Building immunity in Autumn and Winter

This week Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula experienced an onslaught of rain and wind, accompanied by a deep dive in temperatures. As we’d both been feeling run down after the last few weeks, both Ben and I caught a head cold with this sudden change of weather. 

So after a weekend spent in bed, the fireplace on, and a few hot baths I am feeling enormously better and thought it was a good time to explore how we can all bolster our immunity and resilience as we move into the colder months.

Seasonal Eating to build immunity

Seasonal Eating 

From a dietary perspective there is much to be said for eating local, seasonal produce as foods that are grown and consumed within their appropriate seasons are shown to be more nutritionally dense. 

We’re really lucky to live so close to market gardens and farm gates on the Mornington Peninsula that allow us to source seasonal, recently picked produce that’s grown nearby. For us in Autumn that means an abundance of figs, pears, dark leafy greens and squashes… 

If you’re wondering what is in season at the moment, Organic Empire shares a good guide to seasonal produce available in Victoria and Australia here.

I’d also recommend the article Immune Support for the Prevention of Viruses by Melbourne-based naturopath Karen Saunders if you’d like more extensive information on supplementation and herbs from a registered practitioner. 

Building immunity for winter with sleep and meditation

Rest and stress less 

Both short term exposure and long term periods of stress can manifest in physical symptoms. Short term stress has been shown to suppress the immune system, so to build resilience in the colder months it’s important to cultivate a slower, less stressful existence. 

In his 1998 book, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, American neuroendocrinology researcher Robert Sapolsky writes ‘Stress-related disease emerges, predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies, but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships, and promotions.’ 

Relationships, work and finance may indeed require seismic life changes or even counselling intervention, but there are many things we can do each day to lower our cortisol levels and soften our response to stressors. 

Teresa Cutter a.k.a ‘The Health Chef’ has written a great article 8 Ways to Naturally Reduce Stress, which details how we can fortify the body to better manage the chronic stressors that are a part of everyday life for many of us. We took from this article a few key lifestyle changes… 

  • Choose gentle workouts over high intensity activities and optimise rest and recovery by allowing enough time for your body to rest and recover between workouts.  
  • Meditate more often. Clinical studies show that meditation minimises the effects of stress on the human body, and improves immune response and markers of inflammation. Learn how to make meditation more habitual here.
  • Disconnect from devices. With every notification or vibration I’m instantly alert, stimulated and even a little anxious. Do you feel the same? These days my phone automatically switches to do-not-disturb each night and I also try to avoid social media in the evenings. According to the article, notifications from our phone release cortisol and keeps our brain on high alert whilst increasing feelings of distraction. 
  • Get more sleep (it seems that’s the answer to everything in life really). 

Stay warm in winter Traditional Chinese Medicine

Stay warm

A friend of mine who is studying to become a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine recently mentioned the importance of staying warm for a woman’s fertility and wellbeing.

This notion was echoed by my acupuncturist who advised that I should keep my cold feet covered at all times and during our sessions places a beautifully warm, radiating light over my stomach and feet which is said to promote blood circulation, benefit menstrual disorders and assist with digestive issues. 

I’m really intrigued by the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective — sentiments that seem to align with the body’s natural inclination to shift towards warmth in the form of nourishing meals, layered clothing, fireplaces, baths and warm elixirs during these cooler months. 

One of our favourite warming drinks for this time of year is Earthly Origins’ Tulua Chai. When I first tried this chai I fell in love with the comforting and deep flavours of black tea, cardamom, cinnamon and clove among other luscious spices. This special blend is made in the Byron Bay hinterland by Earthly Origins, a small batch chai and medicinal brew blend family business.

Here’s how we make our chai which has just the right amount of sweet and creaminess... 

Earthly Origins Tuula Chai

Warming Tulua Chai 

  1. Infuse 2-3 teaspoons of Tulua Chai into 60ml of boiling water, leave to infuse for 2-5 minutes. 
  2. Strain, remove tea leaves and add honey to taste. 
  3. Steam or gently heat chai concentrate with a cup of almond, coconut or cashew nut milk. 
  4. Serve hot and top with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Medicinal Mushrooms for immunity in winter

Use Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms have been revered for millenia for their potent health benefits including immune support due to key active compounds such as beta-glucans, which support immunity, and are considered to be antibiotic and antiviral.

For more information on medicinal mushrooms, the unique benefits of each variety and a nourishing recipe for an anti-inflammatory Ayurvedic golden milk, see our article here

 

Autumn and winter provide opportunities to slow down, ground ourselves and go inward energetically. In these months we contend with more hostile weather, the seasonal upswell of colds and flus (not to mention the global pandemic), and emotional toll of shorter days, so it’s important to tend to the body and mind in a deeper, more intentional way than in the summer months.

We hope this article has provided some inspiration and useful resources to explore further. We would really love to hear how you wind down and warm up too, so please drop us a line via Instagram or email.