Most days of the week I ride my bike to and from work. Much of the route is along one of Toronto's many ravine trails, where I experience close encounters with each season. While winter can be stunningly cold and stark, spring hopeful and bountiful, summer ablaze and abuzz, there's nothing quite like the spin through the autumn forest. I've always felt that fall is the start of the new year - certainly my education created that perception, and my continued work in academia (and my children's fresh start every September) maintains this sense of new beginnings. Back to a disciplined structure after the flexibility of the summer; back to intentional eating after a season of outdoor gatherings and time away from home; back to a reminder of all things changing. The days grow shorter, the weather grows more crisp, nature curls inward. We celebrate the harvest - the restocking of the larder to sustain us until the fresh greens burst forth again in the spring. It's a nice reminder to eat seasonally, which also makes eating locally more manageable. A shift from raw, fresh vegetables to heavier, hardier varieties. Soups, stews, herbs and spices come along at just the right time to nourish our immune systems to ward off the ubiquitous colds and flus that crop up around now. Think about adding plenty of garlic, onion, sage, thyme, and rosemary ... Thanksgiving dinner, anyone?
One of my favourite recommendations to prevent both seasonal allergies and viral infections is nasal irrigation. I prefer using a neti pot, but commercial saline pumps are available too. The salt water rinses the inside of the nose, flushing away allergens and microbes that cause the sneezing and sniffling so common this time of year. It can help symptomatically too to dilute mucus and make it easier to clear. I suggest folks use them twice per day and have had a number of patients rave about the difference it's made for them. Check the article and video here to see more suggestions for managing colds!