Fall health tips
Fall always brings me those yummy, cozy yet stylish feels. Perhaps because it’s my birthday season or because as a fashion lover I find it the best time to use my own fall health tips besides dressing up and playing with layers.
When it comes to food, stews and casseroles are slowly back on and nothing makes me feel as cozy as a slow-cooked bean and root vegetable casserole served over some brown rice.
As living beings, our bodies are connected to nature and its seasons. In Fall we lose light exposure, the weather cools down, the colours change and it’s often a period of reflection and planning.
Fall is also a great opportunity to prepare our bodies for the colder days and make sure we do our best to stay healthy and strong throughout the months to come.
Here are 3 fall health tips to support your overall health, particularly your immune system.
1. Align your plate with the season
With the convenience of having our favorite fruit and veggies available all year round (here in the UK) we have forgotten the importance of eating in-season produce.
As well as being better for the environment, shopping seasonally has an impact on our health. Produce that is grown during the appropriate time of the year is nutritionally dense, while out-of-season artificially ripened produce is way less nutritious and definitely not as tasty (I’m talking about you, watery tomato).
So what’s in season right now? Well, at this time of the year we have a real abundance with a mix of end-of-summer produce and new season entries into our local farm shops. Tomatoes, beetroots, aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, berries, and the first of pumpkin, squash, parsnips, cauliflower, wild mushrooms, kale, fresh garlic, plums, and pears.
Of course, buying seasonally can and should be incorporated throughout the year but as I’ve shared in my previous blog post, autumn and more specifically September has that “fresh start” feeling. Perhaps shopping seasonally and locally could be part of you adapting healthier habits this year?
2. Quality sleep
Sleep isn’t just a fall health tip, it’s an all-season one. Getting adequate sleep is necessary for overall health. It helps manage blood sugar levels, weight management, and the maintenance of a well-balanced immune system.
While we rest, a series of (good) inflammatory activities help fight off viruses and infections as well as heal and repair tissues.
Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to our immunity as it slows down this process. Chronic sleep loss is associated with an increase in chronic inflammation that could potentially lead to immunodeficiency (impaired immune system).
Maintaining a good sleep schedule can also speed recovery during an ongoing immune response, such as the one we see in active infections (source).
3. Invest in quality nutrients
Although pretty much all micronutrients are known to synergistically work in the immune response, multiple studies have shown that supplementation with certain vitamins and minerals can greatly support our immune function (source).
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by our body from the interaction of cholesterol and sunlight, with a small percentage (10%) coming from our diet.
Mainly known for its role in maintaining healthy bones, vitamin D has a pivotal role in regulating immunity. Supplementing with a therapeutic dose of vitamin D is effective in decreasing the risks of infections, including the common flu (source).
“The sunshine vitamin” as it is also called, is important for mood regulation. Supplementation could be hugely beneficial if you experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). In the UK the National Health Service (NHS) recommends a dose of 400IU or 10 micrograms a day, however, the dosage will need to be adjusted depending on your current blood test results. In my Nutrition practice, I tend to see most individuals needing 1000/2000 IU/day to meet the minimum requirements.
Zinc is not the first micronutrient we think of when talking about immunity and I think unlike Vitamin C and D it is not talked about enough. Perhaps that’s because Zinc is a “trace element”, meaning we only need a small amount to meet our daily needs.
Zinc is needed for a series of bodily functions, including fighting free radicals and regulating the development and function of certain white blood cells. This means that even a mild deficiency can impair our immune function (source).
If you’d like to get more Zinc through your diet, eat more seafood, poultry, whole grains, legumes, pulses, nuts, and seeds. Oysters are also very high in Zinc, so splurge on them when you can get them fresh! Alternatively, supplementation is an option.
Better known for its antioxidant action Vitamin C also has immuno-modulating effects. Research has shown that most of us don’t meet the recommended daily amount (RNI) necessary to reinforce the immune system and reduce the risk of infections.
Foods rich in vitamin C are easy to distinguish with their bright orange, yellow, and green colors. These can be consumed in abundance as they also contain plenty of other nutrients.
It is of course possible and often recommended to supplement Vitamin C. Available in many shapes and forms it can be confusing to know which one to buy so here are your options:
- Ascorbic acid is the form naturally found in food, its absorption is good but not great
- Mineral ascorbates and Ester-C are buffered forms of Vitamin C. They are easily absorbed but be mindful of the mineral content when taking higher doses.
- Liposomal vitamin C combines ascorbic acid with liposomes (fat). This form has the highest rate of availability and absorption (source).
Herbs and adaptogens
Herbs and adaptogens can be used daily or periodically to keep cold & flues at bay. Echinacea, Elderberry, Goldenseal, Astragalus, and Reishi to name a few can be consumed as teas, tinctures, or powders. I believe prevention is key so if you tend to struggle with infections during the colder days, it may be worth researching ahead and investing in these now.
Please note this is general advice based on the general population. Inadequate supplementation can be detrimental to your health and I advise you to speak to your health practitioner before starting supplementing with any of these.