Fall is here! That means the leaves are falling, the rain is upon us, and all things pumpkin.
The changing of the season brings new cycles in weather and in our health.
In Chinese Medicine, fall is the season of the element metal, which is associated with the lungs and large intestine. Last week on the blog, I discussed Herbs for Lung Health. Be sure to check that out if you missed it.
“The lungs and the large intestine are both organs that must stay clean for their best function, and often have difficulty when they are contaminated by environmental pollutants of cities, by smoking habits, and by the dietary excesses common to the American culture”, Elson Haas in his book, Staying Health With the Seasons (one of my favorite books—available used at Powell’s).
Here in Portland, our lungs are already under stress from smoke exposure from the recent forest fires. And, most of us haven’t been eating our best since the beginning of COVID-19.
Now is the perfect time to pay attention to what we’re breathing and what we’re eating, and how we’re caring for our lungs and large intestine.
For the Lungs:
~Read the blog from last week and consider incorporating an herbal infusion into your daily life.
~Deep breathing, like 4:7:8 Breathing, a simple breathing technique where you inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and breathe out for 8 counts, then repeat 4 times. Read here to learn more.
~Get fresh air (now that we can). How much fresh air are you getting every week? Try to get outside at least 30 minutes every day.
For the Large Intestine:
~Make sure you’re having a bowel movement at least daily. If you’re not, first check in with your water intake. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. Next, what about fiber? The Rainbow Diet is an easy way to add more fiber in the form of colorful fruits and vegetables.
~Pay attention to what Mr. Haas calls, “congesting foods”, like meats, dairy, refined foods, and foods high in sugar. These foods can slow movement in the large intestine and keep you from detoxifying properly.
~Keep your microbiome (good bacteria balance) happy. Eat some foods that contain good bacteria like kombucha and sauerkraut.
As far as seasonal eating, it’s pretty obvious, eat what’s in season.
It’s the harvest, so tomatoes, peppers, squashes, and fresh herbs abound. If you can shop the farmer’s market, it will be obvious what’s fresh and available. I love to throw everything together into soups and stews.
What’s your body wanting right now? Can you slow down and listen?
The last piece of moving into fall has to do with living our best way of way of living. It’s about allowing yourself to do what feels best to you and be the person you most want to be. I’m going to go into more detail in my Sacred Sundays newsletter this week. This newsletter focuses on the mind-body aspects of health and healing. If you’re not signed up, you can do that here.
Fall is the time when the dark returns and we get to start turning more inward. Take a moment to ask what you need at this time.
Let your breath and your food move through you with ease and use these tips if any stagnation occurs.
Questions, comments? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below and share this blog with your friends.
This week, I was able to attend a webinar hosted by the American Herbalists Guild called “Evolving Therapeutic Strategies in the Stages of COVID-19” with Registered Herbalist, Paul Bergner. Paul is known for his decades of herbal medical experience and his expertise as a researcher and his teaching through his school, the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism.
Paul has been gathering information regarding coronavirus since its appearance this winter, including his own experience with the virus. The webinar was to inform us of the research being conducted and effective treatments herbalists are using to reduce duration of symptoms and decrease the likelihood of death from contracting the virus. Thanks to Paul, I am able to share some of this information with you.
Paul introduced us to 5 stages of the virus presentation. Stages 2-4 were what you would expect: mild symptoms moving to more severe symptoms. Stage 1 surprised me and changed my thinking about this situation.
This is how he describes Stage 1: “Stage 1: Uninfected but vulnerable or at-risk from nutritional status, disease status, lifestyle factors, and nutritional deficiencies.”
Unfortunately, this is most of the United States. This means that a very large percentage of us are already in Stage 1 of coronavirus because of our current health statuses, and we are all at risk for exposure because the numbers of positive tests continue to grow in most places.
Paul went on to describe the basics of preventing Stage 1 with the following prevention strategies: ~Adjusting lifestyle, sleep, and activity levels ~Managing or improving comobidities (chronic diseases that increase risk), such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic breathing issues. ~Correcting deficiencies of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, zinc, and selenium ~Normalizing omega-3 fatty acid status
If you’ve been following my blog, this should all sound very familiar as I’ve been talking about all of these from the beginning, and this list of preventions are the main focuses of all my work as an Integrative Medicine Nurse Practitioner.
In New York, high blood pressure was the greatest comorbidity with diabetes and obesity coming in 2nd and 3rd. In the UK, chronic heart disease was the highest comorbidity with diabetes and chronic lung disease following close behind.
I’ve also heard the argument that this is an old person’s virus, but interestingly, 25% of the hospitalizations in New York were under 52 years old. With myself coming in at 47, this gives me pause.
Paul also gave us the recent data on the correlation between COVID-19 and Vitamin D status. In the integrative world, we have been following the data on Vitamin D for a long time. We have seen it’s effectiveness in the prevention of respiratory illness. It seems that Vitamin D might actually help the body recognize invaders like the coronavirus more effectively so that the immune system can put up a defensive front more quickly and efficiently.
There are currently 11 formal trials looking at COVID-19 and Vitamin D. While we’re not yet sure if Vitamin D is effective in the cure of COVID-19, we are becoming more sure that having an optimal Vitamin D level lessens the severity of the symptoms related to COVID-19. It seems really strange to me that the powers that be are not promoting this simple and cost-effective prevention strategy.
The webinar went on to describe herbal and nutritional treatment strategies for treating COVID-19 symptoms. I’m very grateful for all this information and I’m stocking my apothecary with further remedies should the need arise for my patients.
The takeaway from all of this is that we need to be thinking of our current health status as an actual stage of coronavirus. If you are at risk because of nutritional deficiencies, comorbidities, or the lifestyle factors you’re currently choosing, now is the time to act!
Comorbidities such as high blood pressure and diabetes often go unnoticed until the symptoms because obvious. When is the last time you had blood work done? Do you know your Vitamin D status? Are you continuing with lifestyle choices that are reducing your chance of fighting this virus should you become infected?
I highly recommend seeing an integrative/holistic/functional medicine practitioner near you. In our work, we look at the whole person (all the risk factors for coronavirus) and help you create a sustainable plan for optimal function of your systems, including your immune system. If you are in Portland, I can help.
It’s not too late to begin moving yourself out of Stage 1. You could still contract the virus and get symptoms, but the data is showing that those who don’t start out in any stage at all are having the greatest chance of less severe symptoms and reduced chance of dying from this novel virus.
To request a new patient appointment with me here at FLOURISH, please submit this form. If you don’t live near me, please reach out to someone in your area soon. And, of course, share this post with friends who need this information too!
There are many plant allies coming up in our yards right now. Here are 3 of my favorites:
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
One of the first spring green plants to arrive is dandelion. Yes, those pesky plants that seed so easily and many work very hard to eradicate. They are such a great example of resilience and determination. Dandelions are full of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C, and K and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. They are very bitter, thus they increase bile flow from the liver and gallbladder to help relieve whole body congestion and improve digestion. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, cooked in olive oil, added to your green smoothie, or made into tea.
Violet (Viola odorata)
Another plant that grows abundantly in this area is violet. Violet leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and C. Violet is known to be a blood purifier and cleanser for the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that rid the body of toxins and wastes. Taking violet after winter may assist the body to cleanse any leftover toxins for a more energetic spring. When harvesting, you can use the whole plant, or just the leaves and the top of the stem. The thin roots are particularly known to be powerful for lymph cleansing. I find them especially helpful for benign lumps and cysts in the breast tissue.
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
In my yard, I also have a plant many consider a another annoying weed, Cleavers. Cleavers have been used historically for the lymphatic system. They are known to drain swollen glands and cleanse the system. They have long been used to treat skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis and as an external poultice for wounds and sores. They have also been used to soothe irritation in the bladder. You’ll know you’ve got the right one when it sticks to your clothes.
Harvesting tips and reminders:
Save the environment and the plants, and don’t spray your yard! Always be sure you are harvesting from a clean and untreated area.
I let my dandelions grow like crazy and use them all season long. In fact, I blow the seeds around my garden. I also let the violets grow and use them as a ground cover around my other herbs.
Please be absolutely sure of the identification of plants before taking them internally.
See your healthcare provider for health issues. This is not mean to be medical advice, simply thoughts about additions to your diet.
Please share this post with your friends so we can all reap the benefits of our spring lawns.
Also be sure to sign-up for the FLOURISH newsletter on the bottom of this page for weekly integrative health and wellness tips.
Yesterday I was trying to sit out on my deck and enjoy the beautiful day, but the pollen was everywhere. I could feel it in my throat and it made my eyes burn. I felt like I had a coating of it all over me, not to mention how much accumulated on my devices in a very short time.
My symptoms don’t usually go much farther than a scratchy throat and a dry cough at night. I attribute the mildness to starting to take stinging nettle early in the season. Nettle seems to work better if you start it before the allergy season begins, usually around 4-6 weeks before. Also, in order for nettles to work for your allergies, it has to have the stinging component intact. This means you need to take it in the form of a fresh extract or freeze-dried capsules. Drinking nettle tea is great for a lot of things, but not allergies.
If you didn’t start your nettles early enough, take note for next year. Mark your calendar now. Yes, stop a second and put it in your phone or you’ll forget as soon as you close this page.
Okay, so what else can you do if your symptoms have started?
Here are some of my most used allergy remedies. As always, if you take other medications or have health issues or concerns, please ask your health care provider before making any changes to your healthcare regimen.
Eliminate or Limit Dairy:
Dairy can be very mucus forming for a lot of people. I find that many of my patients have less allergy symptoms when they quit or decrease their dairy intake before and during allergy season. Foods high in dairy include cow milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and half-n-half.
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and immune booster. During allergy season, you can greatly increase your dose. Most adults do fine with around 5,000mg daily in divided doses. You always know you took too much C if you get loose stools.
Quercetin is found natural in foods such as onions, broccoli, apples, berries, and grapes. It has been studied for its effectiveness to block histamine (what your body releases when exposed to things you’re allergic to) and stop the inflammation that happens in the body with allergies. You can increase foods high in quercetin and/or supplement between 500-1000mg/day for adults.
Bromelain is a plant enzyme found in pineapple. It’s helpful to take with quercetin as it seems to help with absorption. Bromelain is known to be anti-inflammatory, so can help with swelling in the sinus passages and throat. It’s often found in allergy supplements with quercetin. On its own, the adult dose is 100-400mg daily.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is the precursor to glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the body. It seems to thin mucus, so it makes it easier to blow your nose and is an expectorant to assist you in coughing out any mucus in the lungs. The typical adult dose of NAC is around 400mg daily.
Because I’m an integrative (combine modern, conventional medicine with natural medicine) practitioner, I always present my clients with all possible choices. Sometimes over-the-counter drugs, like Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are very helpful. If you choose to take any of these drugs, be aware that they can reduce your essential fatty acids, so be sure to eat fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and other foods high in the omegas. Also watch out for antihistamines that end with -D. These usually contain pseudoephedrine, which can raise blood pressure, cause issues with some medications, and give you a “racing ” heart feeling.
Also, be careful with taking too much Benadryl. This drug crosses the blood-brain barrier, so over time could affect your brain and mental state and should be used with extreme caution in the elderly.
If you’re allergies are very severe every year, there may be other underlying health issues that need addressing. I’d be more than happy to help you explore this in an appointment at my clinic. You can access my schedule here.
Take great care and I hope this allergy season passes with ease for you!
Please share this post with your friends and family who might need some help with their allergies right now.
At the start of the new year, I went for a walk in the woods near my home. I started in as usual on my power walk, but then something inside of my nudged me to slow down. I began intentionally moving my feet one step at a time. All of my senses became heightened and I started listening deeply to the water moving in the creek, the birds chirping around me, and the leaves rustling on the trees. I could smell the pine scent of each tree. At that moment everything sounded and smelled differently than it had before.
What was different about this moment? Was it simply just slowing down to “smell the roses” if you will? No, this was different. It was about the intention. As I slowed down to take each step separately, the world seemed to open itself up to me. It was the intention of moving each step forward one at a time that was doing it. When I walked with intention, good things came to me.
At that moment, I declared 2018 to be my Year of Intention. Since that day, I have been trying to do everything I do with intention, from what I eat and drink to what I work on, to what I choose to do with my time. And, it’s working. Food and drink taste better and feel better in my body. My work flows more freely and creatively. My housework is more fun.
It takes a lot of awareness to do this. It’s not easy. When I forget and clamor through something, it doesn’t feel as good, not as aligned. I am becoming quickly aware of that, too.
What needs more intention in your life? What would it look like to purposely do each step of your day? Give it a try and see what good things will come to you. I would love to hear what happens….