With the onset of Spring, our spirits lift and things ‘seem a little brighter’ and they really are. In September, I wrote about the Autumn Equinox and the energetic changes most people feel - a contraction of energy and the need to hibernate and to be snug at home. With the Spring Equinox on Monday, the (20th March 2017), this energy has changed direction! It’s started moving up the chest and over the head and shoulders and down the back giving us the feeling of expansion (and often relief that winter has passed). This shift welcomes a feeling of POTENTIAL in daily life and optimism as our days are longer and we are full of new ideas – lets take up a hobby, start an evening class or sport, catch up with friends, possibly move house or change job, book that adventure destination – that fabulous Spring feeling.
Spring (the Chinese Wood Element) is associated with green colour and resonates with sour and tangy foods. These cleanse the palate and are readily available. Spring brings a bounty of vegetables, which are light in texture, grown above ground (thus harnessing the energy of the sun), full of chlorophyll and a rainbow of colours. Instead of our heavier and nourishing winter casseroles and soups our bodies and taste buds opt for lighter food such as leafy salads, vegetable croudites, spirilized corgettie and quick stir-fries. To nourish seasonally reconnects us to the rhythms of the earth. Despite busy lives and long working days, this is a simple way to regroup and feel better in ourselves.
The adage, ‘a spring clean’ doesn’t just refer to the house, but also ourselves. Many people come into Spring and quickly catch a cold or have a cough that will not budge. Skin complaints can flare up or feelings of sluggishness and being unhappy can be difficult to move. This is all associated with the body undertaking a natural detoxification. Moving out sluggish winter mucus and stagnant lymph via the lungs, the skin and the gastro-intestinal tract. The organs associated with Spring are the liver and gall bladder and after a winter of contracted energy, these can be overloaded causing health and emotional flare-ups in unexpected parts of the body and feelings. If these sound familiar seek advice from a Nutritional Therapist.
Great spring and early summer vegetables to watch out for and there benefits are;
Asparagus contains more folic acid than any other vegetable. It’s a good source of fibre, potassium, vitamins A and C and glutathione.
Beetroot loves the liver and kidneys. It is high in manganese, potassium and vitamin C. A great supporting food to ward of the colds and coughs of Spring while also supporting the liver and kidneys while it naturally detoxs.
Broccoli is flavonoid rich and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in vitamins C, A and K. Unsurprisingly it also helps the body to detox with a specific combination of phytonutrients. It is a super food of the first order!
Purple sprouting broccoli contains vitamins C and A and is a source of caretenoids, iron, folic acid, calcium and fibre. The photochemical sulphoraphane is thought key in cancer prevention and a resistance to heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
Fennel aids digestion and is high in iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and Vitamin K. A great immune boaster and good for bone health.
New potatoes are sources and vitamin C.
Radishes are considered to be another cancer deterrent and have significant levels of vitamin C.
Spinach is full of vitamins A and C and folic acid. It’s also high in iron and calcium.
Spring onions are high in flavonoids (another cancer and heart disease preventative), also vitamins B and C.
Use your food to nourish your body and harness the Spring energy. Use the Spring energy to detoxify and move on from the Winter.
My family have a love/hate relationship with carrots. One will eat them covered in honey, one will eat carrots raw, my teenagers under pressure and my husband will eat carrots if they’re on his plate (he never requests them!). But what does the simple carrot bring to our bodies?
As you know, I am interested in food’s medicinal qualities. Nature’s abundance does provide for humanity and carrots easily represent this. Extremely high in Vitamin A, carrots support eye health and improve night vision. Besides there fibre quality they are also have the correct ratio of Vitamin K and the mineral manganese. These two have a symbiotic relationship and work together for bone and tissue health, calcium regulation and play a role in correct brain function. So strong is there relationship, that one without the other will scavenge it from elsewhere in the body. Carrots are full of Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and folate. These B vitamins have a big part to play throughout the body, but especially adrenal health. The adrenals work hard during periods of daily stress and can easily become fatigued.
Carrots are more than orange vegetables. They can be purple, red, yellow and white. This rainbow spectrum is also Nature’s ways of showing us how full of antioxidants (particularly Vitamin C) carrots are. They can fight bacteria and are extremely antiseptic; this is great for gut and colon health. While chewing a raw carrot stimulates salvia in the mouth for good gum health. The combination of high fibre and high antiseptic quality is useful as it proceeds through all stages of digestion (mouth to ‘out’).
Carrots are extremely useful in our diet. They are sweet in flavour and calorically very low. They, like so many other leafy green (carrot stalks are great in a stock or salad, stews or casseroles) and colourful vegetables have the trace minerals copper (for brain development and heart health) and iron (required by haemoglobin). The essential mineral potassium also has a presence (heart health and blood pressure regulation) . This is not new news to many people, but it’s a good reminder about how important good eating is as preventative medicine.
A carrot, an apple, a bunch of kale … a day will keep the doctor away.
Our bodies are made up of 70% fluid. The list of what these fluids are is extensive and ranges from blood and lymph to gastric juices, mucus, salvia and ear wax right through to breast milk, sweat and tears. There is more, but I’ve set my scene. Although we understand that hydration is important, many of us are chronically dehydrated. This is for many reasons, we simply do not drink enough water, we drink too many diuretics (coffee, tea, fizzy drinks), our bodies may have lost the ability to hydrate (after years of chronic dehydration) and stress.
As a Nutritional Therapist, I see many clients (including children) who are showing symptoms of dehydration. As a general rule of thumb, an adult should consume 1.5 to 2 litres of clean water a day. No more than a pint an hour, we don’t want to overload the kidneys. While a child (5 to 11 years) needs to drink between 300 – 900ml a day (depending on their age, size and physical activity). This is water, not juices, squash, milk or soda drinks - plain water.
The brain registers thirst only when IT is about to be impacted. Often this manifests as hunger not the thirst we feel after exercise or exertion. Instead of reaching for a snack, try a glass of water first. If the brain registers dehydration last on the body’s hierarchy, this means that every other organ is working on minimal hydration levels. Some physical side affects of this is constipation, muscle aches, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, lower back pain and headaches. Research is now linking dehydration to other health issues which include urinary tract infections, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, some allergies, forms of depression and STRESS.
Stress has become a part of daily life. To combat this many exercise, take Mindful moments, read and listen to music. While some drink heavily, eat fish and chips and go shopping. There are many strategies that people use. Obviously, some have longer-term physical and mental upsides than others! Seldom, do I see a stressed person reach for a glass of water. However, I want to propose the following –
Stress leads to dehydration and dehydration leads to stress.
Dealing with stress and experiencing dehydration leads to the same physical response pattern in the body, that of fight or flight. Both mobilise and release hormones (endorphins, cortisone release factor, prolactin and vasopressin) to deal with the situation (whether, socially called for or not). Road rage is a common example of this. On a journey, we don’t drink enough because we don’t want to stop. Driving does throw up unusual (stressful) situations that the body can quickly turn into a fight or flight issue. Whether we feel it and act on it (with bad language, thumping the steering wheel or something more aggressive), deep down we often realise the irrationality of it (even if it is later) and can’t control it.
A dehydrated person may find it difficult to cope with more than one thing and will lose concentration easily. They are more than likely quick to anger. My children respond to dehydration in the following way – they become tearful and angry. They lose perspective and become tunnel visioned. My teenagers lose motivation, they are quickly angry and irrational. A glass of water (and a cuddle) later, they are back on track. I am the same!
If you would like more information or would prefer a consultation please contact me.
The festivities and indulgences of December have wound down and with the new year there is often a sense of renewed purpose and ‘things to get on with’. A new year, a new you! So is the ‘January Detox’ the right approach to January?
After the December late nights, the extra portions, the joyous Christmas goodies and the flow of alcohol we want to feel a freshness and vitality that a raw food diet or a green juice cleanse or even a short fasting period can give us. The question I offer up is ‘why is this so hard to stick to in January?’ Because TIMING is key to detoxing the body and spring-cleaning our systems.
In September, I wrote about the Equinox and the shift in energy from Summer to Autumn and Winter. This is a time of contraction when the body needs to slow down, warm up and regroup. The Yule time, the Winter Solstice and Christmas are traditionally ‘festivals of light’ and colour to break the darkness of winter and give celebration to a turning point in the calendar (as well as our religious and family beliefs). From the 21st December our days are getting lighter by a minute until we reach the 21st June, our longest day, and our days ebb again.
So what can we do to in January to recover from an exciting December? Rest, recover, nourish and rejuvenate and the key elements for January.
If you can, sleep more than 6 hours a night. Reduce your acidity by reducing your heavy meats, alcohol and caffeine and support your liver with zinc and vitamin B supplements. A raw food diet and green juicing can be very unappealing in January, but as the year warms up, people typically incorporate this into their meals. Instead, nourish with casseroles, stews, slow cooked foods, soaked rice and soups. The root vegetables of this season fit the needs of the body - parsnips, carrots and squashes while the greener vegetables, cabbages, cauliflower and leeks support the immune system. These hardy vegetables are appropriate for Winter and teamed with onions, garlic and aromatic herbs provide an extra nutritional boost to fight off colds and flu’s. Moreover, go gently through January and be kind to yourself.
Learn more about how to gently nurture the body and mind through the colder months and prepare to detox at a workshop hosted by Julie Walshe and I in the evening of 24th January - Women’s Nutrition and Meditation Workshop. Contact me for more details.
Your immune system is your body’s first line of defence, especially as the colder seasons approach. Most people imagine the immune system to be made up of an army of white blood cells, which go into battle when bacteria or viruses ‘invade’. However, your whole body is effectively your immune system. Your skin, your digestive tract, your stomach acid, your lymphatic system, the hairs in your nose and ears … and, yes your leucocytes, the fighting white blood cells. There is no doubt that autumn and the return to school and work brings a cacophony of illnesses; colds and flu’s, stomach bugs and chest infections. To support our immunity we need to consume zinc-rich foods, like green beans and brussels sprouts and uber zinc packed pumpkin seeds. Roast them, don’t waste them.
But the true STARS of autumn and winter are the alliums, most importantly, the humble onion and garlic. In there organic form they are packed tightly with anti -inflammatory phytonutrients and flavonoids, these detoxify, are highly anti-inflammatory and work as natural antibiotics for colds and flu’s. Onions hold there qualities when cooked (unlike many other vegetables where phytonutrients are leached out during cooking), while garlic is better used raw! Instead of cooking your onion and garlic together at the start of a dish, leave your garlic until last, use a garlic press and squeeze it into your soups, stroganoffs and casseroles. The flavour is just as rewarding and the benefits are far more medicinal.
My family are prone to winter coughs so I’m including our cough medicine recipe, this tastes much better than pharmacy bought syrups and you know exactly what is in it, definitely no preservatives!
Onion & Honey Cough Medicine
1 organic onion
Raw runny honey – to cover
An airtight jar
Slice your onion into rings. Put these into the jar. Cover with raw honey. Seal the jar tightly. Leave at room temperature over night.
Dosage: 1-2 tsp hourly or as required.
This cough medicine will last for 2 days.
Enjoy the autumn and the winding down this season brings, but support your immune system so bacteria and virus’ have no place in your body to manifest into nasty illnesses.
We have many traditions surrounding the start of autumn, the Harvest Moon, the Harvest Festival and the Autumn Equinox. All are tied delightfully together with producing food, harvesting food and celebrating the abundance of summer. This year the Harvest Moon was the 16th September. Thought to be the brightest and clearest of the full moons it allows farmers to mark their calendar and extends their day light hours to gather the crops before the weather changes. The Harvest Festival follows soon after to mark the end of one season and its hard work and the start of another. This movement into autumn is clearly denoted by the Autumn Equinox, this year on the 22nd September. This day is of equal day and night and gradually daylight decreases until the December Winter Solstice. And, so marks our cooler seasons. The food that is grown and seasonally available during autumn transitions from leafy and green; like broccoli and corn to hardy and starchy; like carrots and squash. This is reflective of what our bodies need and crave during the colder months; we want to eat warming, nourishing foods like soups, stews and casseroles. Chinese philosophy links the changing seasons and human energy beautifully. In the summer our energy is expansive and extraverted, while in the winter it contracts and closes as if to hibernate. To visualize this, imagine expansive spring and summer energy running from your toes, up your torso, over your head and down your back. While in autumn and winter it switches and runs from your heals, up your back, over your head and down to your toes in a closing down and conserving way. Similarly, the vegetables we consume during autumn and winter are generally grown under the ground (parsnips, carrots, turnips, onions, garlic) or are of a hardy nature to endure frosts and extreme cold (pumpkins, squash, leeks, kale, cabbages). Most are extremely immune boasting, (full of vitamin C, zinc, iron, calcium, potassium vitamin A and vitamin B), they are fibrous and all are nourishing and filling. Enjoy the harvest that autumn provides.
Paula is an avid writer and enjoys working with food and words.