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Self-care for the change of seasons: Dr. Ed Garbacs, M.D. offers sound advice for the sniffles season.

As the change in season to autumn is upon us, we may experience a change in health as well. With all seasonal changes, we are more prone to develop various symptoms, including those of "colds" and "flu"--fatigue, nasal drips and obstruction, sneezing, coughing, sore throats, earaches, headache, sinusitis, bronchitis, diarrhea, etc. Although these symptoms are commonly attributed to "ragweed," other environmental inhalants and infections (i.e. viruses, bacteria) and are usually treated with antibiotics and antihistamines, there are other possible causes that are not considered, may not respond to those medications and, therefore, are not properly addressed and treated.

In holistic medicine, a key foundational principle is the dependence of our health on our close relationship to our environment and its natural features and changes. We evolved in relationship to our planet and its conditions over millions of years, and our health is intimately, immutably tied to our environment. We are considered microcosms of the macrocosm of the universe. In fact, we possess "health" as a natural state in part as a relationship to that environment. When the environment changes (i.e. seasonal and weather changes, related availability of various foods or presence of certain factors such as microbes, pollen, etc.), we also need to "change" or "adapt" as part of that relationship. We are endowed by our maker with bodies that possess physiologic systems (i.e immune and hormonal) geared for such changes or adaptations, and we do so every minute of every day of every season, a fact that slips from our awareness in our busy lives.

Here are some reminders and helpful tips on how we can better adapt and stay healthy:

Weather and environmental "climates": Wind, temperature and moisture changes are major factors in getting sick. Many cultures know to protect from and treat exposure to wind, heat or damp exposures, for example, with herbs and acupuncture. In desert or other windy areas, neck and head coverings serve both religious and practical use. For us, moving between natural and artificial environment in office, home or vehicle, can expose us to changes that can weaken our resistance. In autumn, coolness and wind arise that can affect us, especially if undergoing other stresses such as the return to school, changing work schedules, etc. So, cover up!

Rest, sleep and activity levels: Balancing these factors is vital to maintaining good health. We are all busy creatures, managing multiple, complex, demanding activities throughout the year, such as family care, home schooling, transporting teens and children, community activities, just to name a few (whew!). Times for appropriate rest (ha!) and an adequate amount and good quality sleep are easily compromised. Studies have shown rest and sleep are vital to a properly functioning immune system. People may suffer from mild insomnia that compromises sleep. This may be self-treated with homeopathic remedies for sleep such as Chamomile or Coffea melatonin, the sleep hormone, herbals such as valerian, passionflower, chamomile, kava-kava, etc. and relaxation techniques. More severe insomnia or sleep apnea may need to be addressed professionally. Awareness of our need to have "down time," rest periods and naps (ha!) is vital. So slow down!

Emotional factors and stress: Many ancient, traditional medical systems clearly recognize these as major factors. Exaggerated or stifled human emotions--our interpretations of and responses to, in excess and out of proportion to our ability to recognize and deal with them--can be critical causes of weakening our systems. Overwork is one important one. Many of us bury ourselves in our work for a variety of reasons. Another is "preoccupation"--the condition of excessively worrying about an issue or event without having the ability to directly influence it. That most human quality of constantly holding in mind (and, therefore, heart) a threatening or unpleasant occurrence and its real or fancied ramifications and the frustrating inability to do anything about it (at least right away or within our sometimes unrealistic timeframes) is very stressful for our organ systems. Under such a state, a simple change, such as of season or in diet or sleep, can be enough to trigger fatigue or respiratory, digestive or other symptoms. Here, I believe our best medicine is awareness--keeping in touch with and recognition of such states and their roles in our ability to adapt and stay healthy. Seeking help and support is crucial. Remember, we are not alone; we are each here to help one another. Let us learn how to allow ourselves our feelings and communicate them clearly, self responsibly and without judgment, in seeking their resolution. It's how we grow and change. Deal only with those things at hand. Remember, the job of God is already filled! So grow!

Diet: A most critical factor in our health maintenance, especially in relationship to seasonal changes ,and emotional and other stress states. How, when, and what we eat is vital to the maintenance and good functioning of our adaptive systems, and our diet can affect our recovery from illness. Notice when you do get sick, how your appetite changes quickly; this may include a shutting down of or increase in appetite or its switch to very specific or unique foods. These adaptations are your body's way of dealing with the illness without pharmacist, physician, or health food store! Get to know your tendencies and tulle in to your intuition. In general, avoid fast and processed foods, overly fatty or sweet foods when ill, unless you know such desires have developed in response to being ill.

Herbal Remedies: Many are available that can be used for "colds" and "flu." I especially recommend the use of herbs because they are (a) generally inexpensive, (b) you can prescribe them to yourself safely and effectively, (c) there are many good herbs with broad or specific effects allowing you to pick to suit and treat your specific symptoms and (d) they, like other natural substances when used correctly, rarely if ever cause significant side effects or interact adversely with medications that you may already be on for other conditions or are taking for your current illness, and (e) herbs come in many different, easy-to-take forms (loose teas, tea bags, capsules, tincture, essential oils, etc.). Examples include:

1) echinacea and goldenseal, often in combination with other herbals; these have proimmune, antimicrobial effects and help you to better to defend yourself. Both have antiviral activity, so if you a have a "virus", these may help because there are few conventional antiviral medications.

2) astragalus, ligusticum and schizandra: three Chinese herbs frequently used in combination preparations for upper respiratory problems like sinusitis and bronchitis.

3) eyebright and bayberry: very good for sinusitis, ear infections, simple eye problems and "allergic" symptoms of eyes, nose and throat.

4) elderberry, lungwort, elecampane: for lung problems

Of course, if symptoms do not improve or worsen, seek help from your physician. Antibiotics or other medications may just be what you need.

Dr. Edward Garbacz, MD is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached at 404-848-0033.



* Panos, M. and Heimlich, J. Homeopathic Medicine at Home. Los Angeles: Tarcher. 1991.


* Murray, Michael. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima. 1995. ISBN 1-55954700-8.

General Supplement Use

* Pharmacists' Letter/Prescribers' Letter (eds.). Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty. 2002. 4th Edition. ISBN 0-9676136-6-3. (209) 472-2242 /
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Author:Garbacz, Ed
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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