These days, you can’t check your email or check Facebook without being told conflicting things about what to eat, how to exercise, how much sleep to get, and how to live your life. One thing that gets lost in this barrage of information is that each person’s body is unique- and, as with all things in nature, our bodies go through cycles and seasons. What is true for you today may no longer be so in two months. In this article, we’ll look at some ways in which your body’s needs change over time. Always keep in mind, however, that you are your own ultimate guide, and by learning to tune into your body deeply, you will be able to understand your deepest needs.
We often hear that it’s best to eat seasonally. Just as trees bloom in the spring and shed their leaves in the fall, our bodies have different functions and needs depending on the season. For instance, our hair grows the most around March, and sheds the most in early fall. Our bodies become more insulin resistant around that time as well, to enable energy storage for the winter. It has even been shown that bone density increases in the summer and fall, and decreases in the winter and spring. So how should we change how we take care of our bodies during different seasons?
- Eat lighter in the summer, and heavier in the winter. Dietary fats are warming to the body, and so heavier foods, like nuts, are best suited for colder weather. You may find that your body craves more warming cooked foods, rather than raw foods, during the colder months, and you might find hot teas preferable to cold brews. On the other hand, fruits are cooling, and are in abundant supply in the summer. They also provide an optimal energy source for vigorous activity during the months in which we are most active. Lastly, cold-brewed fruity teas, like Joyful Garden, can help keep you cool and hydrated.
- Sleep more in the winter, and less in the summer. Since daylight hours are limited in the winter, our natural state is to be awake for fewer hours. This makes sense, since during the colder months, our bodies conserve more energy. On the other hand, more sunlight in the summer, coupled with a lighter diet means that our bodies require less sleep during the warmer months.
- Use the colder months for reflection and contemplation, and the warmer months for creating. Darker, cooler weather is optimal for contemplation, while brighter, warmer weather supports mental activity.
Nature supplies the right kinds of foods depending on different climates. For instance, desert climates, like that in Phoenix, are abundant with succulent plants, which help cool the body and retain moisture. Consuming plants like aloe vera and cactus are great for staying healthy and hydrated. Tropical climates are abundant with fruits, which help to keep the body cool. Cuisines from colder climates often feature warming root vegetables as well as more animal-based products native to those regions. So, if you travel or move to a different climate, consider incorporating the foods of those regions to help your body to adapt.
Stage of Life
Our bodies’ needs change dramatically throughout our lives. When we start life, our bodies are designed to only handle human milk, which contains about 50% fat, 40% carbohydrates, and 10% protein, in addition to many bioactive compounds. Our bodies grow the most during this period. After about two years, we lose most of our ability to digest lactose, and our bodies have fully transitioned to solid food. From then on, nutritional requirements change depending on gender, and vary from puberty to midlife and old age. Here are a few general guidelines.
- Women of childbearing age (until menopause) have higher iron requirements than older women. There are many herbs that are high in iron and can support iron absorption. Be sure to check your iron levels periodically to make sure that you are getting enough.
- Post-menopausal women require more calcium and Vitamin D. Because bones are built at a slower rate after menopause, these nutrients become even more essential. These nutrients once again become more important after age 70. For more information, check out our Anti-Aging Intensive workshop.
- Men and women over 50 require more protein. Because the body’s ability to repair itself declines with age, protein requirements increase.
- Although Omega-3 fatty acids are always important, they are especially important for the elderly. These fats help to protect the brain and prevent neurological problems, like Dementia.
- Foods with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory herbs become especially important after age 50. These compounds help prevent degenerative diseases as the body ages.
As you can see, your body’s needs change over time, so there is no one exact diet that will serve you throughout your life, without modification. It’s always a good idea to get your blood levels of various nutrients tested regularly, and work with a naturopath or other qualified practitioner to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
Stress and Activity Levels
While your activity levels may change seasonally, the varying demands that are unique in your life require that you adapt your lifestyle to keep your body in balance. Children, job stress, travel, and other stressors can wear us down, and when we feel tired, self-care becomes especially important. If you struggle with anxiety or just need help relaxing on a regular basis, try our Anxiety Relief and Daily Calm teas.
Whatever changes your life brings you, nature has the tools to help you stay balanced and healthy. For tips or recommendations, come by to our store and speak with one of our friendly staff members. We’re always here to help!