Eastern Medicine endorses the autumn season to be the time to pull your energy inwards. It is the time to prepare for the upcoming winter season by layering yourself and slowing down. Autumn is the time of the year when people are more susceptible to getting sick. As it becomes cooler, conditions become ideal for some types of germs to thrive. Among them is the influenza virus or more commonly known as the flu.
The shorter days, less sunlight, and changing weather have a role in your mental and physical wellbeing. It is important to be extra cautious during this time by eating healthy, staying active and bundling up. Just like we change the type of clothes we wear, we also need to make adjustments to the foods we eat.
To help with this transition, here are some tips on how to stay fit and healthy.
1. Immunity Boost
It is a well-known fact that boosting your immunity will help you to stay healthy. The autumn season brings with it an abundance of fruits and vegetables that help boost immunity. Vitamin C is one of the best immunity boosters recommended by doctors. In addition to pumpkins, oranges, blueberries and kale offer plenty of this vital nutrient. Things like onions, root vegetables, garlic, cauliflower and white beans have high levels of allicin. Allicin is beneficial against inflammation and has high levels of antioxidants.
2. Eat Seasonal Foods
When it gets colder, it is time to move away from light summery salads and into something more warming. Using coconut oil for stir-frying with plenty of herbs is a different way to adding tantalizing flavour to foods. Easy to digest soups and grains like quinoa are also good options. It is also a time to enjoy seasonal bounties like chestnuts, pumpkins and yams.
Seasoning them with warming spices like garlic, turmeric, pepper and ginger add plenty of flavours too. They are naturally anti-inflammatory and are loaded with antioxidants!
3. Stay on the Move
Physical activity plays a key role in lowering the risks associated with heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It is easy to give up a brisk walk in favour of the warm indoors and a cosy blanket. However, it is important not to give up on physical activity. According to studies, even modest sustained exercise has a cumulative positive effect on immunity and general well-being.
Exercise does not necessarily mean an intense workout at the gym. Simple activities like raking leaves or doing other yard work can also be beneficial. Take your dog for a walk and enjoy the changing colours of the trees. Pair up with a friend and do some light strength training or even yoga.
4. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Hydration
Experts tell us we must drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day. This is necessary to keep your digestive system in check. Additionally, moisture is needed for mucous membranes, like the ones in your sinuses. It allows them to better resist bacteria. If you find it difficult to drink that much water, then opt for warm drinks like herbal teas. Depending on the type you enjoy, they offer plenty of antioxidant benefits as well.
5. Say Yes to Flu Shot
The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention advocates that you get the annual flu shot by October end. Every year towards the end of October people getting sick with flu picks up pace. The vaccination protects you against many strains of influenza. This in turn also protects the individuals around you, whether it is your co-worker or your family members. Depending on your insurance health plan, your shot may even be free of cost. Get in touch with your physician for details and any questions.
6. Don’t Forget Your Vitamin D
Without vitamin D, your body can’t absorb calcium, which is vital for bone health. But that is not all it does, vitamin D also enhances immunity and controls blood sugar. The major source of this important vitamin is the sun. Unfortunately, the short, cloudy days tend to limit the amount of sun we get. Furthermore, the use of sunscreens also diminishes the amount of sunlight reaching our skin.
Deficiency of vitamin D can cause fatigue, weakness in muscles, pain and even depression. It is important to get your vitamin D level checked. This is a routine test that is easily performed with a small blood sample. If the level is low you may want to check with your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements. Most times a good diet will be sufficient for the necessary amounts of vitamin D. Fatty fish like salmon, or tuna, eggs, cheese and vitamin D fortified foods like orange juice and dairy are good sources.
7. Stay Upbeat
SAD or seasonal affective disorder is the name given to a kind of depression related to seasonal changes. Typically it begins at about the same time every year. The symptoms of SAD begin in the Fall season and continue throughout the winter month.
It is believed that the reduced amounts of sunlight can be the cause of its onset. The lower levels of light disrupt the internal clock of the body and lead to a feeling depressed. Less light also causes a drop in serotonin levels. This is a neurotransmitter that influences mood and its decreasing levels can prompt depression. Lastly, the winter months also see a lowering of melatonin levels. This affects both sleep patterns and mood.
A light physical outdoor activity like walks and garden work is one effective treatment to control SAD. A variety of light therapies are also used for treatment. For some people, this means spending more time outdoors while other find stimulation of artificial light to do the trick. More serious cases may require antidepressants. If you are prone to SAD, consider seeking out professional help early in the season.
8. Take Care of Your Skin
Just like your wardrobe, your skincare routine also needs to be tweaked with the onset of autumn. With dropping levels of humidity and higher thermostat settings, skin becomes dry. There are also the harsh winter winds to deal with. Cleansing twice is still the first step towards removing dirt and grime. However, use a cleanser that can hydrate the scorched skin. It is still important to wear SPF to minimize damage from harmful UV rays.
9. Get Plenty of Rest
The time changes in autumn can confuse your biological clock and affect your sleep schedule. Lack of sleep can have serious adverse effects on your immune system. This leaves you more prone to getting the flu. Adults should get anywhere from six to eight hours of sleep for maintaining good health. This can be achieved by keeping regular bedtime hours and yes on weekends too!
Establish a relaxing routine for bedtime. Turn off all electronic devices and make it a habit to take up activities that help you unwind. Enjoy a warm bath, listen to music or read a book.
10. Dress Suitably
The autumn season brings with it big temperature variations. Mornings and evenings can become rather chilly whereas, the midday can still be warm. It can be difficult deciding what to wear as even the best weather forecasts can be inaccurate. The best way is to be prepared for all eventualities and dress in layers. As it gets warmer, just keep removing the layers. Keep a jacket in the car at all times for when it rains suddenly and makes it cold.
11. Be Ready for Seasonal Allergies
It is a misconception that allergies are only prevalent in summer. Many allergy triggers are associated with the fall season. Ragweed is the biggest one of all, and it begins releasing its pollen on cool August nights. Approximately 75% of the population has allergies to spring plants is allergic to this also. Mould in damp places like the attic or the basement is another trigger for fall allergies. Mould also thrives in the heaps of moist leaves that collect at this time. Dust mites get stirred into the air as soon as heat is turned on in the fall.
To prepare for these allergens, change filters to keep the ventilation system clean. Keep track of pollen levels and when it begins to elevate, shut all windows. Clean out all living spaces to remove dust. Check the typically damp places like the basement or bathroom cupboards to ensure there is no mould growing. Keep a supply of anti-allergic medicine on hand in case all else fails.
The onset of the Autumn season brings with it lots of changes. Days are shorter, temperatures drop, and there is less sunlight. Autumn is all about renewal. It is about the holidays, family and roasting marshmallows. Get rid of the things in life that are not working for you. Welcome, new attitudes and routines that bring happiness.