Another change of season is here.
It’s time to slow down and nourish yourself for the winter to come. This time of year is always a challenge to our immune systems – and patients often ask me, what advice I have for cold/flu prevention. My first answer, is often… “let yourself get sick”. That may sound ridiculous. But catching a cold/flu once a year is actually good training for the immune system – it allows your body to produce antibodies to the ever-mutating viruses out there. If you consider your immune system like you would a muscle, it requires training, to remain fit. So, let yourself get sick, take some time off and rest. It’s a chance to press pause on our fast-paced lives and reflect a little bit.
That said, there are definitely things you can do to support your immune system (just as you would support your muscles in rebuilding after exercise). My favourites:
(1) Bone broths – their value you as a nutritional medicine should not be underestimated. Full of readily available amino acids, fats, collagen, glucosamine and other necessary vitamins and minerals, if it could be put into a pill, it would be the ultimate supplement. I prefer taking it in soup form – nice warm comforting stuff on cold, damp autumn days.
(2) Hydrotherapy – “magic socks” I call them. They encourage lymphatic and blood circulation in your whole body while you sleep. Stagnant circulation of both these systems will lead to inability to properly fight infections – lymph carrying all the necessary white blood cells and blood transporting the necessary nutrition and oxygen, and removing waste from clearing infections. *rinse out light cotton socks in cool water, put them on warm feet, then put on a pair of dry wool socks – jump into bed and let your feet warm up and dry out the socks* This will improve circulation to your whole body, as your feet are most often the area where circulation becomes weak/congested.
(3) Light/moderate exercise. It is important to slow down at this time of year, to allow your body to adjust, however, this doesn’t mean becoming a couch potato. Engaging in slow, contemplative walks through the woods or through a park is key to encouraging your circulation (blood and lymph) without exhausting your adrenals with intense (stressful) exercise. I always emphasize exercise outdoors – studies continue to show that better health is achieved through time spent in “green” spaces (forests/parks/gardens).
(4) Sleep. We may not hibernate this winter, but adequate restful sleep is essential in our ability to adapt to the cold. The shortened days are trying to tell us something…. before electricity and alternate sources of light, when it became dark, it was time to sleep. As it gets darker earlier, it is a good idea to get to bed earlier, too. Sleep before midnight has been shown to accomplish more for our bodies physiologically, than the same amount of sleep after midnight. So set an earlier bedtime this season, and fall into your slumber well before midnight.
Beyond that, autumn is a great time to check in with a Naturopathic physician to closely evaluate and attend to your health. If you have any nutritional imbalances, or underlying health issues, they will reduce the strength of your immune system.
Prevention is always key, but getting sick isn’t always a bad thing, just be sure to give yourself a chance to rest, reflect and heal during those times.