Santa’s Sack of Tips (a mixed-bag)
Lately I’ve been doing the very un-nutritionist thing of eating/drinking/enjoying myself far too much (well… I’ve never claimed to be a total purist!) So now is the time to think about making amends – in the new year anyway. Thy body is thy temple right? Well here are some tips to nurture and care for body and mind at this year’s end, coming into 2016.
Don’t worry I mean post-Christmas NOT during! But after the fun is over… start planning for a January ‘Detox’. As you may well already know, Naturopaths are big fans of detoxification programs, and there is no better time to do this than at the beginning of a fresh new year, when your resolve is at it’s peak. Start putting together your shopping list and meal plans, ready to go so that it is as fool-proof as can be. The easier you make it now, the more likely you will stick to it for the whole month. Remember, Detox does not have to be all raw salads and smoothies. In the cold months you can adapt it to include some warming soups and teas. I’ll do a more detailed post on this in the coming weeks so check back in January.
Mind & Soul
Detox is not just for your body, work your MIND too… New Year, New You – so make some meaningful resolutions. Winter is a good time to plough through any issues that have been bothering you and dragging you down. Start journalling, find a therapy or just chat to a good friend. With the distractions of summer it’s all too easy to hide problems/concerns away in the closet of your mind – gathering cobwebs. But unless you deal with them, they’ll soon make themselves known. Best sort through them now in the dark winter months, so that when the first flowers of spring arrive, you’ll be ready to face the world with fresh perspective… Let the last years problems go. Holding onto resentment and regret year after year will erode at your health unless you deal with it and try to put it behind you.
Building on from the above, there is a lot of talk about ‘SAD’ (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and feeling a bit blue in the cold and dark months… But what if these months have a purpose and these feelings are normal? Maybe your body just needs more rest, sleep, time to reflect and mull over issues… Maybe in this fast paced world we just aren’t giving our bodies time to do this and this may contribute to depression. Find your happy balance: if you feel like being a home-bod and having more time alone to sleep/read/chill out then do so. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care! There are also some lovely herbs and foods which may help to naturally boost mood, Herbalists/Naturopaths/Nutritionists can guide you here. If you feel you are not able to cope with your depression, always seek professional advice for some extra support.
It is normal to slow your exercise routine down and go with the natural rhythm of the winter season. However, it is also important not to stagnate completely, as tempting as it is to go into total hibernation! Each day, try to do something, even just a brisk walk for 30 minutes. Gentle, regular exercise over the next few months helps to boost your circulation, keeps your weight from creeping up over the winter, improves skin tone and boosts the immune system. These effects are not just due to the effects of exercise on your heart, but they are also due to the effect of movement on the lymphatic system (this network of lymph vessels is where the immune system and garbage disposal system of the body lies!). Unlike the circulatory system, the lymph system is not pumped by the heart…it is only via muscle contractions. Luckily it needn’t be strenuous, walking is one of the best forms of exercise for the lymphatic system and is enough to keep your immune system fighting fit.
Keep Winter Bugs at Bay
Give your Immune System a boost and cook with pungent spices such as ginger, garlic and chillies, not only will these warm your cockles, they often have anti-microbial and immune boosting properties. Eat Vitamin C rich foods each day, such as citrus fruits, berries and kiwi fruit as this vitamin is important for our Immune Cells. Elderberry syrup is also a great daily boost with anti-viral effects (see my previous blog on Elderberries). If you are getting recurrent infections, a naturopath/nutritionist will be able to investigate possible underlying causes and provide a more detailed treatment plan.
Adding a couple of drops of essential oil to an oil burner/diffuser may also help to keep the bugs at bay. Research suggests that certain oils such as Pine, Eucalyptus and Lemon have anti-microbial properties which could help to neutralize airborne bacteria/viruses. Very handy in the event of a house full of sick people! Again, when it comes to Essential Oils, seek profession advice or a good Aromatherapy reference, as there are some contraindications for some people.
Nourish your Skin
Cold weather, lack of exercise and sluggish circulation makes for dry, lacklustre, flaky skin. Combat this with the help of a dry skin brush followed by moisturiser each morning. Invest in a natural body brush! Gentle pressure is all that is needed, use small circular motions working upwards towards the heart… Not only will this help to exfoliate the skin – it also stimulates the lymphatic system which can become a bit stagnant in the lazy winter months. When done regularly it encourages a healthy glow and helps to reduce puffiness. Follow with a shower and apply a rich moisturiser (such as a shea butter/cocoa butter based balm/body butter)
Go With the Natural Lull
Pay attention to your changing ‘Body Clock’ and work with your body rather than against it. Don’t go against natural cycles by keeping lights bright in the evenings and fighting the urge to go to bed earlier. Keep the lights dim and don’t feel guilty about getting to bit a little earlier than usual. Your body has a seasonal body clock too- ‘tricking’ it into believing it is light in the winter may not be so good for you.. Recent research at Edinburgh and Manchester Universities revealed that animals have ‘seasonal cells’ in the pituitary gland which produce different proteins depending on the time of year… so don’t mess with nature!
Seasons Greetings & Wishing you a Magical 2016