Self Assessment: Are You Ready for Immune Season?

Published on October 16, 2015

By Mary Bove ND, Medical Herbalist

Mary Bove

Dr. Mary Bove is a herbal advocate, educator, and innovator holds a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine, Midwifery Certification and Diploma of Phytotherapy/Herbal Medicine. She practiced Naturopathic Family Medicine, herbal Medicine, and Midwifery for over 30 years, specializing in naturopathic pediatrics, botanical medicine, natural prenatal care and homebirth.

Once full-time faculty at Bastyr University, Dr Bove chaired the departments of Botanical Medicine and Naturopathic Midwifery. Dr Bove is the author of the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants and co-authored Herbs for Women’s Health.

Mary has been published in many magazines, journals and collaborative books on botanical and natural medicine. She has worked as Medical Educator and in formulation research and product development for Gaia Herbs Brevard, NC, belonging to Gaia’s Scientific Advisory Board for over 35 years. Dr Bove currently consults, lectures, writes, and teaches internationally for Heartwood Institute on the topics of naturopathic medicine, botanical medicine, pediatrics, natural pregnancy and childbirth, traditional food medicine, and mind-body healing.

Where I live, in rural New Hampshire, the summers are short and the winters are long. You have to be ready for them. I acclimated to New England's harsh weather long ago, but no matter where you live, you can ensure that when Mother Nature changes seasons, you're ready for it.

Consider how much we all love the vibrant colors of changing leaves. And is there anything more comforting than spiced apple cider or a steaming bowl of herbed chicken soup? What is it exactly about this season that makes us "fall" so hard each year?

This affinity for autumn is co-evolution at work. It is our bodies' way of preparing for the coming winter and reconnecting us with nature.

We put together a short assessment to help you determine whether you're ready for the colder months. Do any of these statements sound like you?

  1. My mood is steady and normal, regardless of the season.
  2. I offer my immune system year-round daily support.
  3. I naturally adapt to the stresses of daily life.
  4. I eat a well-balanced diet that's based on whole, seasonal foods.
  5. My sleep is normal, even after Daylight Saving Time.
  6. My hands and feet are usually warm, and my body tends to maintain a normal temperature.
  7. I stay active with regular exercise through all four seasons.

Only you know the answers to those questions, but here are some tips to help ease the transition to cooler weather.

Eat Seasonal Foods

If your body isn't craving raw veggies or cold smoothies, that's OK. Warm, wet foods like soups and stews take full advantage of what's in season while also comforting us. Include herbs like Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and Ginger, which help support your immune system.

Invest in the Best Cold-Weather Gear you can Afford

The old wives' tale about not wearing a hat and gloves is just that, but you can help your body maintain a normal temperature by bundling up when it's cold out. Proper cold weather gear that insulates you from snow and wind and keeps you comfortable can also go a long way to help you emotionally embrace winter, too.

Find Something You Like About Winter and Do It

In fair-weather months, you can find me on the lake kayaking every day. In winter, I swap my paddle for ski poles. I love Telemark skiing, and I do that when I can't kayak. Having something to occupy my free time keeps my body active and my spirits lifted.

Do Some Fall Cleaning

Spring cleaning is all about out with the old and in with the new. In fall, it's about battening down the hatches and preparing you and your home for the cold. Now is a good time to swap the filters in your HVAC system, and clean out your humidifiers, which can help soothe the respiratory system and mucosal tissues. (I like to add some mood-boosting essential oils to my humidifier.)

Stock Up on Vitamin D

There's a reason we call it "the sunshine vitamin," as your body can actually synthesize it from sunlight. In addition, maintaining normal levels of this vitamin has been linked to a healthy mood. While you should use sun protection when out for extended periods, getting sunshine daily can provide a dose of Vitamin D. So take a hike and gaze at those glorious fall colors while you can!

Nourish your Adrenals

Adapt to the daily stress of winter by keeping your adrenals in tip-top shape. When they are functioning normally, they naturally help support a healthy sleep cycle, a healthy response to stress and even maintain your body's natural defenses. Astragalus is one herb that provides targeted support to your adrenal glands to help you adapt to daily stress while also supporting the immune system. Whole Body Defense combines Astragalus with Echinacea, Larch and Maitake mushroom extract to offer daily immune support.*

Embrace It

Accepting that change is a part of life and keeping things in perspective are important aspects of resilience, which is our natural ability to adapt in the face of normal stress and adversity. Winter happens every year. Instead of complaining, stay flexible and use this time as a chance to cultivate new hobbies and interests, indoors or out.