such as apples or berries for vitamin C and circulation supporting anthocyanins.
9. Cutting the refined sugar
Cut back on refined sugar. Not only does sugar have a suppressive effect on the immune system, it also increases the wrong kind of inflammation in the body and generally is a chemical catalyst for cellular damage, which may be weakening to our system. Sugar also feeds unwanted bacteria in the gut and because most of our immune system resides in the gut, a happy gut is the road to building a strong immune system. Increase naturally beneficial bacteria with fermented foods (e.g sauerkraut and kimchi) and consider using a higher dose of varying strains of friendly bacteria to optimise levels.
So pack away the barbeque with gratitude, welcome back the slow cooker and see this beautiful season as an opportunity to nourish your wellbeing.
For more on the importance of the correct nutrition and how to optimise your energy this season, see 'Natural ways to ease the transition from Summer into Autumn', 'To D or not to D?' and 'Should we detox?'