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Supporting Your Seasonal Biological Rhythms through Nutrition and Supplementation

By: Dr. Krista Brayko, Naturopath

Biological rhythms are the natural cycle of change in our body’s chemicals and functions. Like an internal master “clock,” it takes cues from environmental rhythms (circadian, diurnal, infradian, seasonal rhythms).  These function of these rhythms include regulating sleep, appetite, body temperature and the immune system. A common example of disrupted biological rhythms is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, with a typical onset in the late fall and early winter and resolving in the spring when the days get longer. The idea of supporting daily and seasonal rhythms is a foundational aspect of the traditional medicines of India (Ayurvedic) and China (Traditional Chinese Medicine, aka TCM) where the implementation of seasonal diets and routines are adopted in order to maintain optimal health and wellness.

Many of us here in the Pacific Northwest eat intuitively with the elemental pattern of the seasons.  For instance, the abundance of leafy greens and berries in the spring helps to reduce inflammation which plays a significant role in counteracting allergens. In the summertime we often enjoy produce that is high in water and antioxidant content such as salads and watermelon, which are perfect antidotes to the intensity and heat of the summer.  Autumn is associated cold and flu season and nature responds by providing apples, mushrooms, squashes and collard greens – foods that contain high amounts of vitamins C and A, as well as other immune boosting properties to keep us healthy. When winter hits we crave everything pumpkin and feast on hearty stews filled with onion, garlic and root vegetables. High in vitamins and minerals that they absorb from the ground, root vegetables are full of nutrients and are high in antioxidants which support the body’s immune system, and supports mood and energy during shorter, colder days.

A local, organic, whole food diet is a foundational piece to our health. However, during seasonal transitions, eating well and exercising may not be enough to keep you feeling and performing at your best. Generally there are certain health concerns that are specific to the seasons. Here, we identify common health ailments and provide seasonal recommendations for nutritional supplements that can fill the gap.

Dr Krista Brayko naturopath

AUTUMN:

Through human evolution fall has always been our busiest time; hunting, gathering and preserving foods for the months ahead. Today it is no different: we go back to school, we re-engage with routine and activities that went by the wayside during our summer play. We tend to burn the candle at both ends. Coupled with shorter days, cooler weather it is not uncommon for our energy levels to plummet and even result in the blues. It is also a time where people gather indoors, a natural petri dishes for germs to fester and result in runny noses and coughs. IMMUNITY: ACES & Zinc – Containing vitamins A, C, E, selenium and zinc. These vitamins are natural antioxidants that help boost the immune system against viruses and bacterias. 2 caps 1-2 times daily. Consider discontinuing in the Spring.

ENERGY SUPPORT: Stress B-Complex –  B vitamins support our vitality and play an important role in everything from cognitive function and mood to energy production and heart health. This particular formula has extra B5 (pantothenic acid) that is an essential vitamin for healthy adrenal and immune function. Healthy adrenal glands play an important role in effectively managing stress, supporting our mood and mental sharpness, and boosting our energy. 1 cap with breakfast. Consider taking this during other periods of stress throughout the year or discontinue in the Spring.

WINTER:

There is a particular stillness that characterizes winter. The winter season holds the perfect antidote to the fast-paced mobility of the summer and fall. This is a time of retreat and rest, where energy moves inward. This calm, peaceful nature of the winter can also seem a bit oppressive at times, and can leave us feeling weighed down, stagnant, or uninspired. This is also a time of year where many cultures have cozy gatherings promoting interaction with friends and family with plenty of warming, comforting foods.  

MOOD: Vitamin D3 – ‘the sunshine vitamin’.  Begin supplementing or increasing your dose of Vitamin D3 once the days get noticeably shorter. Consider taking through the Spring as Vitamin D supports our mood as well as our immune health. Studies have shown that people with vitamin D deficiency are 11 times more likely to get a cold or flu, while supplementing with vitamin D can reduce colds and flu by 42 percent. Vit D3  3,000 – 5,000IU/day

SPRING:

Time for spring cleaning! The rejuvenating and cleansing energy often inspires us to clear out the clutter that has accumulated throughout the year. This includes our body too. It is a time for clearing out those heavy, winter foods and toxins that accumulated over the past few months. Additional benefits include improved digestion, reduced inflammation, balanced blood sugar and enhanced immune function. A diet that is low in whites (sugar, flour, dairy) and high in color (berries, veggies) for a period of 2-3 weeks allows the digestive tract to reset itself.  Elimination is another essential aspect of a detox cleanse. It is critical you are having daily bowel movements, as this is how we rid the toxic burdens from our system.  Having a clean slate will also reduce the inflammatory reactions associated with spring allergies.

CLEANSE: Liver support (Lipotropic Complex) – Very nourishing for the liver, helping it to detox and promote systemic support. 1-2 caps 2 times per day (away from food) x 3 weeks and a Probiotic (HLC Maintenance) If you really want to be healthy from the inside out then probiotics are the answer for all-around health. Probiotics can help to protect against a number of diseases and infections, as well as digestive issues. 1-2 caps with breakfast, this can be taken ongoing, or seasonal during the spring and fall.

ALLERGIES: Aller-CBegin addressing your allergies before they even begin. I recommend taking 2 caps daily 4 weeks before the onset of your allergy season and then 2 caps 2 times daily during the height of allergy season. Discontinue when the season has passed.

SUMMER:

Nature is at its fullest, our gardens and calendars are bursting. The long days and warm evening lend themselves to shortened hours of sleep. The heat and the sun draws us outdoors. It is a time to play hard and exercise more. In addition to eating light meals, hydrating and protecting our skin, it is also a time to be cognizant of the demands we are putting on our bodies particular in regards to sleep support and joint/muscle health.

VITALITY: Triple Mag –  Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in almost every process in your body from muscle relaxation and proper muscle movement to hormone processing. Clinically it is used to treat muscle tension and cramps, sleep difficulties, constipation and chronic stress. 1-2 caps before bed.

Supporting your innate seasonal biorhythms is essential to achieving optimal health and vitality.  In order to achieve this BALANCE: eat local, seasonal whole foods, move your body, observe sleep needs and consider rotating the recommended supplements suggested. If you have specific seasonal symptoms or concerns, or desire seasonal wellness visits to maximize your health, consider making an appointment so that we can create a personalized wellness plan for you. We carry many of these recommended supplements at our clinic and also offer an online dispensary through Fullscript, which allows you to order and refill your professional-grade supplements online and have them shipped directly to you.

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