With winter around the corner, now is the time to protect, build and boost your body’s natural ability to defend itself.
You don’t do flu shots? No way…!? Oh, you prefer a more holistic approach? You believe in your body’s ability to defend itself? You renegade…
Without pooh-poohing the peeps who get their ‘flu vaccinations and ‘soldier on’, there are other ways of protecting against cold, flu and other winter bugs. Each to their own, and every situation on its own merits, but here we will focus on natural means to avoid getting sick in the first place, and shortening duration of illness should it befall you anyway.
First, eat well. I can tell you it is vital to back off raw foods in the colder months. My studies of Oriental therapy/TCM busted my myths around eating raw. In the colder months, we use more energy digesting raw foods than we can absorb from them. It doesn’t stack up in the long run, and we end up exhausted, under-nourished and with a burned out digestive system.
You don’t have to eliminate raw foods altogether, but I encourage you to gently steam your veggies to remove the ‘cold damp’ which can otherwise invade your body and mess with your digestive fire. Fermenting and pickling will allow you to have some pseudo-raw foods. If you like salads, make them warm veggie salads.
Eat more roots frommid-autumn to mid-spring, especially sweet potato, yams, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot, parsnip and carrot.
If possible, eat ‘fully present’, doing nothing else. It’s your chance to nurture and thank your body.
Eat a variety of colours. Buy fresh organically grown foods. Cut down dairy (if you’ve watched ‘Cowspiracy, this is not a big ask). It is always crucial to chew well – your mouth is your first stomach, enriching the food with valuable enzymes that aid digestion and maximise nutrient absorption (if you buy organics, you know what it costs; so chew it well).
Secondly, move. Stay active all year round, even in couch-potato weather. Stretch. Bend. Dance. Exercise, but be a tad gentle on yourself; no full-on exercise in winter, especially if your 20s are a distant memory…
Combine breath with your movement. Yoga, Pilates, Chi Gong, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Garuda, dance and re-wilding strength exercises are all excellent at this – all in moderation. Keep it fun. What does your inner kid want to do? (No, it is not your inner kid that wants to sit on the couch and watch TV – it wants inspiration, play, fun…).
Thirdly, meditate, immerse yourself in flow states, practise whole-mindedness (a better term for mindfulness). Where consciousness flows, energy flows. When energy flows, you will have less blocked chi and therefore less disease. Combine breath work with your whole-mindedness; try Pranayama, Holotropic Breath Work or The Wim Hof Method. For something more subtle, try Vipassana’s technique of watching the breath in and out of your nostrils, while focusing on ever-more-subtle sensations (and saying ‘yes’ to any pain that arises).
Finally, get some herbs into your system
Nature’s intelligence has a way of firing up our body’s natural IQ– and remember the minerals and vitamins you might not be getting enough of in your food, or of which you need extra, due to lifestyle or work. Here are some herbs to get you through the winter.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
There is indisputable evidence of this root’s immune boosting ability; helping the body intelligently ward off pathogens, as well as destroying them, and thereby shortening illness. As the long-favoured indigenous medicine of the Native Americans, it is a potent prevention for cold and ‘flu, and fights infections such as bronchitis.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote the production of body fluids and to treat coughing, as well as to increase the body’s resistance to a broad spectrum of negative biological, chemical, and physical effects. It aids the nervous system and combats stress, balancing body and mind.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
The root of this member of the pea family contains a wealth ofimmune-supporting polysaccharides. Studies have shown increases in the production of ‘interferon’, a substance that communicates the threat of invading viruses and bacteria to the body, so that the body can stimulate cells to defend against illness.
Not a herb, but this mineral strengthens the immune system so as to assist resistance, as well as reducing severity and shortening the duration of illness. Be sure to get a zinc supplement with high bio-availability, such as a chelate, oratate, gluconate or bis-glyconate.
Olive leaf extract (from the olive tree Olea europaea)
The leaves of the olive tree contain a powerful blend of antioxidants, known for anti-viral, anti-bacterial and cardiovascular benefits. The best way to take olive leaf extract is in a readily digestible liquid extract, made from fresh leaves.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
A powerful cure-all, this root is an adaptogen, providing powerful all-year-round support for your body. It strengthens, tonifies, harmonises and balances. Consider white ginseng as it less heating.
Eleuthero AKA ‘Siberian ginseng’(Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Although also an adaptogen, it is not a ginseng (in fact it’s prohibited to call it that in the USA). Its roots contain compounds that assist the adrenal glands and therefore supports their secretion of stress-fighting hormones. It is also known to aid resistance to colds and ‘flu through its immune-enhancing powers.
This autumn and winter, be sure to take in some vitamin ‘N’. Whether in a forest or in your garden, nature – its smells, tastes and colours – is a hard-to-beat therapy. And, if the sun is shining, get some vitamin D too – it is a medicine, and if you’re careful what time of day you strip off, it can’t harm you for much of the cooler months. If you want a giggle to get you motivated on a cold sunny morning, just think of me. I sit nude on my back porch sipping my tea in the winter sun.
Although Boris has a professional holistic health background, the advice given is general advice only, from one consumer to another. If in doubt, it is always wise to consult your natural health care practitioner or doctor.
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