After the year we’ve had so far, you’d be forgiven for losing your connection to a sense of balance and the ability to tune into your body to find your sense of calm and feel grounded. Living with Covid in big cities as so many of us do in the UK, has often felt like walking an uncertain tightrope, and of course the pandemic itself has affected us all in very different ways.
As we’re shifting into the new season, it’s time to look towards our nutrition, reconnect with nature, and reset our lifestyle habits to help prepare our bodies and minds for the Autumnal changes ahead….
Nutrients to nourish and nurture: eating with the season.
Take the lead from Mother Nature who has a knack for providing exactly what our bodies need and when.
Root vegetables are in themselves very grounding, as their name suggests. The roots that lie beneath these vegetables provide an anchor deep down in the ground and form a solid foundation for their growth. Embrace dietary powerhouses such as carrots, parsnips, ginger, pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes to help us connect to nature itself and boost our essential immune-supporting antioxidants such as alpha and beta carotene, the building blocks of Vitamin A, fibre, vitamin C, K,B and E. I love orange-hued spicy root veg soups and adding sweet potato and ginger to warming Autumnal lentil dahl.
Mushrooms: I am a huge fan of mushrooms all year round, but they come into their own in Autumn. Like root vegetables, they can provide a very real connection to the earth. The fungi kingdom has survived for millennia by adapting to ever changing climates & environments - they were here long before us and will be here long after. Did you know that fungi have built an underground web-like connection with its branching threads, referred to as ‘the internet of nature’, that some say the world wide web was based on? Basically tnature’s version of the internet, right under our feet. Penicillin was even developed originally from a fungi and I frequently see the benefits in clinic of using bespoke mushrooms for their anti-tumour, immuno-modulating, anti-viral and anti-parasitic properties.
We have all heard lots about Vitamin D in recent months as connected to Covid related immune support. Mushrooms naturally contain some Vitamin D, but you can supercharge your magic mushrooms by simply exposing them to sunlight while we still have it. Placing any type of mushrooms in the sun between 10am-3p for between 30-60 mins to multiply their vitamin D content by up to tenfold. They also have many other immune supporting properties so one to boost this time of year. I love eating them warm with organic eggs and piles of fresh herbs for a Sunday brunch.
Harness tried and tested herbs to encourage your calm
Ashwagandha is one of my favourite adaptogenic herbs which can work in harmony with your body to support and manage the way our body reacts to the everyday stresses and stressors that can destabilise us. There are numerous papers and studies to suggest it’s efficacy with reducing cortisol the stress hormone, and it may even reduce insomnia, fatigue, and the symptoms of depression but more research is needed in these areas. I see first hand the way it works in clinic to help many of my clients during times of stress, poor sleep or hormonal imbalance.
The Shatavari root has been used in traditional medicine to help restore vitality, support immunity and studies have indicated it’s strong antidepressant properties and I find it works well alongside some of these other herbs.
Lemon balm leaf is another favourite that has been linked to relieving stress, reducing anxiety, boosting brain function and assisting with sleep. I often recommend it in supplements and tinctures to my clients and it’s also wonderfully soothing when drunk as herbal tea - especially now that we need more warming up as we approach Autumn.
Life Armour’s Drops of Balance contains some of these herbs in an effective yet gentle formula to help find your balance again. A sample of Drops of Balance is shipped with every sleep/wake-up order until the end of September!
Refresh and renew vital lifestyle habits
Here and now: Research has shown us that mindfulness meditation can reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression on a cellular and systemic level in our bodies. We know that chronic stress can tax both our immunity and our adrenal function, and when prolonged, it can drive more severe signs and symptoms like anxiety, depression, fatigue and sleep disturbance just to name a few. Meditation can work by switching off the emotional centre of the brain and encourage our brains to stay grounded where we are better able to engage the rational part of our brains, helping us make better decisions, balance our emotions, be more resilient to stress, and improve systemic stress biomarkers. Just 5-10 mins of meditation a day can make a huge impact on retraining your brain and body and there are so many accessible apps like Calm or Headpsace available to try.
Get your zzzz’s: Sleep is vital in maintaining physical and mental health and we have been reminded in recent months that quality sleep plays a huge part in a strong immune system to help our bodies fight off infection and disease. Poor sleep is so common with clients in my clinic, and has become a much bigger problem with the onset of the pandemic.
Remember some the golden rules when it comes to sleep - I like to encourage my clients to find some natural light on waking to expose the eyes’ retina to, which helps regulate our circadian rhythm, can raise body temperature to normal (after a slight reduction during sleep), and may improve brain function & alertness—helping mood and vitality.
Lumie lights are a great hack that work so well for lots of my clients because no matter what season we’re in, Lumie sleep/wake-up ranges ranges mimic the light and colour of a real sunrise so when you open your eyes you feel properly awake and refreshed. This can help reset dysfunctional adrenal patterns, help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and has even been shown to boost mood, energy and productivity levels for the rest of the day.
If you’re finding it hard to nod off, I find magnesium works wonders to wind down for sleep - either via food sources like pumpkin seeds or almonds or in a body lotion or supplement. Remember to switch off blue-light emitting tech at least 1 hour before bed, and keep your phone out of your bedroom.
Movement: For some people, the change in season may make you feel more tired, but remember it’s so important to keep moving as maintaining an active lifestyle in the Autumn will strengthen your immunity and can mitigate the effects of stress. Listen to your body and do what feels right whether that’s hot & sweaty HIIT or restoring balance and replenishing energy with more restorative exercise like yoga, Tai Chi and pilates which are necessary to keep our bodies fluid and functional but latest studies show we should aim to move your body for a minimum of 40 mins each day to eliminate most health risks associated with sitting.
Sara Jackson is a naturopath, nutritionist, home cook and health writer.