Although it officially started last month, spring is finally in the air! Winter has been holding on bringing with it cold, dark days which can have a detrimental effect on our health.
So here are 11 health signs that mean your body may need a gentle nudge towards the transition into spring/summer:
1) You have gained a few extra pounds and/or bloat after overindulging.
2) Puffiness around the face, particularly around the eyes and dark circles.
3) Energy is low and motivation is lower.
4) Sleep is disturbed. Hard to get to sleep at night and even more difficult to wake in the morning, or persistent waking during the night-time.
5) You have become dependent on stimulants to keep you going such as sugar, coffee and tea.
6) You often have a glass of wine or 2 in the evening to ‘relax’ and ‘unwind’ whilst making dinner or after the kids have gone to bed.
7) Exercise has reduced or ground to a halt
8) The white carbs have crept back into your meals (breads, pastas, rice) and you are feeling bloated.
9) You can no longer tick off at least 5 portions of fruit and veg per day without counting juices, dried fruits and ‘healthy’ snack bars.
10) Your eyes don’t have the twinkle you were used to in the summer and are a bit tired and bloodshot instead; this might not be solely associated with the frolics of summer, but also a reduced ability to detoxify and poor sleep.
11) Dry patches of skin, hands and scalp have reappeared and you are finding it increasingly difficult to be comfortable in your own skin.
To compensate for nutrient losses and drain on our systems at the end of the dark seasons we can focus on:
- Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, knitting etc., good sleep hygiene and spending quality time with family and friends in the outdoors. There is a reason that we associate sunlight with lighter moodsi, as it provides us with the vital Vitamin D we need to feel-good, to have a more robust immune systemii, improve our blood sugar regulationiii, and build stronger bonesiv for movement and vitality, to name a few of the systemic benefits of healthy vitamin D levels.
- Stress can deplete us of essential nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and vitamin Cv vi, so it would be important to focus on these as the stressful winter comes to a close.
- Move, move and then move more. Lymph (our internal drainage system) is totally dependent on physical exercise to move. Rebounding, in particular, is reported to increase lymph flow by 15 – 30 times and also is great for bone strength. Dave Scrivens a leading lymphologist states that ‘the rebounding motion stimulates all internal organs, moves the cerebral-spinal fluid and the aqueous fluid within the eyes (many people claim improved eyesight), and does wonders for the intestines’vii, so let’s get jumping! If you need to build slowly, start with aiming for 10,000 steps per day. Any movement is beneficial when it comes to health and our innate detoxification systems. It can also make a significant difference to weight management and mental wellbeing.
- Keeping hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh filtered water. The lymph system is 96% water, so it is dependent on water for it to flow freely. Be mindful of topping up water levels throughout the day and avoid those dehydrating drinks such as caffeine-based beverages, carbonated drinks and alcohol. If you find that drinking more water means more frequent trips to the loo, then topping up on electrolytes will help with the use of this water so it is effectively hydrating our cells. Electrolytes are minerals that are required for the passing of water into and out of cells. These are sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and calcium. Most tap waters are stripped of these vital nutrients with the addition of some undesirable substances such as heavy metals. Drinking filtered water and taking a good quality multi-mineral supplement is a way around this. You can also add some coconut water into your drinking routine, especially around times of exertion, exercise and generalised fatigue, as it is rich in electrolytes.
- Increased intake of plants provides essential fibre, vitamins and prebiotic fibre such as FOS (which feeds the good bacteria which our digestive system relies on) so that we normalise transit time and provide our intestines with the food it needs to keep itself in-check.
- Our gut flora can be affected by factors such as a history of prescription medicationsviii ix, tummy bugs, traveller’s diarrhoea, food intolerances and stress. Our microbiome, the city of bacteria regulating digestion and immune function, can then become disordered and negatively affected, thus potentially causing a miriad of other symptoms. Taking a good quality probiotic supplement may help regulate digestion and get us back on track.
- To take care of our largest detoxification organ, the skin, which can be the first to show signs of damage due to poor nutrition, our advice is to make sure you have a diet rich in omega-3 essential fats, silica (e.g. from the botanical called horsetail), vitamin E, vitamin A, zinc, biotin and other B vitamins such as B12 and folate preferably in methyl forms, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and marine collagen.
Overall, these guidelines can be applied anytime, whatever time of year, however it is particularly pertinent to give yourself a ‘Spring MOT’ to get yourself fit for, what most of us would argue, the most exciting and exhilarating season ahead.
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i Klerman, G.L. and Weismann, M.M. (1989) Increasing rates of depression. Journal of the American Medical Association, 261 (15), 2229-2235.
ii Griffin, M.D., Xing, N. and Kumar R. (2003) Vitamin D and its analogs as regulators of immune activation and antigen presentation. Annual Review of Nutrition, 23, 117-145.
iii Chiu, K.C., Chu, A., Go, V.L. and Saad, M.F. (2004) Hypovitaminosis D is associated with insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79 (5), 820-825.
iv Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(2): 504-511
v Schlebusch L et al. A double-blind, placebo controlled, double-centre study of the effects of an oral multi-vitamin and mineral combination on stress. S Afr Med J. 2000; 90 (12): 1216–23.
vi Padayatty SJ et al. Human adrenal glands secrete vitamin C in response to adrenocorticotrophic hormone. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007. 86(1):145-9.
vii Dave Scrivens, Rebounding: Good for the Lymph System. Well Being Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3.
viii Swanson HI. Drug metabolism by the host and gut microbiota: a partnership or rivalry. Drug Metab Dispos. 2015; 43 (10): 1499-1504
ix Maher RL et al. Clinical consequences of polypharmacy in elderly. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2014; 13 (1): 57-65