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With the kids back in school and the September heat wave behind us, it’s finally starting to feel like fall. Fall is one of my favourite seasons, and is a great time to get back on track with our usual health care routine. Below are five key health practices I encourage my patients to adopt to shift into the season feeling healthy and energized.

1. Establish a regular sleep routine to regulate your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal 24-hour clock that controls the release of hormones such as melatonin and cortisol. When our circadian rhythm is properly regulated, we sleep soundly and have consistent energy throughout the day, the immune system is better able to fight infections, sugar cravings decrease, and our mood improves. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and try not to deviate from your bed/wake time by more than 30 minutes.

2. Eat warmer foods. As the weather cools, it’s time to swap smoothies for eggs and steel cut oats for breakfast, and to make soups and stews instead of salads for lunch. Choosing warmer foods is especially important if you experience frequent gas and/or bloating after eating. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, eating with the seasons helps to keep the body healthy and balanced. Eating cold food in the fall and winter can zap the body of energy and leave us more vulnerable to illness.

3. Plan Some Down Time. After a busy summer filled with various events and activities, our body and mind can benefit from some down time. Most people think of down time as watching TV or movies, or scrolling through their social media accounts. To gain the most benefits from down time, consider choosing activities that don’t involve screens and technology. Reading a good book, taking a hot bath, walking, meditating, and yoga are all great activities that allow your mind to rest and reboot.

4. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity or movement every day. Being active is a critical component to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Choose activities that you enjoy, such as yoga, hiking, swimming or dancing. Find a way to make it fun so you’ll keep doing it!

5. Be social and nurture your relationships. Studies have shown that those who lack social connections or report frequent feelings of loneliness are more likely to get sick and have higher rates of depression and cognitive decline. Feeling connected to others improves mood and well-being, and helps us feel more supported through life’s challenges. While life can get busy, it’s important to take the time to stay connected with others and have fun.

If you or your family were frequently sick last year, now is the perfect time to start natural therapies to support your immune system. I often create cold and flu prevention plans for my patients, and outline what to take to help patients recover faster if they do get sick. To set up an appointment, call 905-793-8868, or email [email protected].