As the days of summer quickly turn to fall our bodies and skin can change very quickly. After having spent the last three months outdoors, we need to boost up certain nutrients and lifestyle factors so we can acclimate for the next six months of cold weather and less light exposure. Here are six tips I suggest patients follow for a happy and healthy fall equinox and beyond.
1. Utilize D3 for Mood Boosting
Star by getting a good D3 supplement that you can use for the next six months. After the fall equinox we have less daylight hours, which can affect our moods. Many people fall subject to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a seasonal mood disorder. More common in women, SAD usually starts in the fall as the daylight hours dwindle and continues until late spring when the light cycles begin to change. Symptoms include depression, fatigue, social withdrawal, craving for carbohydrates, and an overall feeling of malaise. It is believed that lower levels of sunlight decrease the amount of serotonin, which affects mood. If you have suffered from this in the past fall and winter seasons, it is important to get your D3 levels monitored to keep up the production of melatonin and serotonin, the "feel good hormones" in your brain. After a D3 test, you may need a special prescription to get therapeutic levels up. Aside from D3 in supplement form, look for foods enriched with D3 like rice, almond and coconut milk, salmon, and eggs.
Light therapy can also combat SAD. Bright, daily light of full spectrum bulbs is a powerful treatment for SAD. Patients may need to sit in front of these lights for at least a half hour a day or more; this therapy needs time so I suggest if a patient suffers with SAD they begin now, around the fall equinox. Remember: do not look at the bulbs directly! Try sitting near light sources like a south facing window where you will get the brightest sunlight of the day (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere).
2. Incorporate B Vitamins for Mood and Brain Health
Other supplements you may want to invest in are B vitamins, including B12, folate, and B6. Many people right now are turning to veganism and vegetarianism. These people, along with people who have digestive disorders like crohns disease, do not get enough B vitamins or they do not convert them correctly in the stomach. For these people, I always recommend supplementation. Vegans and vegetarians do not get enough B vitamins from plants and it is imperative that they supplement B vitamins. B6 helps with brain function, B12 with nerve function and mood, and folate (which is synergistic with B12) helps elevate mood. You can purchase a good multivitamin with high amounts of Bs or there are countless formulas that you can take at a separate meal—I like lunch to help with stress and elevate mood. A multi-B has the full spectrum of B vitamins and the correct (or higher) RDA amounts in them. The only thing you need to watch is the possibility of bright yellow urine. Not too worry, though, as excess amounts are urinated out.
3. Employ "Good Fats" for Skin Health
Omega-3 fatty acids have an incredible amount of data showing improvement with depression, lowering inflammation, boosting concentration and focus, increasing cognitive function, mood, skin health, brain health, and more. Once again, for vegetarians and vegans, tbe extra careful supplementing. Although they can get DHA from foods like chia, purslane and nuts, you cannot get EPA, the other fatty acid found in fish oil, and both are important. If eating fish isn’t your thing, I suggest supplementing. I like to see at least 2000 total mg of omega-3’s of both DHA and EPA. Make sure to read labels carefully, as you can have high amounts of omega 3’s but not EPA and DHA. I like to see at least 650 mg of DHA and 1200 mg of EPA in an omega supplement. Also, it takes about three weeks to get a blood therapeutic level on omega-3 fatty acids, so keep that in mind if you begin to supplement. Omegas need to be taken with a meal with fat. Omega-3 fatty acids also keep skin health at its best. While indoor heat can make skin dry, fatty acids in fish and nuts keep skin health and reduce inflammatory skin issues like rosacea and psoriasis.
If you have an autoimmune, mood, or cardiovascular disorder or issue, these amount needs to be much higher as clinical data suggest higher amounts for patients with these issues. Consult your health care practitioner regarding your proper therapeutic doses. Patients on blood thinners need to also consult with their physician as fish oil thins the blood and can interfere with blood clotting times. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, walnuts, chia, and purslane.
4. Eat Green Veggies to Boost Overall Winter Wellness
Greens are loaded with fiber, vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate, and lutein, as well as minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium. Leafy, green vegetables like kale, spinach, collards and chard are known to boost energy. These foods are also known blood tonics in Chinese medicine, which help boost the overall health of the body. They are loaded with antioxidants which help the body recover from oxidative stress, boost skin health, and utilize energy to burn that weight that we tend to gain from fall to spring.
Cooking greens like chard, collards, kale, and broccoli rabe help make phytochemicals more available and easier to break down.The fiber in green vegetables helps keep inflammation down and move the body’s energy, which can become cold and stagnant during fall and winter months. Greens are alkaline, which helps keep the body in a state of balance, especially with all the carbohydrates we consume during the fall and winter that tend to make our bodies more acidic. Try adding greens to soup or stews, along with root vegetables. Cooked foods are what the body needs to maintain moisture and boost the digestive energy and adrenals in the body.
5. Eat Orange and Yellow Veggies to Build Digestive Energy
According to Chinese dietary therapy, yellow and orange vegetables build digestion. They are high in fiber which helps balance blood sugar and act as an excellent prebiotic. Right now, squash and pumpkin are in season and perfect for meals (no, this does not mean run to the nearest Starbucks for a pumpkin spiced latte). Eating these as a snack first instead of binging on sugar will help build digestive energy as veggies is naturally sweet. Pumpkin is high in beta carotene which also helps eye health, brain and cognitive health, and lung health. Root vegetables are easier to digest than grains and the colors are excellent for overall health and wellness now and throughout the entire year. I also like celery root soup which, recipe listed below, as a prebiotic as well.
6. Healthy How-To: Celery Root Soup
Fall is the perfect season to use root vegetables in meals, as they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. One of my favorites, though not a well-known veggie, is celery root. It looks like a knobby, fuzzy root and is very aromatic. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is considered to be part of the metal or lung classification of foods. Here's how to make your own:
- 3 small or 2 large celery roots, cleaned and cubed
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 leek, cleaned and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 white or yellow onion, quartered
- 2 stalks celery, cleaned and cut into inch pieces
- 2 cartons (32oz) of Imagine Chicken or Vegetable stock
Sauté the olive oil, garlic, onions, leeks, and celery until they are translucent. Then, add celery root followed by stock. Bring to a boil, then immediately simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Once simmered, puree with a hand blender. Season with freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!