3 Tips to Refresh Your Health this Spring
It’s that time of year again: Throw open the windows and gather all the microfiber cleaning cloths! While your Spring cleaning checklist might include things like scrub the baseboards, deep clean the oven, and wipe light fixtures, what kind of things do you include to refresh your personal health and wellness? This year, in order to get the most out of this rejuvenating transition season, extend your cleaning list to include items for your personal health. Below are 3 Spring health tips to help you get into the swing of things:
Spring Health Tip #1: Deep Clean Your Diet
First, let’s start with nutrition. It’s natural to consume heavier, more “comforting” foods in the Winter. Our body uses more energy in the colder months to maintain stable body temperature, so dense foods help provide the “fuel” to keep us warm. As we transition to warmer weather, however, it’s a good time to switch up your food habits.
In nature, the foods that become ripe and available during the Spring are lighter and also tend to be foods that help the body detoxify and cleanse – berries, leafy greens, citrus fruits and cruciferous veggies. After a long Winter of accumulating heaviness, moisture, and stagnation in the body, focusing your food choices on those with lighter characteristics can be a simple and effective way of naturally “lightening the load.” This is one of the reasons why eating seasonally is far more effective at maintaining health, than following strict year-round diets.
Here are a few food-specific Spring health tips from Ayurvedic medicine, which focuses on balancing the body through diet, herbs and lifestyle:
Tips to Refresh Your Food Habits this Spring
- Eat whole foods that are in season: asparagus, broccoli, celery, cabbage, greens, mushrooms, blueberries, citrus fruit, kiwi, strawberries, etc.
- Avoid or reduce heavy foods – fast food, soy products, nuts, heavy fats & oils (for cooking, switch from ghee and butter to coconut oil).
- Minimize dairy, especially in the morning, as they increase mucus build up and congestion (your allergies’ worst enemy)
- Increase digestion efficacy with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and other spices.
- Avoid icy and cold foods and beverages such as ice cream and iced drinks (these are better consumed in Summer). Enjoy raw fruits and veggies in moderation; opt for steamed, roasted or lightly cooked veggies. Drink room-temperature or hot water, instead of ice water (think of trying to clean a greasy pan with ice water – not helpful…this is essentially the same concept as trying to clean out the Winter stagnation in your body by pumping cold water through it – not helpful.)
You might also consider digestive supplements and the addition of enzymes that will help your body transition to new food habits. For example, if you’ve found yourself following more of a SAD (Standard American Diet) style of eating but are now adopting a more nutrient-rich diet of fresh veggies and whole foods, you might benefit from supplemental enzymes to help you digest and absorb the nutrients. These are usually just temporary while your body catches up to the changes.
Spring Health Tip #2: Dust off Your Exercise Routine
For an Existing Routine
If you started a new exercise regimen as part of your New Year’s Resolution and have stuck with it up to this point, first: CONGRATULATIONS! Second: now is a good time to switch it up. Your body is a highly adaptive machine and changing up your routine is a great way to see new improvements and set new goals.
Try joining a class at your gym or adding in new movements that work your full range of motion. For instance, if you’ve been doing bench press every week for the past 3 months, switch to pulling exercises to work the chest and back, such as bent over rows or (assisted) pull ups. If you always default to the treadmill or elliptical for your cardio, try switching to a bike or row machine. Better yet, try something outside like a bike ride, jog or hike. Also, if you’ve been doing mostly or exclusively cardio or aerobic exercise, start adding in some weights and resistance training.
For a New Routine
If you haven’t yet created an exercise routine or haven’t been able to stick with one, take this shift in seasonal energy to get started. Don’t waste another week, month or year on excuses. Making movement part of your life doesn’t have to be complicated or miserable. Below are some simple ideas for busy schedules – because I don’t have time is the most common excuse I hear.
Cardio ideas for a busy schedule:
- Bike to work – practical, productive and effective
- Running/walking the stairs to the point of raising your heart rate and maintaining for 3-5 minutes (this will be different for everyone). Do this twice during the day.
- Brisk walk at lunch. All you need is 10 minutes, don’t make it a big ordeal.
- Get a desk treadmill for passing the time in those endless Zoom calls or desk bike to get movement in while answering emails.
- 1-2 minutes of jumping jacks (depending on your fitness level). Do this twice during the day.
- 1-2 minutes of high knees or running arms
- High knees: Lift one knee toward your chest, as high as possible, and then quickly switch legs. Bend your arms and move them opposite your knees – as if you’re running in place. Maintain form and pace for at least 1 minute. Repeat 2-3 times, twice per day.
- Running arms: If high knees is not a possibility due to injury, joint pain, or you’re just starting out, then this is a good alternative.
- Roll your shoulders up and back. Bend arms to 90 degrees at the elbow. Hinge forward slightly from the hips. Move arms forward and backward, quickly, as if running as fast as you can. Maintain this movement 60 seconds (work up to 60 if you need to by starting with 30-45 seconds). Maintaining form and continuing to breathe is very important!
- Pick up the pace while you’re Spring cleaning! You’d be surprised how much movement you get in with some vacuuming, scrubbing, and a little yard work.
Most gyms have trainers who offer complimentary demos of the weights and machines they have. Take advantage of any free weight lifting demonstrations or classes that your gym offers, in order to minimize injury and reduce any fear or apprehension around adding resistance training to your routine.
Strength Training ideas for a busy schedule:
These suggestions are intended for someone new to strength training or who has not been training in a while. The exercises and routines can (and ideally should) be combined in order to work full range of motion and to work the entire body.
- Join a Bootcamp class at your gym.
- Body weight exercises: Pick 3 exercises, do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Push ups, squats, lunges, etc.
- Resistance band routine: Pick 3 exercises, do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Repeat 2-3 times in a row. You can take resistance to work and do this at lunch or when you need a “brain break.”
- Free-weight routine: Pick 3-5 exercises, complete 3-5 reps and 3-5 sets. Do more weight and less reps when you have less time, and more reps with less weight when you have more time. Alternate to improve strength, power and endurance.
- Gym machine routine: Gyms often have machine circuits already set up that target each of the main muscle groups. This is a great option if you’re just getting into strength training and/or you don’t have a lot of time.
- Do a simple body-weight workout at the park with a friend (May I suggest a burpees challenge?! As many as possible in 5 minutes! A cardio-strength two-for-one! 😀)
- Create a routine with the equipment you bought during COVID and haven’t used (or sold)…
Spring Health Tip #3: Clear out the Allergens
Unfortunately for many, Spring is a time of year synonymous with allergies. For some, it happens every year, without fail. Helping these patients relieve symptoms often comes down to determining the main environmental aggressors and addressing things like food sensitivities, which have a compounding effect on already present symptoms.
For those who may be experiencing Spring-time allergies for the first time, we have to do a little investigation. There are several things that could trigger the sudden onset of allergies: home renovation, moving to a new house, new pets, off-gassing from new furniture, local construction, etc. If you’re also not a native to your area, you could be experiencing the build up of a sensitivity that might have taken a few years to catch up with you (sometimes up to 5-10 years!).
While getting to the bottom of your allergies is crucial to your overall health, here are a few simple things anyone can do to help reduce allergens:
Clean out the “drains”
Rinse your nose cavity/nostrils often with pure water or normal saline. Your nose hairs and mucous membranes trap allergens to prevent them from traveling into the lungs and causing systemic problems – but this debris can build up. Try using natural nasal sprays and something like a Neti pot or Navage to help clear these allergens. Stay away from harmful chemicals or solutions for this, just good ol’ water will work. You can also add a few drops of an all natural nasal oil to each nostril after rinsing (found at most health food stores), to help add moisture back to the nasal cavity. If you deal with animals, hay or are in dusty environments, blow your nose frequently to remove dust and pollen. Add an extra shower a day after encountering these situations to help reduce symptoms, as well.
To Garden or Not to Garden (inside)
Remove living plants from the areas of your house where you spend the most time. Plants are beautiful and some even filter the air for us. However, with dead leaves and moist soil, these guys can be contributing to your allergies if not properly maintained, due to nature’s decomposers: mold!
I love plants and couldn’t give them up, so I’ve started using substrates and growing mediums other than soil, such as Leca – as well as adopting more plants that do well growing in water. I also make sure to clean out any dead leaves and keep the plant foliage free of dust.
Freshen Up the Air
Clean the air in your home! This may be as simple as adding an air purifier and running it 24/7. Don’t spend thousands of dollars, but do get a quality one that is adequate for your space. Putting one in your bedroom is a great idea, as most people have a lot of their issues first thing in the morning. For those with central heat/air, you may want to contact a local company to get your ducts cleaned. Even new homes have a lot of construction dust in the vents from when they ran the system while still finishing the home. This can make a huge difference for those who have purchased a pre-owned home and the previous owner had an animal you’re allergic to.
Get Relief and Get Testing
For immediate relief without the drowsiness, we have a few nutrients and herbal supplements we recommend here at the office such as AllerDx, D-hist, vitamin C, quercetin, and nettles. Chat with your practitioner about your symptoms to determine which of these is most beneficial for you.
Regardless of which category of allergy-suffer you fall into – chronic or new to the game – you don’t have to suffer in stuffy silence, or sulk in sniffling seclusion. Our office offers advanced allergy and sensitivity testing that goes beyond the simple “scratch test,” and offers solutions and support that provides lifetime relief. Check out our full article on seasonal allergies and food sensitivities.
A Great Foundation
There are many ways to clean up your health but starting with a strong foundation is the best way to set yourself up for success. Spring is the perfect time to shine new light on the basic areas that may need a little refresh and revitalization. Start where you’re at and set realistic goals. Get support where you need and be consistent with your efforts.