Winter to Spring Transitions | Safeguarding Immunity against Common Spring Illnesses
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Winter to Spring Transitions | Safeguarding Immunity against Common Spring Illnesses
Adapting your food choices to match seasonal changes is the most thoughtful way to stay healthy.
By Mark Zuleger-Thyss
Each new season provokes strong emotional responses within us. These seasonal "experiences" are connected to how humans evolved. Consuming seasonal foods provides the body and mind with the nutrients they need for healthy digestion and detoxification.
The Deeply Nature-connected Person
Abundant Delicacies in Springtime
You can trust plants – they will look after you. Gardens are not just places of tranquil refuge; you have a fundamental human right to plants, and your connection, stewardship, and desire to promote reciprocity are essential. Planting a seed is a powerful act of hope for the future.
Our diet as a species has changed as we have evolved. Fresh home-grown greens and supplies of foods have been replaced with store-bought fruits and vegetables, often in pre-packaged form. Our link to growing seasonal food has mostly been lost. Unfortunately, for some, any connection to the deeper lessons of the seasons is weak and momentary.
Connecting with the spirituality of nature is a growing desire among many people today. And there is no better place to start than the rhythm of the seasons. Our world moves to a glorious, natural, and cyclical rhythm. The seasons, moon cycles, and life stages – beg our food and eating habits to flow with them. So, harmonizing our diets with the seasons is not a new concept.
Seasonal eating means keeping up with the Earth's natural flow of the ever-changing annual harvest. Eating according to the seasons is about eating the fruits and vegetables that are available and local during that time of the year.
We live in communities, and our well-being affects others, so our personal health is not singular. Plants play a big part in our health, so it is essential to consider our connection to the land. Moreover, the natural world has excellent lessons for modern humans.
The arrival of spring brings warmer breezes, blossoming flowers and trees, and longer days. Spring is also a great time to enjoy the bounty of the spring harvest.
Connected to the Land
Outgrown and separated from Nature?
Humans today often feel superior, more innovative, and smarter than nature – above nature. We have dominion over everything; it's all our birthright, and the Earth and all its resources are ours to do whatever we please. These attitudes allow us to further disconnect from the actual picture and see the patterns in nature we belong to. We are a part of nature – not apart from it.
The food we cultivate and consume is our most primal connection to the Earth and soil. The health of the soil feeds our plants, and this knowledge intimates the importance of finding balance and reciprocity.
Going back to ancient times, health and religion were intimately connected. Holy men and healers were often the same person. The words holiness and healing stem from a common root. Good health was seen as being in tune with the forces of nature, while illness resulted from some imbalance of the same forces.
The idea that health is tied to universal forces was a central belief of many alternative healers of yesteryear. It surfaces in sources as distant from one another as China's Tao-te Ching, written in the sixth century B.C., and the recorded observations of the Greek physician Hippocrates. For these early medical explorers, the goal of healing was to help the body attain a state of harmony, at which point it would heal itself.
To be sure, all these learned healers would agree that the first health regimen was food.
Seasons of Change
From Darkness and Inactivity to Light and Action
It is an ancient practice of traditional Chinese medicine to prepare for the upcoming season ahead of time. As the weather nudges us toward spring, it's a good time to lighten our foods and get moving to avoid typical spring health issues like allergies, colds, and achy joints. Experts in natural health point out how we can shift our diet from winter to spring for more vitality and health.
Immune System Slumps and Common Spring Illnesses
Plants play a big part in our personal health, which is directly linked to the planet's health. You can sense you are part of a far bigger pattern in nature when you understand plants make up the biome of the Earth.
Natural health professionals stress the importance of the human microbiome, the healthy bacteria living in our large intestine, making digestion, absorption, and immunity possible. A healthy gut underlies brain, organ, skin, and hair health and immunity
A depressed immune system function increases the susceptibility to disease from colds and flu to cancer. Optimal immune function requires a healthy diet rich in whole, natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts.
When the weather is dark, cold, and damp, you feel like staying in bed with a good book. Cold and flu season starts in late fall and can last until spring rains. During this time, we need nourishing, easily digestible foods for the prevention of illness and depression.
Colds are prolonged by congestion and poor digestion, resulting from deficient and indulgent eating. Once the holiday parties are over, though, we might continue to eat and drink in violation of any New Year's promises to get healthier than the previous year. Establishing a baseline of health supported by strong digestion ensures you can fight off illness and blue moods.
The environment heavily impacts our overall health. When we move from winter to spring, the temperature shift allows viruses and bacteria to flourish, which can then spread contagious diseases.
Additionally, spring is when we see plant life begin to bloom, which causes many of the most common allergens, including pollen, mold, and grass. While warm and beautiful, spring can also be the prime environment for allowing everything that helps illnesses to thrive.
Some common spring illnesses are allergies, colds, influenza, joint aches, fatigue, and depression. Respiratory diseases can often be dangerous for certain groups of people.
Flu or Influenza
Influenza—or the flu—is a common, contagious viral respiratory infection that can be serious for some people. The flu can cause fevers, body aches, and a sore throat. These symptoms often go away on their own within one week.
Anyone can catch the flu, yet people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and pregnancy increase their risk. Influenza viruses are passed from person to person through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Although you can catch the flu year-round, it's more prevalent during certain seasons.
The flu season typically begins in October, peaking over the winter months, and can last until May. There are close to one billion cases of the flu worldwide each year.
Flu viruses constantly change to evade immunity, allowing them to continue spreading. Among the hundreds of strains of the flu virus, there are two main types: A and B. However, adult influenza type A tends to be more common and severe.
Common Cold (Upper Respiratory Infection or URI)
The common cold is a respiratory tract infection caused by a virus. It typically comes with a runny or stuffy nose, a scratchy throat, and sneezing.
A cold begins with the incubation period, with symptoms starting two to three days later. A cold may last as long as two weeks, though symptoms typically improve during that time. If you are lucky, cold symptoms subside after seven days.
Children are most vulnerable to the common cold, which leads to more doctor visits and missed days from school and work than any other illness.
If your immune system is not robust, as is the case for children compared to adults, you are at greater risk when fighting cold germs.
Allergies & Seasonal Allergies
Allergies can be a real downer with all that sniffling and sneezing, and they are one of the most common chronic diseases. Allergies can be extremely frustrating if you don't know what's triggering your immune system.
Allergies occur when your body's immune system reacts to a foreign substance. Pollen, bee venom, pet dander, or a food might be recognized as harmful, and the body's immune system overreacts to it. The environment certainly contributes to this sensitivity, and if your parents have allergies, there is a good chance that you have them, too, as genes play a role.
Your immune system produces antibodies, but when you have allergies, it might identify a particular allergen as harmful, even though it isn't. When you encounter the allergen, these inappropriate immune reactions can inflame the skin, digestive system, sinuses, or airways.
The severity of allergies varies from person to person. They can be mildly irritating or serious, like anaphylaxis, which can be very dangerous.
Enliven & Animate with Vegetables
The Give of Spring Harvests
Vegetables genuinely do give us life. The word "vegetable" comes from the Latin vegetare, meaning 'to enliven or animate.'
So much evidence shows how effectively vegetables can prevent, protect, and treat many diseases. Leafy greens are excellent for the blood, heart, spleen, and gallbladder and are a good brain food and natural laxative.
Vegetables provide a broad range of nutrients and phytochemicals, especially fiber and carotenes of any food class.
Green leafy vegetables should become an essential part of your diet. For the most part, the darkest and most intense colors of green in vegetables tend to contain the highest levels of nutrients.
All vegetables, especially green leafy ones, provide abundant vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy immune system.
Changing your Diet by the Seasons
In the past, people used to eat what was available to them naturally; that meant that if something didn’t grow during a specific season, people didn’t get to eat it.
Eating naturally available food only during that specific season is an easy way to ensure you’re eating many different foods throughout the year. Switching your food often and having a more diverse diet improves gut diversity.
Food in season is also richer in nutrients and often tastes better since it has everything it needs to grow and thrive naturally.
Good Food Is Good Medicine
Spring Cleaning | New beginnings start with a fresh attitude
Don't worry about what foods you should eliminate; focus on all the delicious spring produce available. With warmer temperatures comes a host of vibrant, fresh, nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables waiting to grace your kitchen table.
The Benefits of Seasonal Eating
Leafy Greens, Spring Foods, and Herbs
Your body is made to keep itself healthy—it has ways to keep your organs working and blood pumping. Perhaps most importantly, it even has ways to keep itself detoxified.
The lymphatic system comprises your lungs, kidneys, and intestines—all your body's detox systems. But the real star is your liver, the organ responsible for converting toxic substances that enter the body into substances that can be eliminated naturally through excretion.
Green leafy vegetables help the liver get clean, keep cool, and stay fresh by boosting the flow of bile, which is both digestive and laxative.
Artichokes and Asparagus
Cabbage and Celery
Fennel and Kale
Leeks and Parsley
Radishes and Spinach
Watercress and Zucchini
Leafy greens and vegetables are what your body will crave coming out of winter. A lighter spring diet of seasonal greens will be a revelation as you see your energy levels rise.
Cleansing bitter green foods may help reduce allergies and harmful cholesterol. Choosing high-fiber greens like cruciferous vegetables and celery will also aid good digestion.
The bitterness in kale, chard, spinach, and other greens such as cabbage, parsley, and zucchini will likely improve your digestion, too.
Summary | Winter to Spring Transitions
Each new season elicits strong emotional responses in us due to human evolution. Consuming seasonal foods benefits our bodies and minds by providing nutrients for digestion and detoxification.
Reconnecting with nature's spirituality is increasingly desirable. A fundamental starting point is the rhythm of the seasons. Seasonal eating means consuming fruits and vegetables that are locally available during specific times of the year.
Human health is intertwined with the planet's health, and plants play a significant role in both. A healthy human microbiome, the bacteria living in our large intestine, relies on a diet rich in whole, natural foods for optimal immune function.
Spring's arrival brings warmer temperatures and presents viruses, bacteria, and allergens that can cause illnesses. Common spring ailments include allergies, colds, influenza, joint aches, fatigue, and depression.
Influenza, or the flu, is a common viral respiratory infection. It can cause fevers, body aches, and a sore throat and is more prevalent during certain seasons. The common cold is a respiratory tract infection that often leads to a runny or stuffy nose, a scratchy throat, and sneezing. Children are most vulnerable to the common cold. Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance, causing inflammation in the skin, digestive system, sinuses, or airways. Allergies can be mildly irritating or severe, like anaphylaxis.
Eating seasonally available foods only during specific seasons ensures a diverse diet, which improves gut diversity and provides abundant nutrients. Green leafy vegetables offer numerous health benefits and support a healthy immune system.
Emphasizing seasonal produce in your diet, such as artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, celery, fennel, kale, leeks, parsley, radishes, spinach, watercress, and zucchini, can improve digestion, reduce allergies, and aid in detoxification.
Nature provides Us with Everything We need
© 2005-2024, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC
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