Written by: Amanda Cressman, N.D.
This time of year holds a lot – a lot of excitement and anticipation for festivals, parties, celebrations and events. Amongst all this, there can be many who are feeling overwhelmed and stressed from the expectations placed upon them by others and most importantly, by themselves.
This past week has been an interesting one for myself and for many that I’ve spoken with. The changing of the season to real Autumn weather has been hard – many have colds and coughs, the reminder that a new season is now here, where the nights are quickly dark, the wind is sometimes harsh and the temperatures are dropping, making it a little less easy to be outside.
This is a wonderful time to come back to centre, back to self and remember some key things you can do to support your health for a healthier and more comfortable winter season.
This week we are talking about healthy food choices, but I want to take a moment to highlight some key foundational pieces to health that will be highlighted in the coming weeks.
Healthy Food Choices
Digesting your Food/Choices
Digesting your Emotional Experience
Detoxifying your World
Giving your Body the Rest it needs
Moving Stress Out
Although these may seem obvious, they are surprisingly hard to do and even more surprisingly have been forgotten by many amongst our busy world. I’m always amazed at how many of us, myself included have forgotten simple truths, such as – ensuring you are outside, daily…even for a few moments, taking at least one deep breath in a day, ensuring you are eliminating your food regularly, having a daily bowel movement, letting yourself feel emotions when they come up or at least soon after to honour what has been, sweating regularly, doing something you enjoy every day, remembering your body needs to sleep and loves routine of familiar bedtimes, etc…the list goes on and on. When things are off in our health, it can be a great opportunity to reflect and reassess priorities and goals for oneself. For many of us, we know what to do but the doing can be difficult. Like Dr. Seuss said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
So, today’s focus is healthy food choices. This is one that we are all confronted with daily, yet continues to be hard to accomplish in a world where food prep takes more time than what most people have and the convenience of prepared foods is becoming easier and more affordable.
So, I don’t like to cook. It doesn’t come naturally, I’m not super good at it and I just haven’t ever enjoyed it. I don’t enjoy grocery shopping and find it always just takes way more time than I allot for it and thinking about new and exciting foods is stressful for me. I am working at changing this because when healthy food choices don’t work out, the following takes place.
BAD FOOD CHOICES = IMBALANCED BLOOD SUGAR = INCREASED CRAVINGS FOR CARBOHYDRATES = INCREASED INTAKE OF CARBOHYDRATES = LACK OF DRIVE/AMBITION = MOODINESS = SHAME AND SELF LOATHING FOR BAD FOOD CHOICES.
Obviously, not a great place to be but one that many experience, sometimes daily. And it can be avoided but it takes looking at your day/week honestly and prioritizing healthy food choices to ensure blood sugar is balanced, helping mood, mental focus, digestion and all the other systems that are positively supported when good foods come in to your body.
I could go on about the benefits of eating local or in-season or organic or non GMO foods…that is all great, but first, looking at the foundations of health, I think it’s important to focus on eating regularly and to do so with whole foods…ideally foods that you or someone you know have prepared.
There are many ways to do this. In our house we have a weekly menu chart with foods picked out for each day and the designated cook who will make it. This ensures all foods are purchased for the week on Sunday, as coming to Wednesday night and seeing no vegetables left in your fridge is a sure fire way to eating poorly and generally thereafter feeling poorly. When we do this, everything is easier and less stressed when it comes to food choices.
Many apps are available to help with this and luckily we live in an era of phenomenal online recipe bloggers, creating new and healthy recipes for all different types of dietary plans and preferences. I am so grateful for this as I need real recipes and real advice to ensure I can serve something that is edible and delicious.
One thing we enjoy doing at TouchStone Health is putting together meal plans to help with this. Melanie Reidl, N.D. and myself put together meal plans for those wanting support. We can put together plans for various dietary needs, health or weight goals. My favourite parts of the plan are knowing it’s all figured out for the week, so no extra mental work is needed trying to be creative mid-week. And the best part is the shopping list, knowing all that is needed before the week begins is purchased or available, brings peace to my mind. I’ve attached below a 3-day Paleo Plan to show how it works. Please use it, hoping the recipes are easy to work with, delicious and create a more peaceful experience in the kitchen, even if just for 3 days.
We can put together these plans for existing patients, with more information about the meal plans, here.
Even doing just this – ensuring you are eating Whole, healthy foods is a major piece in the bedrock of your foundation of health. Your body, your mind and your emotional health will all benefit…helping you digest the rest of this busy world we live in more easily.
With the start of fall, there is so much beauty to enjoy. However, along with fall colours and apples, cold and flu season has begun. To help you avoid your Kleenex box, I will share my top 5 tactics to aid in avoiding cold and flu viruses!
1) Sleep + Minimize Stress – I’ve seen it time and time again, those who skip on sleep and go through stressful weeks end up sick. Stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible, and incorporate stress reducing activities and mindfulness into your daily routine.
2) Avoid Sugar, Refined Carbohydrates + Alcohol - Sugar and high glycemic index foods cause a depression in white blood cell count within 12 hours of consuming them. This means you’re more likely to fall sick since your body doesn’t have the same defences.
3) Eat Foods with Protein, Zinc, Selenium, and Vitamin C – Each of the nutrients listed has an important role in immunity. A mindfully planned whole foods diet will include them, however if you’d like more direction with this, we can create a meal plan for you that includes the right immunity super foods!
4) Supplement with Vitamin D3 in Therapeutic Doses – With less sunlight and lower UV exposure in the fall/winter, it is important to supplement with Vitamin D3 at a therapeutic dose that will give your immune system what it needs.
5) Keep Your Gut Healthy – Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods, avoid sugar, and supplement with specific probiotic strains to keep your microbiome healthy. The healthier your gut/microbiome is, the better your defences will be against viruses + bacteria.
***If cold/flu symptoms do come on, there are lots of amazing natural remedies that can expedite your recovery and have you feeling better! Schedule to see Dr. Nevena (who is covering for Melanie’s maternity leave) if you need some naturopathic support to fight a cold/flu or to prevent recurrent infections this fall.
As the colder air and shorter days of Fall arrive, our patterns of exercise, diet, and sleep change. We are more prone to colds and flu. These seasonal changes can affect our immune system and it is therefore important to adjust our daily patterns during this season:
Diet——> Eating warmer foods (soups, stews, etc) helps strengthens the immune system. Stay away from raw vegetables and cold foods at this time of the year as it will weaken the immune system. Limit your sugar intake but incorporate “sweet and warm” foods like squash, pumpkin, and cinnamon. Make sure you are drinking enough water.
Stay Warm ——> Make sure your head, upper back neck, and feet especially stay warm. A warm body helps protect itself from outside “pathogens”.
Manage Stress ——> Stress weakens the immune system
Exercise ——> During the colder months most people tend to exercise less. Add Yoga and stretching into your exercise routine. Exercise help keep the circulation moving and helps decrease stress levels.
Sleep——> As the daylight hours get shorter, it is important to allow yourself to get more sleep. Getting adequate sleeps is very important to help manage stress, keep your body strong, and therefore keep your immune system strong.
-Help prevent colds and flu by boosting your immune system
-Can help you recover from a cold or flu faster if you are already sick
-Reduce chills, fever and body aches
-Relieve sore throat and congestion
-Can help relieve stress
-Can help stop or reduce upper respiratory symptoms
-Can help strengthen the immune system
-Calms the Nervous System
-Improves Blood and Lymphatic circulation
-Can help clear sinus congestion and sinus headaches
We live in an interesting world where we are inundated. Inundated with images, busyness and lots of opinions on what we should be doing, eating, looking like, feeling like and thinking like. I don’t know about you, but I find it overwhelming at times. I historically loved listening to podcasts and generally am inspired by entrepreneurial individuals who have worked hard to be who they are against what society has told them is possible or “normal.” But lately these podcasts and interviews have been demotivating as there seems to be this trend of pressure. Pressure to be exceptional, pressure to be unique, pressure to have it all together and pressure to be special. Although I believe in many of these messages and appreciate the inspiration, I also think they are not balanced and can cause undue stress to individuals if we perceive ourselves to not be hitting the mark.
I love looking at health and life in the framework of seasons. It seems to be a common analogy that many individuals are using these days- to honour the variety and contrasting experiences we have in life to the four seasons. Spring season refers to the beginning of something where excitement and opportunity exist. Summer is a flourishing time where manifestation and abundance are thriving. Autumn is where change is approaching and what was once flourishing is now diminishing. And Winter where there is no growth but stagnation, creating a time for reflection and renewal.
What I have learned…in a rather difficult way is that we are all in different seasons at different times. Although this seems obvious, it’s hard when you are in a winter season of your life and someone else is in their spring. The comparisons can be difficult and social media takes this to a whole new level where everyone appears to be in the most exciting, most abundant time of their lives…their summer season.
So many of our self help books/podcasts/blogs are about getting you and keeping you in your summer season…which is impossible, unrealistic and goes back to creating more pressure. Pressure to be on, to be abundant and joyful at all times. This is unbalanced and a request that isn’t made by Mother Nature but from and to ourselves.
Balance for me, is the key to health and wellness. Whether that’s balance in your physical body, your mental mind or your emotional heart…balance keeps the whole system in check and this balance needs each season to happen for totality of health. We’ve somehow lost that here in our culture…specifically the work culture of Kitchener Waterloo, where in many industries performance and achievement are valued over other virtues. I see many people in their winter season – pushing themselves beyond what is healthy to keep on top, to help stay relevant or valued. When people feel they are in a fall or winter season, it’s often met with feelings of inferiority, that something needs fixing or changing when in actuality it may be a time for more rest, for recuperation and for reflection. But there are times when things are off balance too…even drastically so, where support and intervention are necessary. What’s important is that if you do find yourself in a fall/winter season of life, that you can give the time and space needed to honour that…finding your way back to balance.
For someone who has recently been in her “winter season” for awhile, due to life circumstances of grief, loss and change…it can feel like failure at times when I’m not doing as much as I historically could do but I need to stop and remind myself that this is only a season, that it will pass as all seasons do and I will come back to a spring season once again….if I take the time to reflect, to support my body and mind, to help set the stage to heal and for renewal.
Balance, I feel is becoming a lost state but one that is the foundation for wellbeing. If the analogy of seasons is a match for you, check in to where you are presently…to where you have been and see if there are things you can do to nurture that specific season. Through doing so, you will create the balance your being is needing to create health and wellness. Just like with Mother Nature, you can’t be in summer season all the time, if so, things would fall apart and you’d miss out on all the pleasures that the other seasons provide.
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