The long days of summer will begin to wane before we know it, and before that happens it’s important to consider the health opportunities that autumn offers us. Being healthy is not just about what we eat or don’t eat. It’s about a whole-body approach to well-being, including our thoughts, emotions and general lifestyles. And autumn is the ideal time to think about where we are, where we want to go and how to let go of the old – our internal well-being welcomes change when the leaves are changing colour and falling to the ground in the cyclical nature of the seasons.
Preparation reaps benefits
Taking time to really think about our well-being is a weak link in our modern society, in which we are often bombarded with opportunities, fraught with decisions to make, and disconnected from others and nature through our individual quest for identity, our place in society and so much rushing around to get things done. By nurturing the special characteristics of each season, we ensure that we reap their benefits and can move through the whole year with optimal vitality. Spending some time in autumn to prepare our mental and physical health for the winter allows us to avoid the flu, colds, coughs, congestion as well as mental fogginess, depression and the winter blues (seasonal affective disorder or ‘SAD’).
Relayed in China
According to the Chinese elements, autumn is the season associated with our lungs and large intestine. Those of you (the majority reading this, I would imagine) who suffer from the typical winter ills would do well to nurture these organs now to ensure vibrant health throughout winter. Preparation is key.
A healthy set of lungs
Our lungs allow us to receive life-giving energy – taking a deep breath is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do as we die. Physical symptoms of lung imbalance manifest as shortness of breath, asthma, coughing, headaches, a stuffy nose and skin conditions (such as spots, boils, dry skin, etc). Emotionally, it is not uncommon at this time of year to feel somewhat disconnected or disorientated.
Large intestine, large responsibility
Our large intestine’s main responsibility is to eliminate waste from the body. This ‘garbage collector’ needs to do its job properly or we become overloaded with toxins. Sub-optimal elimination manifests in bowel problems (such as diarrhoea, vomiting, bloating and constipation) and feelings of sadness. Everyone would benefit from avoiding the pizza, ice cream and barbeques that filled our bellies over the summer months. Instead, think about fresh, seasonal, home-cooked food.
Walk tall, don’t fall
If you usually experience some of the symptoms mentioned above or are already experiencing them, don’t worry it’s still possible to take advantage of autumn and optimise your vitality for a healthy winter! Here are a few tips for prospering during and beyond the season.
Get outside and breathe deeply – take in the fresh autumn air to oxygenate your cells.
Exercise to keep things moving through your intestine and help the waste make its way out. Set up and get comfortable with an exercise routine that you can stick with throughout the winter. Now is a good time to create schedules.
A sensible intake
Slow-cook foods at a low heat and add more sour flavours to your meals (try apple-cider vinegar, lemon, lime or sour plums).
To combat dryness (you will notice if you are thirsty, have dry skin/nose/throat/lips), eat more spinach, barley (byg in Danish), short-grain brown rice (you would benefit from soaking these and all grains beforehand to absorb more water and make them more readily digestible), millet (hirse), pears, nuts and healthy fats (such as olive oil, avocado and organic butter).
Reduce your intake of mucous-forming foods to prevent nasal congestion, lung-related symptoms, foggy brain and slow/congested digestion. The main offenders are: dairy, bananas and gluten (from wheat and all wheat derivatives such as spelt, kamut and couscous; rye, barley and oats also contain a small amount).
Add immune-boosting foods to your diet with fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kefir. How about swapping your morning coffee for a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea?
And the least popular tip ...
Get to bed early. We’d all like the long hours of summer daylight to continue, but your body is getting ready to gear down for the winter (just as many animals prepare to hibernate). Heed the call of longer nights and get moreshut-eye than you did during the summer months.