How to stay sane in the silly season

How to stay sane in the silly season: 

Stress relief for the busiest time of year

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So last night something made a crash sound somewhere in my house and woke me up right at that point when I’d just tumbled off the raft in my dream, in to the river of snakes, and some thing down in the depths had grabbed my foot and was pulling me down. Simultaneously a memo came from my subconscious. “You are tired and strung out. Here is what you need to take: Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Withania and a dash of Kava.”

So it turns out that this “end of the year thing” is an actual thing! We have created such a monotony with our culture of work and school in one straight line that we all collectively collapse and need a break!… and so we invented Christmas holidays, or whatever the excuse. Whatever it is- I’m down with it! I haven’t had a break since this time last year, and I don’t know about you- but I’m needing one. So… until you can be on your couch watching movies, or in a hammock with a drink in your hand- OR if you are one of the poor dears working in the many shops, restaurants or community service industries that get PUMPED about now: here are my top tips for those who can’t muster another drop of blood from the stone.

B vitamins- I’m not talking effervescent tablets that turn your pee yellow here- I’m talking good quality, therapeutic doses of the little cogs that make the wheels turn. Many good quality B vitamins on the market are now containing the “activated” forms of many of the B’s, including B6 and B9. The good thing about activated Bs is that your body can slot them right in to do their job without converting them. B vitamins become depleted when we are stressed or have been burning the candle at both ends and can contribute to anxiety and fatigue. Definitely a good place to start.

Magnesium- Often referred to as the great relaxer, magnesium is a mineral which is easily depleted if we consume caffeine, alcohol or a diet high in processed foods. It’s necessary for the production of serotonin and in other nervous system processes, as well as being important for the relaxation of muscles. This makes magnesium ideal for those of us who suffer back/neck pain or tension headaches associated with stress. It is also appropriate for those of us who have been under stress long term, as this can deplete our reserves of magnesium and make it harder for us to cope. 

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Herbal medicines-There are so many fantastic herbs to treat nervous system symptoms and stresses, I’ll only touch briefly on some of my most prescribed and favourite. You can take some of these in tea form, however I recommend visiting your local herbal dispensary and having a brew made up for you. To give you an idea of what you might be after, let’s briefly separate them out in to groups:

Adaptogens- This is what we call herbs which are supportive to the adrenals, which help to support the stress response, and help achieve our resting state when the body gets stuck in fight or flight mode. They will often give you a boost of energy and over time will help improve your sleep. These include: Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng, Korean ginseng, Withania, Codonopsis, Rehmannia, Schisandra. Some of these can be a bit too stimulating if you are feeling nervous or strung out, so make sure you check with your naturopath about which is the best for you.

Anti-anxiety/or gentle calmative- These are the herbs which will take the edge off, without making you want to go to sleep. I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed and I’ve got a lot on, the last thing I want to feel is tired. These can be used before bed to calm you down, but if taken during the day (in moderate doses) won’t make you feel like you need a nap: Kava, Chamomile, Verbena, Lemon balm, Passionflower, Motherwort, Oat straw, St. John’s Wort

12_76_18_prevThe oil, the tea, the tincture- the very sight of Lavender restores calm. I adore this plant

Sedative herbs- These WILL make you feel tired if you need to chill the *f out in a hurry and also if your adrenalin/cortisol pumpin’ is keeping you up at night. They can be used acutely to turn down the volume. They include the herbs mentioned above in larger doses and/or : Valerian, Zizyphus, Skullcap, California poppy, Lavender, Kava (deserves a second mention) and Mexican Valerian.

*always make sure you tell your herbalist if you are on any prescribed medication- especially anti-depressants as this may mean you need to avoid some herbs.

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California Poppies grow native where I’m from on the west coast of North America. Certain times a year they transform the bushy hills into oceans of orange. 

LactiumA product based from milk protein- it increases the activity of a relaxing neuotransmitter in the brain called GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid). Many studies have shown that Lactium can help reduce the emotional experience of anxiety and panic, as well as the physical symptoms of stress like increased blood pressure and insomnia. Therapeutic doses of lactium are available in tablets or drinking powders and a typical dose is between 150-300mg. You can use it any time of the day when you need to take the edge off or as a relaxing night cap. Lactium also has the benefit of being safe with most medicines and in pregnancy/breastfeeding.

L-Theanine- This is an amino acid found exclusively in leaves of Camellia sinensis or tea. This includes green tea, black tea, bancha, and matcha teas amongst others. It suppresses the effects of the stress hormones, glucocorticoids, and enhances the more uplifting hormones serotonin, dopamine. It can also makes us sharper- helping to improve attention span, memory and concentration. But while L-theanine improves energy and gives us a lift, it also promotes quality and restful sleep. It can be taken in supplement form for a therapeutic benefit when stress levels are running high. However, most of us can use a cup of tea on a regular basis to recharge.

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Exercise-More and more studies are emerging proving that people who exercise are happier and able to cope better with stress than their sedentary counterparts. In fact some studies show that exercise can be as effective as medication for some people in treating anxiety and depression. Even a brisk 10 minute walk can be of benefit and the more regular you can make your activity the more these effects will build up over time. I’m in no way a naturally sporty person- but I’ve found that a 45 minute session 3 times a week keeps me on top of things and I can really feel it when I fall out of the routine. When we are busy and stressed, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have time- but exercise should be a priority now, as the increase in energy and focus it provides actually becomes a time saver in the end.

Food and Water- Classic “busy” behaviour can be skipping meals and drinking excessive diuretics (caffeine and alcohol). Being low blood sugar and/or dehydrated can aggravate anxiety and so being mindful of these things is important to keep things on an even keel. Reduce simple sugars and carbs which tend to fluctuate our blood sugar, and instead opt for protein rich meals and snacks (think animal proteins, nuts, eggs, and good quality protein supplements). Carry a water bottle so you can keep track of how much you are drinking and make sure you are getting 1.5-2 L of fresh, plain water per day- especially if it’s hot, you’ve been exercising or taking diuretics.

We all deserve a rest after a busy year of family, work, and life commitments, but if you’re still caught in a maze and it’s all head-down-bum-up, maybe use this information to think about how you might better support yourself to be your best and enjoy your busy-ness. To find the satisfaction in being on top of your game, and if not a well oiled machine, one that is at least not squeaking and rattling in to the new year. Put a little more in and you’ll get a lot more out. Happy holidaying everyone!

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Food-babies and Hangovers: Happy Holidays everyone!

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It doesn’t matter if you’re a clean living, green smoothie drinking devoted whole food-er, chances are around the holiday season you may find yourself at a party reaching for a ferrero rocher- most uncharacteristically. Any level of indulgence can have you registering somewhere on the spectrum between the food-baby and the raging hangover. But don’t despair! There are many ways to navigate this time of debauchery and celebration and live to see another egg nog. Here are my top tips for getting you through…

The basics

These are the tips you can employ before and during a period of indulgence to help prevent the unpleasant side effects that we know all too well. You may know a lot of these already- but here they are, in case you need reminding or convincing.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach- If you know you’re going to be heading out for drinks, make sure you have a proper full meal before hand. This slows down the absorption of alcohol and being full may slow down your drinking. Also, pick your poison. If you know you have a sweet tooth and you won’t be able to resist the rum balls, pavlova and shortbreads- make this your main indulgence, and limit alcohol at this sitting. Alcohol is also full of sugar, and aside from the sugar it contains- part of the process of breaking down alcohol results in an increased amount of stored sugar (glycogen) being broken down in the liver, which sends your insulin through the roof and stresses your pancreas. If you’re going to a cocktail party or can take or leave desert, restrict your intake of sweets and other starchy carbs. Opt instead for extra servings of protein and veggies either way you go. Protein will slow down the absorption of sugar and reduce the insulin surge and subsequent crash- which also contributes to feeling off centre the next day.

Take care to hydrate before you go out- Starting off a night having had enough water and electrolytes is going to definitely put you at an advantage of avoiding some of the symptoms of hangover. When we are recovering from drinking, our body tries to regain it’s optimal fluid balance. One way it does this is with electrolytes. It retains sodium and expels potassium, which then plays a role in our blood pressure (increasing headaches) , and causing fluid retention. Coconut water is naturally high in potassium and can be drunk the day before a party and the next day to help with recovery. Natural based electrolyte/rehydration formulas are also a great idea and can even be drunk during the evening. Have them on hand for the next day too.

Stick to clear spirits- If you know you are particularly prone to hangovers, substances called congeners could be aggravating you even more. These are byproducts of the fermention process, found in greater quantities in dark coloured spirits (whiskey, rum, brandy).

Pre-tox/detox-

Preparing your body for the holiday season, if you know you’re going to let your hair down, is one way to avoid being knocked around. Supporting your organ function and making sure your nutritional status is optimum is the way to cultivate only happy memories.

Protect your gut- I did a recent post on how to look after our digestive systems, here, and it would be a good time to do a refresher. Wether it’s too much feasting or too much merry making- protecting and supporting digestion is so important.

  • Alcohol is a major irritant and can increase stomach acid production- so protect your delicate mucous membranes with soothing demulcents like Slippery elm powder and,or aloe vera juice.
  • Probiotics help prevent the growth of our less favourable organisms, including candida, when we’re eating and drinking too much sugar.
  • Digestive enzymes can be helpful if you are some one who suffers from bloating, or indigestion after meals or who feels uncomfortably full. You may need a little support in this area generally but around the holidays, it’s going to be especially important.

Support your liver- This is where all the magic happens. Once alcohol is absorbed from your digestive system, it’s on up to your liver to process- where it does it’s darnedest to transform the very toxic acetaldehyde your margarita has become to less harmful acetate. There are a few main enzyme players in this process, one of which is called glutathione , an amazingly potent antioxidant that contains high quantities of the amino acid cysteine. If you are drinking too much alcohol, or if you don’t normally consume much alcohol and go on what is called a “binge”, you don’t have the enzymes handy. Either you’ve used them up, or you don’t normally need as much as you do on this occasion, so you aren’t prepared. You then end up with a toxic overload of acetaldehyde- which is poison. It contributes to much of the hangover experience. Women also naturally produce less of the enzymes needed to break down alcohol, which is why women and men of a similar weight may have different blood alcohol effects.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)- This is a form of the amino acid cysteine- which as we mentioned is an important component of glutathione which helps to detoxify alcohol. Take it immediately before drinking or during the holiday season to support your liver.

B vitamins- While the research on whether B vitamins help with the symptoms of hangover are not supportive of the claim- We do know that B vitamins are an integral part of the liver’s enzyme formation and detoxification process. So your fizzy B tablet or similar isn’t a waste of time. B vitamins can also give us a lift, which many of us are sorely needing the day after a big night.

St. Mary’s Thistle- This is the main ingredient in many herbal liver formulas, the gorgeous herb Silybum marianum.  This is a powerful ally of the liver helping to increase glutathione production. It also protects the liver from the toxic effects of alcohol by acting as an antioxidant, and has even been found in studies to reverse fatty liver. It is the #1 go to if you want to treat your liver right, and the best way to take it is for the duration of the holiday season as a general tonic. Tablets are fine and there are many good quality one-a-day formulas out there containing about 15,000 mg of the herb, which is what you’re after.

milk_thistleMilk Thistle gets it’s name from the milky white veins of it’s leaf, and is as beautiful as it is powerful. Easily grown, you can collect the small black seeds and add them to your smoothies, as you would other seeds. 1 teaspoon ground to a powder is a dose. See this resource for more on this incredible herb. http://www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com/milk-thistle-benefits.html

Zinc- Zinc has been clinically found to reduce the toxic effect of alcohol on the liver. Zinc is also depleted from the body when drinking, so it is absolutely necessary to replenish your reserves, as zinc can be quite tricky to get in the diet (main sources include organ meats, some whole grains, oysters and pumpkin seeds). Take a good quality zinc supplement (best forms include citrate, piccolinolate, or amino acid chelate) throughout the season, or take one before retiring for the evening with a nice tall glass of water.

OOPS! I’ve managed to get hungover anyways!!!

Don’t despair. Pretox protocols in place, keep up the good work the day after a night out. There are few other tricks you can have up your sleeve while you’re sipping away at the coconut water.

  1. Nux vomica– Whether it’s a food-baby or a hang over, Nux vom is the homeopathic first aid for over indulgence. The symptoms you might have include: Headache or migraines triggered by food or alcohol; sensitivity to light, odours and noise; nausea and/or vomiting; dry retching (so awful), and undigested food which “sits like a rock” in the stomach.
  2. Eggs- You crave them because you know you neeeeeed them! Eggs are naturally high in cysteine- so yes, the cafe breakfast is a good idea- GO! Don’t overdo it on the coffee though- you may think it’s what you need, but it’s not. Just one cup to avoid more dehydration and havoc on your liver and kidney.
  3. Umeboshi plum- This is a medicinal food coming from the macrobiotic tradition. It is a japanese plum which has been salted. It’s quite a wonderful idea- the plum never ripens but falls off the tree and rots. People believed there had to be a purpose to this fruit- as nature makes nothing by mistake- and so began to pickle the unripened plums. It therefore combines perfectly opposites- unripened fruit (yin) and salt (yang). It is believed to balance you out which ever way you need. I don’t know if all that is scientifically true- but the stuff makes you feel great. Either eat the plum neat (it’ll blow you head off it’s so salty- but kinda cool), or drop a plum or a spoon of the paste in a cup of boiled water and sip. It really does bring you back to earth, whatever it is you are suffering from. The electrolytes from the salt are also beneficial.                                                10014_alb_xlarge_500x375_19346_1295652239These crazy shrivelled up looking morsels might remind you of all kinds of odd things- but let me tell you, they taste like nothing you’ve ever had. Used as a condiment in Japanese cooking and a powerful medicine in macrobiotics. 
  4.  Soups- Think miso and bone broth. Miso for reasons similar to umeboshi and bone broth is a nutritive elixer for the gut, as I’ve discussed before here.
  5. Sleep and rest- Hopefully you’ve been civilized and planned to party when the kids are at the grandparents or you have a whole day off. Your body didn’t really get much proper resting done last night while it was in full out damage control dealing with the mess you’ve made. You have heaps to catch up on.

Everything in moderation- including moderation

           IMG_3415Party time! 

I’d be a big liar if I didn’t say I hadn’t had my fair share of ails associated with over indulgence. And I’m happy to say, that while the hangover or the gut ache were unpleasant, they were usually associated with some wonderful times with friends and loved ones- connecting, celebrating and having a laugh. This is what life is about! We aren’t just here to preserve our machine- we are here to USE it. So don’t be afraid to let your hair down and enjoy yourself. But it does help to know your bodys’ limits, and practice a bit of pre-tox and detox along the way.

It’s at this point that I do need to be a bummer and remind you that alcohol is a drug- a nerotoxin and one which will disrupt your hormones, create systemic inflammation, ravage your digestive system, and is certain to cause major health issues if you are a regular over consumer. It is also defined as a Class 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organisation- which means- yes, it’s bad for you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_and_cancer

What “moderation” is exactly, is a bit fuzzy and depends on what country you live in and who your doctor is. I’ve read between 2-4 drinks max per day for men, and 1-2 drinks per day for women. And that doesn’t mean EVERY day either. You should have regular alcohol free days. Below are a few resources I found interesting on this topic, if you want to work it out for yourself.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/katiebell/2013/09/03/are-you-drinking-too-much-the-myth-of-moderation/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551

http://www.gastro.net.au/diets/alcohol.html

SO… The balance is to nourish BOTH your body and your heart-

I hope you have fun over the holidays everybody-

be safe & SALUD!

Genna

The cure for the winter time blues

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I won’t lie. I’m the worst Canadian ever. I’ve acclimatized so excellently to my new home in Australia, that the short mild winters of the subtropics have become a trial to endure. It’s ridiculous. I know it. But in all fairness- it gets pretty darn cold! Especially at night, and in the houses that were built with that hearty “she’ll be right” attitude. My beautiful old house has no fireplace, no insulation, just drafty hard wood floors and windows that have trouble shutting properly. *Le sigh*

So what is winter good for? For remembering things like jeans and woolen coats and for craddling cups of tea like your whole body could soak up the heat radiating from the little vessel in your hand. Below is a bit of a winter survival guide, for those of us who don’t come alive in the cool (there are those of us out there who do), who feel diminished in their energy and who maybe need a bit of support staving off colds and flus which can get us when we’re down.

Vitamin D- Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin, but a hormone, which we produce in our skin from exposure to sunlight- and to a lesser extent from specific foods. In the past, there was this notion that we got enough vitamin D from our daily activities. Unfortunately, our daily activities have changed somewhat since we stopped spending most of our days living and working out doors, and well… wearing clothes. Also, the recent change in our ozone and the suns quality has made many of us avoid the sun all together, wearing hats and protective clothing, and sunscreen all the time. Vitamin D is a major player in our immune health, and long ago, it was believed that if you got skin cancer- from too much sun exposure- you were protected from other often more deadly cancers because your vitamin D status was so good. And while we don’t want to trade one for the other (we know some skin cancers are extremely deadly) it has been found that vitamin D status is linked to many kinds of cancer, specifically bowel and breast, and other auto immune conditions such as MS. Vitamin D deficiency hasn’t been taken seriously, and with up to an estimated 58% of australians apparently lacking, we need to take note. There are acutally so many things Vitamin D is important for- I’ll do an entire blog devoted to the subject later… however in the case of winter time reduced sunlight exposure, change in the angle/direction of the suns rays effecting absorption of UV light, and our extra layers of clothes and hiding indoors- we need a boost to keep our immune systems primed. If you’d like to try to get it the old fashioned way- it is believed that around 15 mins of exposure, in the middle of the day, while NOT burning is ideal- trying to expose as much of your body as possible. Now, if lying around in your bikini in 5 degree weather isn’t your thing you can try Cod Liver oil- a source of vitamin D -and Vitamin A as well as omega 3 fatty acids, OR a vitamin D supplement. Most on the market these days are vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol- the active form of vitamin D. 1000 ius (international units) is generally considered safe and many of the trials done showing the benefit of the vitamin have been done with this dose. A vitamin D test can be helpful establishing if you’re deficient, and then your doctor or naturopath can recommend a dose specific to you. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it stores in your fat tissue, so making sure you aren’t taking in too much is also important. Having your levels tested can make sure you aren’t over dosing. 1000-3000 ius is generally safe for the run of the mill inside living, clothes wearer. I back off or reduce dosing in the summer months. Also kids need a specific dose and for this it’s best to consult your practitioner.

Antioxidants-

These are substances with protective effects on the body- by stabalizing free radicals and toxins, and supporting the immune system so that it an do it’s job more efficiently. The two winter favourites to keep colds at bay are Zinc and Vitamin C. Out of the 2, I rate Zinc the highest- as it’s often tricker to get from the diet (main sources include organ meats, oysters, pumpkin seeds and whole grains) and I have found it excellent in practice- both keeping colds away and in acute treatment. There are a few zinc supplements out there which have both vitamin c and zinc in them- and these are often a good way to go so you are getting the two. I usually take double the recommended dose in acute infections, just for a few days- to really make sure you get a good hit. Take the doses a few hours apart for better absorption and longer action. I do take zinc regularly through the winter, though I avoid taking Vitamin C as a regular supplement and prefer to get it from my diet. Diet is always the best way to get your antioxidants.

Herbal Medicine-

There are so many amazing herbs for building immunity and also for the help in treating individual symptoms- it’s crazy. To really sing their praises I’d need to write an entire book- but here is just a taster in the meantime. You can take immune boosting herbs in a lower dose daily through winter to prevent a cold or flu. Think of it as a natural “flu shot” – your own strong natural immunity is your best defence. Up the dose if you feel like something is coming on- or get in touch with your practitioner:

 Echinacea- Echinacea is usually best used as a preventative and in the first stages of cold or flu. If you aren’t taking it daily through winter in your tonic mixes- try it that first day you feel a little off, or the first tickle in your throat. That’s when Echinacea shines. It is also has an action on the lymphatic system and is ideal if you are someone who suffers from tonsillitis. Good quality Echinacea should give your mouth a tingling sensation after taking it in a liquid tincture.

DSC05278here’s a picture of my little lady a couple of years ago in our garden- Echinacea produces the most beautiful flowers. While you can use the flowers and leaf as a tea, it’s the root that holds the greatest immune powers. 

AndrographisKnown as the “King of Bitters” it certainly doesn’t play around in the flavour department. It’s the herb that makes the immune mix truly intense tasting and is worth a warning. But that said- it is one great herb for the cold that has gotten a hold on you. Almost every single immune support mix I make has this doozy in it. (Mwahahahaha!)

Olive Leaf- I often combine Olive leaf with Andrographis and/or Echinacea for prevention or treatment in colds and flus- and I know there are a lot of great fresh leaf liquid extracts on the market that people swear by as a preventative tonic throughout the winter months.

 Elder Berry- Elder berry is a fantastic herb for the head cold. I love using it when there is sinus congestion, a general rotten-ness all over, maybe even a slight temperature. It’s also great for children, and there are a few on the market in liquid and powder form which taste great.

 Garlic- Garlic is an amazing herb for the immune system. It’s the allicin which we are after, the part of the garlic which is activated during the crushing. It’s not a herb that keeps it’s immune protective characteristics well when it’s made in to a tablet, so be wary- and perhaps get the advice of a naturopath on which tablets are right for you if that’s what you’re using it for. This link can also give you more information on Garlic and choosing the right supplement. Otherwise, make a super strong hummus or pesto, garlic butter on toast, or crush it and add it at the end of a meal to your soup/stew or whatever you are eating. It is excellent for ear infections and head colds, and as funny as it sounds, try this home remedy:

-Chose a smallish garlic clove, about the size of an ear plug

-Peel a clove garlic by removing the papery outer layer

-Slice gently into it with your nail or a knife so that you’ve made a cut, enough for the oil to seep out slightly-squeeze the bulb slightly to bruise it.

-Put in the infected ear so it’s sticking out like a plug. Be careful of course not to insert it too deeply- it should be sticking out of the ear and only just inside the first bit of the canal- don’t go getting it stuck in there or piercing the ear drum- ok?!  This is a great way to get a local antibiotic effect for mild ear ache, and it really works. Try it- you’ll be surprised that in 10 mins you’ll have a garlic taste in your mouth, it goes through your whole head!

 PropolisA resin made by bees to decontaminate themselves before entering the hive, it’s strongly antimicrobial, and excellent for the throat. 1 or 2 mls diluted in water, enough to gargle and then swallow, 3-4 times per day.

Medicinal Mushrooms- Common names for some include Turkey tail, Shitake, Caterpillar mushroom, Reiishi, zhu ling and fu ling.  A real favourite of mine these days there are quite a few ways to get these immune boosting powerhouses- capsules, powders and liquids- quite a few different companies are making great formulations. They are amazing, with the benefits too numerous to list here- but I use them in practice for people recovering major infections such as Ross River fever, chronic fatigue, to support people with cancer or in recovering from chemo and even in the humble common cold. Especially good for kids who are prone to getting sick, and chronic/on going lurking infections of the sinus or chest. Talk to your practitioner about the supplement best for you. Kids usually take a very small dose and in powder or liquid and so it’s easy to hide them in drinks and foods.

Healthy Gut Flora-

If you want a great way to improve your immunity- improve you gut flora. Not only is a healthy gut the first line of defence in our immune system- but secondarily-a healthy gut is more likely to absorb nutrients and expel wastes efficiently which is only going to support overall health and a robust immune system. There are a few strains of bacteria which are clincally proven to improve immunity- and they’ll be marketed as such- but good quality, potent probiotics are all beneficial and should be part of your overall health routine. If you do end up needing a course of antibiotics- remember to take your probiotic supplement along side to keep the gut environment stable, and reduce side effects, as well as taking them after to recolonize the gut flora and support recovery.

Food-

Winter is the season where I can’t help but abandon a lot of raw foods, smoothies and juices. Not entirely- but the emphasis changes. It’s the time of year that I feel like cooked food is good for me, and I love the slow cooked soups and stews, bone broths and roasts.

I’ve already gone on about the virtues of bone broths – and winter is a perfect time to employ their medicinal actions. By nourishing the gut we are nourishing our immune system. The beneficial bacteria in our gut flourish and the integrity of the mucous membranes is strengthened. There’s a reason chicken soup is known for curative powers… and that is STOCK. Some sources say a good chicken stock needs the feet in it… which I’ve yet to try. Stock needs to made from scratch- no cubes or tetra packs allowed. It must be thick like jelly and smooth like velvet in your soup of choice. Always use organic, or free range/chemical free and grass fed animals for your stock.

Miso is something to consider adding to your broth as a well, a dark miso is appropriate for the cold, and macrobiotics and other systems of eastern medicine the salty quality is considered yang, which is balancing to the body when confronted by cold. Chicken soup with miso and shitakes is a favourite of mine. Lots of green veggies added at the end, and I love to add Arame seaweed too. Stir in cooked quinoa for added texture and protein.

People are often going on about drinking orange juice for a cold- which I suppose is because of the vitamin C content. It’s pretty much a standard home treatment. I would suggest though- that instead of orange juice- which is both cold and sweet – two things which are not suitable for the sick body- that you go instead for the hot lemon. You can put a spoon of honey in it to taste, and even better is also adding a bit of ginger, which will mobilize circulation and also warm you. Finely chop the ginger and put in the tea pot with the juice of a lemon- pour in the boiling water and let sit for 10 mins under your tea cozy- or alternatively bringing a sauce pan to simmer and let the ginger simmer there for 10 mins, then pour the tea in and add the lemon juice or just drop in the half a lemon whole. Honey to taste. Perfect!

DSC06046Beautiful lemonades growing in the subtropical winter.

 

A word on analgesics/anti-inflammatories/cold & flu medications

When working in pharmacy- I try very hard to persuade people when they come in for cold and flu medications to avoid excessive use and instead work at supporting their immune system to get over the infection. I’m not suggesting that we all be heroes and suffer through our pains… if you don’t want to feel bad or have been feeling bad for long enough and just want a good nights rest- I’ll forgive you. But what you are doing is suppressing the symptoms of the infection- not fighting the infection itself. This means, you are stopping the processes the body has in place to get over the acute phase, and in my experience, using analgesics usually prolongs the duration of the cold. Parents who give their kid medications at the first sign of a temp- are going to have a sick kid for longer, and maybe even more frequently – as the immune system, I believe, hasn’t had a chance to develop, be strong and robust. Also, whenever we mobilze our immune systems due to low grade infections like colds- we are also attending to other, maybe more sinister matters. That white blood cell that is disbatched to deal with your rhinitis, might become alerted that there’s some rogue or unusal cellular growth happening and deal with those as well while they are on a roll… that’s something you can console yourself with next time you’re in bed with a flu… maybe you’re getting stronger and healthier by going through this process- if you support it correctly- maybe it’s like a good clean out.

*** I will note that I also use homeopathy regularly and with great success treating colds and flus – but to keep this piece brief I’ve decided instead to devote an entire blog to a homeopathic winter first aid in the near future. Stay tuned. xxx