Spring Into a New You with Ease: 8 Healthy Tips

  • July
    04

    Prepare yourself for the change of season flues and blues with 8 Easy Tips To SPRING INTO ACTION

    Download and print off the easy-to-read Spring Into Action Cheat Sheet here.
     By Dr. Alison Chen, ND

    SEASONAL TRANSITION PERIODS are a time when many people get sick. Seasonal allergies, exposure to varying microbes and the mental and physical stressors can all take a toll on the body and make you more susceptible to illness.

    Seasonal and perennial allergies
    Seasonal allergies often include common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), pollen, mold and grass [73, 69, 91]. The warming weather signals for plants to grow and release particles into the air in the hopes to literally spread their seeds [13]. In a particularly sensitive population, when the particles are inhaled, an allergic reaction is triggered and the body mounts an IgE (immunoglobulin E) immune response to release histamine in the body [21, 91].

    Histamine can be carried anywhere in the body giving rise to a variety of allergic symptoms, including breathing difficulties such as asthma, atopic or skin conditions, runny and itchy eyes and sneezing [73, 69, 91]. A histaminic response is your body’s way of trying to eliminate these unwanted particles via acute routes of elimination from your lungs, skin, eyes and nose [21].

    Microbes
    Also known as microorganisms, they consist of bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungus (including Candida albican) and any microscopic organism. Microbes grow especially well in warm moist environments and so favor the transition climates of Spring [25, 11,43]. Viruses are no exception, although their peak transmission times are during rainy seasons, they differ in that viruses require a host (for example human, animal or insect) to survive and therefore are passed on between living organisms [80, 74]. The flu (also known as influenza) is such a viral infection and can cause a serious scare in over-populated areas due to its ability to rapidly spread but also adapt [80, 74].

    Therefore, it is especially important to practice clean hand hygiene and sneezing into a tissue or elbow sleeve to prevent spread through mucous. This is also the time to strengthen your immune system to fight off invading microorganisms that are eager to grow and spread.

    Stress
    Physical and mental stressors can decrease the body’s immune and adrenal strength [16]. The immune system consists of the body’s ability to combat and heal from physical stressors such as the allergies and microorganisms we just discussed. The adrenal glands are organs that sit above the kidneys and their main function is to allow the mind to stay acute and alert and allows the body to function during stressful times [75]. The body is capable of enduring great amounts of stress for short periods of time if it has a chance to rest and recover [16].

    Unfortunately, the current Western lifestyle consists of persistent low-level stressors with little chance to nourish our adrenal glands and rest. Although the immune system works primarily on the physical level and adrenal glands on the mental realm they function in conjunction with each other, as does the whole body as a system [75]. For example, if you’ve ever come off a big project where you were sleeping very little, eating an unhealthy diet and extremely stressed, you can almost guarantee that a cold or flu will develop soon afterwards.

    This is because your body has been under the control of your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your stress response [88]. Your adrenals release hormones (cortisol and catecholamines) to maintain your energy levels and turn down your immune response so that your body can focus on overcoming the stressor [26, 16]. Once the stressor is removed the adrenals can rest and your immune system comes back on. However, because the immune system was turned down, the microbes it would have caught and removed initially have been allowed to grow.

    Therefore, you often get a cold or flu after a stressful period. If your sympathetic nervous system is over-stimulated with stress, your immune system will not function efficiently [16]. This is the same for changes in weather conditions where it takes more effort for the mind and body to cope.

    Whether you’re struggling with allergies, a cold or flu or just feeling exhausted, this article will give you tips to strengthen your immune system, recharge your adrenal glands and boost your mood.

    Skip forward to read about a specific topic:

    1. Kick the Caffeine
    2. Fight Seasonal Allergies with Food
    3. Avoid Sweet and Sticky Foods
    4. Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot and Cold
    5. Go On, Brush Your Toxins Off
    6. Emergency Cupboard Supplements
    7. More Soup Please
    8. Spring Clean Your Diet

    1. Kick the caffeine and start your morning with lemons

    It’s not that caffeine is bad, actually it might be very healthy for you, but save your morning coffee or tea for after a big glass of lemon water. Lemon water is an ideal way to start your morning with energy, hydration, and endurance. Simply squeeze the juice of a wedge of lemon into a glass of room temperature or slightly cool water.

    Don’t forget to check the quality of your water to ensure you aren’t drinking contaminated water with poor mineral content. Here are some of the extensive benefits of starting your day off with lemon water:

    Detoxifies
    The acidity of lemon in the mouth and gut (not blood), stimulates gastric juices and bile flow. This supports the removal of toxins stored in the liver and fat cells to help excrete them safely [72].

    Lowers Cholesterol
    The bile secretion noted above can clean out the bowels by coating the lining of the colon and help eliminate waste, toxins, and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol [68].

    Promotes Weight Loss
    Consuming lemon water can help break down adipose tissue, which makes up body fat [12, 63]. The pectin fiber can also help cut sugar cravings and appetite [40].

    Diabetic Regulator
    Regulates blood sugar levels in a similar way to Metformin, the main pharmaceutical drug to control diabetes and insulin resistance [12].

    Energy Boost
    Two common causes of fatigue are stress and iron deficiency anemia. Lemon juice targets both by nourishing the adrenal glands and aiding in iron absorption [68, 51]. For those with iron deficiency, it is ideal to consume extra vitamin C (which lemons provide) with an iron-rich meal or supplementation [40].

    Rejuvenator
    Gives a youthful look to the skin and nourishes connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, and muscles) to keep you agile and strong. The ascorbic acid and vitamin C content is also an effective vulnerary by improving speed of healing for wounds and injuries [68].

    Cancer Prevention
    Anti-oxidant properties from lemon act to protect the body from cancer growth and carcinogens [4, 64, 55]

    Heart Protection
    Regulates blood pressure by increasing hydration and potassium levels to moderation of body fluid; Provides structural blood vessel support to prevent atherosclerosis and CVD [68, 55].

    Immune Booster
    Strengthens immunity and decreases allergic reactions, phlegm accumulation, sinus congestion, and inflammation [4]

    Natural Mouthwash
    There’s an anti-septic effect on oral bacteria from lemon, which is the most common contributor to bad breath [37]. The essential oils of lemon can combat common food-borne bacteria [65]

    Alkalize Your Body
    Despite its acidity, lemon juice actually has an alkalizing effect in the blood that works to decrease inflammation in the body [55].

    2. Fight seasonal allergies with food

    I love the way the sun comes out to nourish Mother Nature and our spirits in the Summer time. Unfortunately, your seasonal allergies, runny nose and watery eyes are taking a heavy toll.

    Anti-histamines are chemical structures that block the binding of the body’s natural histamine component to its receptor thereby evading the allergic responses and symptoms [77]. Foods high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids are natural anti-histamines. Bioflavonoids describe a particular chemical structure that often contributes to the bright colors of fruits and vegetables [53]. They have properties to help prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and allergies [22]. Choose from these nutrient-rich options:

    • These foods offer natural anti-histamine properties: Oranges, lemons, limes, peaches, nectarines, papaya, mango, red bell peppers, sweet peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, organic strawberries, garlic, spinach, green tea [78].
    • Quercetin and spirulina can be taken preventatively for those with all types of allergies, including seasonal, pet, dust, and food [78]. Quercetin is a natural anti-histamine that promotes heart health and decreases inflammation and oxidative damages [78]. It is sometimes combined with digestive enzymes (bromelain, papain) and vitamin C to minimize the inflammatory response of the immune system.
    • Foods high in vitamin B5, B12 and magnesium can help decrease allergic responses: legumes, salmon, sardines, seafood, meat, fowl, eggs, avocado, dark green veggies, green peas, cauliflower, nuts, seeds, dates, fruit, sweet potatoes, whole grains [76].
    • Natural decongestant foods such as bitter orange peel, spices (peppermint, cayenne pepper), horseradish, raw garlic, ginger, and onion loosen mucous build-up to open up the nasal passages. [30].

     

    3. Avoid Sweet and Sticky Foods to Feel Better Overall

    In general, stay away from eating foods that are sweet and sticky during changes of season. Sometimes known as ‘damp heat’ producing foods, they can increase symptoms of bloating, Candidiasis, inflammation, and infections.

    • As the air gets warmer, this is an ideal time for fungal infections and inflammatory reactions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sugar, sweets, carbs and starches encouraging these  ‘damp heat’ conditions [48]. ‘Damp heat’ foods can also be loosely thought of as foods with a high glycemic index and load, since they are readily converted to glucose (or sugars) in the body [14]. For a list of foods, see here. These foods feed bacteria and fungus to cause an imbalance of microorganisms in the body [52].

    During changes of season, we try to avoid ‘damp heat’ causing foods to avoid conditions such as:

    •        Sinusitis and nasal congestion
    •        Acne
    •        Bacterial infections
    •        Candidiasis or Candida infections- Candida albican is a species of fungus, which if allowed to overgrow often appears as oral thrush, sinus congestion, abdominal distention and vaginal yeast infections [15]
    •        Bloating
    •        Heavy sensations
    •        Inflammatory joints
    •        Muscle ache
    •        Lethargy
    •        Depression
    •        Fatigue
    • Try avoiding refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, dairy (especially ice cream), and bananas for a several weeks. It might be tough, but I know you’re going to feel so good.
    • Limit root vegetables and tropical fruits (stick to papaya and mango for their bioflavanoid benefits) for 2-3 weeks during this transition time is also advised.
    • For a complete list of ‘damp heat’ producing foods see here.

     

    4. Feel HOT HOT HOT then COLD

    Taking contrast or alternating hot and cold showers is not only refreshing but stimulates the body’s elimination system, making you clean from the inside out.

    Contrast showers allow your skin to act as a whole-body pump and lymphatic drainer. The hot water opens up your pores, releasing toxins via the skin and relaxing tension in the body. Then, cold water closes pores and pumps lymph fluid through the body’s lymphatic system and into the blood, where it can be filtered and excreted through your urine [31].

    The ideal timing for contrast showers is 3 minutes as hot you can manage while staying relaxed (be sure not to burn yourself), followed by 1 minute of the coldest water you can handle. Repeat this contrast in temperature 2-3 times per shower, always ending on cold.

    EXPERT TIP: Don't forget to check the quality of your water to ensure you aren't bathing in heavy metals or chemicals.

    5. Go on, brush your toxins off…

    Dry skin brushing flushes lymphatic waste, improves the immune system, and lowers high blood pressure—all with a 5 minute gentle massage [31, 57].

    • Choose a brush with short and stiff natural bristles. They often come in the size of your palm and sometimes attached to a long handle.
    • Using your brush, make small circular motions from the hands and feet up towards the heart.
      Be careful not to press too deeply. The lymphatic system lies just beneath the skin. Light pressure just scratching the surface of your skin is all you need to remove the lymphatic waste. To view a video, click here.
    • Ideally, perform dry skin brushing before your contrast showers.

    It is especially useful for people who get sick often or who have a low white blood cell (WBC) count, high blood pressure, edema, or varicose veins [49, 57].

    • As an added bonus, dry brushing will also rejuvenate the skin, diminish the appearance of cellulite, stimulates nerve endings, and increases blood circulation and overall vitality [31].

     6. Emergency cupboard supplements

    Cupboard supplements are those that are useful to always keep on hand to help support your immune system upon first signs of a cold or flu. No one wants to be running around trying to find the right products when they’re feeling under the weather or their child has come down with a sudden fever.

    Make sure you choose your supplements carefully and don’t always go for the one’s on sale. A variety of nutritional supplements, whole foods, and botanicals are useful to keep on hand:

    Nutraceuticals (aka. nutritional supplements)

    Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is the most well known cold and flu fighter. On top of its anti-microbial functions, vitamin C works as an anti-oxidant and stress regulator by increasing blood flow to vital organs, protecting the heart, and moderates cortisol levels [66]. Note: Avoid purchasing a chewable vitamin C since they are often laden with sugars to make them taste sweet. As we learned earlier, sugar feeds microbes and encourages proliferation and worsening of cold symptoms.

    Zinc lozenges can be taken as needed and are generally quite yummy to taste. They act to decrease inflammation, infections (especially skin, oral, and upper respiratory tract to limit the frequency), ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, and oxidative damage [66]. When choosing a zinc supplement, it’s important to look at the amount of elemental zinc (not the total zinc and cofactor that is bound to it), this will be specified on the labeling. For cold and flu preventions, a dose of 5-10mg daily (max of 40mg/d) is required, though people with zinc deficiencies may require more [66, 81]. (Just note that superloading zinc for an extended duration will cause a copper deficiency, so avoid taking the max dose for more than 4 months and be sure to get your zinc and copper levels tested [66, 59].)

    Food

    Manuka and kanuka honey are strong anti-bacterial agents that work inside and out. Swishing, gargling and swallowing a spoonful of non-pasturized honey in warm water is ideal for gingivitis, a throat tickle, post nasal drip, loss of voice, dry cough, or a full blown sore throats [20].

    • You can also use honey it on a daily basis in tea, coffee, and salad dressings to get the health benefits and add a little sweetness to your day.
    • It’s also an excellent external treatment for cuts or minor wounds and inflammation to the skin. It is safe for all ages, including , and their diverse anti-bacterial effects make it difficult for bacteria to build a resistance [79, 46].

    Raw garlic is a strong anti-microbial, which means it defends against bacteria, viruses, fungus and parasites by attacking microbes and strengthening the body’s immune system [45, 40, 46]. Crushing raw garlic into salads and dips is a delightful way to add garlic into your diet, but you can also purchase the active ingredient ‘allicin’ in a supplemental form. Garlic also:

    • Lowers high blood pressure, supports healthy cholesterol ratios and is an anti-oxidant to prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease [24, 17, 42].
    • Cognitive support [66, 3].
    • Anti-inflammatory effects [61, 33].
    • External skin exfoliate used in combination with epsoms salt and lime juice [33].
    • Immune modulator to fight internal and external infections and ulcers 33].
    • Cancer prevention by working as a powerful anti-oxidant [34].

    Ginger is a warmth generator that [2, 89]. It tastes delicious mixed with honey as a tea, candied, dried, pickled, or added to soups and savory steamed vegetables. Here are a few other benefits of ginger:

    • It is commonly used as a safe anti-nausea treatment for motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy treatments [7].
    • Improves circulation, supports healthy cholesterol ratios and is an anti-oxidant to prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease [2].
    • Increases stomach acid production for hypochlorhydria and insufficient bile production, which often presents as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), indigestion, bloating, constipation, toxin overload and liver dysfunctions [89].
    • Decrease osteoarthritis symptoms of pain and stiffness [92].
    • Decrease muscle pain and menstrual cramping as much as Ibuprofen [58].

    Onions add a great flavor to your dishes and can fight off respiratory infections, irritating coughs and inflammation [66, 42].

    • Learn how to fight ear infections with “Onion Earmuffs”, also feel free to add garlic oil to enhance the anti-microbial effects.

    Oatmeal is a great breakfast option in the cooler weather because it is warming, a good source of fiber, decreases inflammation, encourages healing, and keeps you feeling full and satisfied longer [66]. Be sure to avoid instant oats since the B-glucan fiber is removed for fast cooking, look for gluten-free, rolled or steel cut oats that require 15 minutes of cooking [85, 90]. I make mine in a huge batch, enough for the whole week. Add in some nut milk, seeds, black strap molasses, blueberries and cinnamon for a complete breakfast meal.

    • You can also take an oatmeal bath to calm inflamed skin and promote healing if you suffer from skin allergies [66].
    • Watch a video on making oatmeal pancakes for breakfast with only 2 ingredients; oats and egg. Now the video shows egg whites only, but please don’t eliminate the egg yolk! The cholesterol in egg yolks DO NOT negatively affect heart disease and can actually contribute to lowering your cholesterol levels. For more nutrition misconception studies such as the cholesterol in egg myth, see here.

    Botanicals

    Botanical herbs are another neutraceutical that works great for the changes of season. Here are a couple main ones with its benefits:

    • Echinacea is a key herb used for bacterial infections, upper respiratory tract infections, sinusitis, recurrent candida infections and as a cold and flu prophylaxis [70, 71].
    • Ganoderma is also well known as reishi mushroom and as Ling zhi in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is an immune modulator, decrease urinary tract infections, reduces stress by calming the mind and nervous tension, and has potent anti-cancer properties [66, 54, 56, 93].
    • Astragalus is a wonderful immune activating herb that also acts as an anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and can decrease allergy induced nasal congestion. On a deeper level, it has protective actions for the heart, liver, kidneys, and blood [66, 50, 95].
    • Elderberry is also known as Sambucus canadensis. It is a tasty syrup that coats and soothes a sore throat while fighting off viruses targeting the upper chest and sinuses [6, 29].

    EXPERT TIP: Avoid the top self-prescribing mistakes by clicking HERE.

    7. More soup please

    For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has utilized herbal ‘Change of Season Soup’ for strengthening the immune system and navigating physical strains during transition times of weather.

    There are four main TCM herbs that build the base of the soup; feel free to add spices, vegetables and meat to this recipe:

    1. Codonopsis Root– Helps tonify and strengthen “Qi” energy and helps to build Blood and nourish body fluids. It is a Spleen and Lung tonic with specific aid towards digestion [66].

    2. Astragalus Root– The TCM functions of Astragalus is to strengthen protective defenses, strengthen “Qi” energy, nourish the Spleen, and tonify the Blood and Lungs [78, 50, 95].

    3. Dioscorea (Chinese yam) Root– It’s most well known use is for management of menopausal symptoms. However, Dioscorea also tonifies and balances the Lungs, Liver and the Kidneys [6, 29].

    4. Chinese Lycii Berries– Strengthen the Liver and Kidneys while supporting your defensive system and moving stagnation that accumulates in the body [93, 44].

    Directions: Use equal parts of each herb (2-3 oz) added to a large pot of water or broth (~4L). Bring to a boil and then simmer for 4-6 hours. Remove the herbs and drink the broth or use as a soup base. For added flavor and nutrients, feel free to add chicken, ginger, garlic, goji berries, carrots, celery, onions, pepper, cloves and/or salt.

     

    8. Spring clean your diet

    Whether you choose to do a water fast, juice diet, eat more vegetables or you just want to clean out the pantry, giving your body a break from the heavy chemicals and irritants from some of the foods we eat will help you feel lighter and more vibrant and energetic.

    Clear out the fridge and pantry

    Donate canned or processed foods (or toss/compost/recycle them if they’re no longer viable) and start re-introducing fresh produce for optimum health.

    Additives can be hidden in almost every prepackaged food item. The top offending food choices and ingredients include:

    • Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin)
    • High fructose corn syrup
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    • Trans fats
    • Olestra
    • Common food dyes (E133, E124, E110, E102)
    • Sodium chloride
    • Sodium sulfite
    • Sodium nitrate/ nitrite
    • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) and propyl gallate
    • Sulfur dioxide
    • Potassium bromate
    • Parabens

    To learn more about what ingredients to avoid, read “The truth behind the 13 most feared food and product additives” and “How to Best Limit Toxin Accumulation From Everyday Exposures“.

    Also visit the Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants reported by the WHO here [87].

     

    Spring into Summer with full vitality utilizing these 8 healthy practices to remove food stressors and accumulated body toxins, support your immune strength, and optimize your health during this transition period from Spring into Summer.

    Download and print off the easy-to-read Spring Into Summer Cheat Sheet here.

     

     

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