Your Wellness – Naturally!#1
Winter is upon us, and wellness self care is worth talking about this time of the year.
I like to mention some options we have in the Natural Medicine approach to prepare ourselves for the months ahead.
There is nothing more important than paying attention to the state of our health!
Here are a few ideas about how you can create a personalized plan for your winter wellness, for yourself and your family.
First of all it is very important, more than anything else, to support your immune system, that is where it starts. We want to make sure that you assist your body to adapt to temperature and environmental changes, changes of humidity, changes to the amount of daylight hours.
Being exposed to the wide range of warmth and cold between outside and inside means dressing appropriately, using the “onion look” for keeping your body protected and insulated. The idea is to make it easy on the body to adjust to external influences, and avoid creating addition loads for the immune system.
And when you feel cold warm liquids, like herbal teas, are the fastest way to raise your inner temperature and bring the body from the state of contraction back into the state of equilibrium. Done right, the changes between exposing the body to hot and cold, can actually be stimulating and supportive for the immune system.
At the same time best self care is to move your body every day. Moving your energy by walking seems to be the one thing that many people can use as a daily practice. And even if walking is not an option for you, you still may find some inspiration in the suggestions below, this is about body awareness, and flexing our joints to keep the body in a state of balance and lubrication, as best as individually possible.
A “full body walk” also means to give complete attention to how you walk, where you walk, how you hold your body, how you breathe along with the strides you take.
Is your body balanced while walking? You may want to swing your arms in a bilateral fashion to balance your body and engage all the joints in your body in a symmetrical and balanced rhythm to get the fluids to lubricate all your joints.
By gently and rhythmically engaging your joints you balance the energy in your body. Moving your body that way is simple and effective.
Moving your body this way is even one of the few options we have to be social, while socially distancing as well, walking outside in proper distance with someone. This is healthcare on the physical and the emotional level, it surely matters.
When you take the kids for a daily walk, inspire them to lift their eyes up to the sky, scan the horizon and get the benefits of balancing the time they are in front of the screens at home. When was the last time you were watching and reading clouds? This is something we can do anytime of the year.
Oh, the stories clouds can tell! Where are they coming from, where are they going, what images are they showing us?
And when you decide to go for a walk chose a destination to walk to.
Make this time something that fits for you: You may want to walk to get a newspaper. You may want to go to the post office, the store. You may just simply want to walk a wide circle around your neighborhood.
You may want to walk and say “hello” to that special tree in the distance there patiently waiting for you to come by, to see how it is doing.
Enjoy watching the leaves falling this time of year and observe how the tree is starting to go into a state of winter hibernation.
Now, if this may sound just rather odd to you, find a goal that fits your interests, your beliefs, your philosophy and your lifestyle.
Maybe you have a dog to take a walk with. Maybe you just want to walk and observe yourself breathing deeply and feeling rejuvenated.
Maybe you simply walk and observe your posture: are your shoulders relaxed, is your neck loose, are you freely moving your head around and observing your environment?
Do you enjoy observing the horizons and the vastness of the ever changing skies above?
These walks can be a part of your winter wellness plan, moments of self care, time out and tuning in, moments of reflection and communing with nature.
Moments with family, outside, just being in nature, chasing and catching falling leaves.
A walk is an opportunity to ground into the very moment, connect with the planet that carries us all, and to feel the connection, right there under your feet.
Next time I will write about herbal preparations that can support your winter wellness.
Here is the second part of Your Wellness – naturally!
This time I would like to share with you that herbs are really helpful to keep the body in equilibrium. You all have heard about herbs that are used for herbal teas, this has been done for thousands of years. The best way to incorporate herbs into your daily nutrition and beverage intake is to start with just a few , basic well-known, well studied herbs that grow locally and that are easily to be acquired or collected. If you have a garden they might even be growing in your garden.
Food gives us nutrition, however herbs are actually food too, and food can be as medicinal as any other supplements or prescription drugs. Everything that you put into your body will affect the body, therefore it is best to choose wisely what we nourish our body with, so that we actually nurture it.
Now you might say herbs, I don’t know anything about herbs. However I want to remind you that you probably do know about herbs and that is not just the occasional cup of chamomile or peppermint tea. When you cook your own food you are using herbs, it could be parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano or chives. These are all herbs we use for cooking, however they have most amazing medicinal properties.
Parsley for example it is often used as a garnish but it actually is a great idea to eat the garnish too! Parsley is a rich source of vitamin C, even parsley tea is a beautiful cleansing diuretic, parsley tea as a topical application can also be a helpful skin wash.
Garlic: we know the amazing properties of garlic to support our immune system. I encourage you to read up about garlic and how you can integrate more garlic into your nutritional palette, to support yours and your family’s winter wellness.
All the “cousins” of garlic in the allium family, like chives and leeks are wonderful for countless dishes and again will also provide you with immune supporting and immune system stimulating substances. We call these substances phytonutrients, nutrients that come from plants.
These nutrients have a wonderful effect in small amounts, just as we use herbs as a seasoning or as condiment. This is what we want to focus on in the coming months: to enhance our health by integrating phytonutrients into your diet.
Basil, rosemary and thyme and so many more, all staples in almost every kitchen, these will provide properties that stimulate and support and strengthen your immune system.
Powdered spices are part of medicinal herbs as well, Ginger, turmeric, cayenne and others.
And let’s not forget the amazing bounty and goodness of seeds that plants provide for us. Seeds like cardamom, cumin, fennel, caraway, flax, chia, sesame, hemp and many more. All these seeds are tiny little nuggets of natural goodness, seeds that provide natural medicine. As we turn more and more to warm and often soup based dishes in the coming winter months, seeds are a fitting compliment to soups, they can serve as thickeners, and they give us the goodness of their inherent essential oils.
And plant-based oils are so important, they make the skin more resilient and support the nervous system as well. Just a pinch here, a pinch there, a half a teaspoon here, a quarter teaspoon there will make a lot of difference.
So in other words may food be your medicine and may your herbal medicine be your food. Food as medicine is one of the oldest concepts in natural medicine. Many centuries ago they were no pills, tablets and prescription drugs. There was only what nature provided to us and the sages of old times used to forage in the meadows, in the woods, and keenly understood which plant has what kind of properties and how they can be used to support the body in general or to address certain imbalances in specific organs. And for the winter months it is important to support your respiratory system. That could be by increasing the amount of herbs you are putting in your food, but also, and we all have known that for a long time, have more herbal preparations as teas. In many cases you can mix several herbs together and enjoy the synergy of the enhanced benefits .
This is the third part of Your Wellness – Naturally!
I would like to spend a little time sharing some thoughts I have about food and nourishment. As I am a Traditional Naturopath and certified in Natural and Functional Medicine, when I consult with clients from the natural medicine / naturopathic perspective you might be very surprised to hear me say that I will not ask you to turn your diet upside down.
What I like to start with is simply supporting you in becoming aware how you nourish yourself, how, when, with what, how often, and how much. Easy, doable. And lasting shifts are attainable when they don’t create any headache, heartache, confusion, and the feeling of deprivation looming. I don’t recommend that at all.
What I suggest to my clients very often I would like to suggest to you here as well: When you have the impression that you may not feeding and nourishing your body optimally, and you feel that you are not getting enough energy, or digestive symptoms start to show up, then I would like you to write what I call a “Wellness Journal”.
This is a few days of a daily diary, listing what you are giving to your body, and when. That would be food and beverages of course, but also items like lozenges, supplements, gummies, chewables, and even chewing gum.
Now all these have an effect on your body. Let’s just write them down for a couple of days and have a look, see what you’re actually doing. Ask how does it feel to look back at a few days of what you have been given your body, and then use your intuition.
Let’s just for example say you had 8 cups of coffee first thing in the morning? How did that feel then, and how did you feel later on in the day? What about the late night snacks? What about possibly not drinking enough water? Or what if the beverages you drink interfere with your digestion? What does your body tell you? Let’s have a listen.
Is everything moving “right along” daily, or do you suffer from digestive elimination irregularities?
While you are creating this “Wellness Journal”, how about monitoring your sleep as well during these days of journaling. Ask yourself if you feel that you are not sleeping enough, deeply enough and actually not going to bed early enough? What is happening at night for you and with your body, and what do you feel could be improved so that you feel energized and resilient throughout the day?
Again all these questions are simply geared towards one overarching goal: let us look at habits and how they might be affecting your well-being, your wellness. And once we have listened closely to your body, and have taken stock, so to speak, then we can consider where and what we might want to modify, gently, to bring you into an optimal state of health. This is done to enable you to feel more energized, emotionally balanced, and to have plenty mental clarity throughout the day.
And then we can ask: what if the easiest, most effortless path to improving your health is the path of least resistance? What if just applying one formula can shift so many areas? What if this formula is: “less is more”. As you can tell I use those two words a lot: what if?
Just bear with me for another minute: what if we now know where there are imbalances, and we apply this formula to targeted areas within the structure of your holistic healthcare?
Less late night activities, reduce them within a range that feels comfortable to you and opens a wider time window for sleep.
Less exposure to triggering foods, that create a reaction in you, as in digestive disturbances, and emotional reactions to food and drinks too.
Less exposure to harmful chemicals, may it be in cleaners, personal care products at home, chemical air fresheners, or other influences at your workplace.
Less exposure to toxins, pesticides, preservatives in foods you eat.
And if organic produce seems to be not obtainable, please check out this page: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews
Less processed foods, as you decide to explore the outer areas in your local supermarket. The farmers markets are open year-round and will provide you with reasonable organic foods for less $. The Mendocino Food Hub offers a large selection of locally grown organic foods, so does our local health food store.
Less can be more….. eating less often at fast food establishments will reduce your exposure to food which is highly processed, and likely treated with a plethora of chemicals. Again “less is more”.
Less substances that will imbalance the body, stress the digestive tract, the liver, kidney, and brain. That is how we can achieve a robust, resilient state of health, and we know how critical this is. “Less is more” can put our hard working immune system at ease to function optimally, naturally.
And let’s have a look at your supplements too. Certainly with the pandemic there is a need to supplement with vitamins to strengthen the immune system, but again, are you taking what is appropriate for you, your body, type, gender, age, and health condition? Or can we re-evaluate those remedies also, to make sure that the body can actually recognize and efficiently metabolize what we are taking?
I hope this series of “Your Wellness – Naturally!” has given you inspiration to look at your own wellness, and may have provided a suggestion or two that spoke to you.