Seasonal changes affect our health in subtle ways, sometimes to the point of causing physical problems to develop. How we handle these subtle changes can make a huge impact on our health and sense of well-being all year long. While staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter can go a long way towards warding off sickness, paying attention to the needs of the body and the quality of food we eat has a considerable impact on how the body responds to its environment. Here are just a few ways seasonal changes affect our health
and some tips on what you can do about it.
The Body Burns Fat Differently
While fat, for the most part, is considered undesirable, the human body houses two types of fat: white and brown. Excess white, fatty deposits weaken the body’s overall health, whereas brown fat offers certain key benefits
. As summer heat gives way to cooler fall temperatures, the body’s brown fat reserves become more active. Ongoing research in the area shows that cold weather just may stimulate the body’s brown fat reserves to burn more energy.
Brown fat is capable of producing heat and burning calories. The cells that make up brown fat contain mitochondria, the cell structures that help break down carbohydrates and fatty acids. These cells use carbohydrates and fatty acids to create heat. In this respect, brown fat behaves more like muscle tissue than fat tissue. This means, cooler temperatures can actually kick the body’s brown fat metabolism processes into gear.
For the most part, the body’s metabolism rates remain stable
throughout the year. Slight increases in metabolism may occur when the body is subjected to short bursts of cold. Likewise, slight decreases in metabolism rate are more likely in the summer to conserve energy. Otherwise, metabolism rates remain unaffected.
As fall and winter roll in, comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese and pancakes become more popular. Considering how metabolism rates don’t change all that much in the cooler seasons while activity levels tend to drop, the likelihood of weight gain increases considerably. Granted, eating salads and raw vegetables may not seem so appealing during the holiday season, but doing so can go a long way toward keeping the body healthy and strong during the colder months.
As much as high pollen counts aggravate summer allergies, many people also struggle with allergies during the winter. People allergic to mold spores and fungi stand to experience the same types of symptoms as pollen sufferers when cold, humid temperatures arrive. While pollen, mold spores, and fungi may well aggravate allergy symptoms, the root of the allergy problem
lies in the body’s immune system.
Immune system health relies heavily on the health of the body’s digestive system or gut
. More specifically, the number of “good” bacteria in our gut must significantly outnumber the “bad” bacteria or else the immune system starts to attack things that it shouldn’t. This is what happens with allergies. Not surprisingly, the types of foods we eat determine to a large extent how many good vs. bad bacteria reside in the gut.
Colds & Flu
Colds and the flu, both derived from viral infections, can happen at any time of the year, but rates tend to skyrocket during the cold seasons. People spend more time cooped-up indoors “sharing germs,” which may account for the uptick in rates of sickness during the cooler months. Once a cold or flu takes hold, the body’s immune system defenses weaken, leaving you wide open for developing an even worse infection.
A weak immune system, at any time of the year, has a ripple effect on your overall health and well-being. Cold hands and feet, gastrointestinal problems, and fatigue are all telltale signs of a weak immune system. This means people who are already sensitive to cold temperatures should avoid catching a cold or the flu at all costs during the cooler months.
Ways to Combat Adverse Health Effects
The body’s ability to adapt to changing seasons hinges on the quality of food we eat on a regular basis. Healthy food choices directly impact gut health and immune system functioning. Making changes to your diet can go a long way toward staying healthy all year long.
A plant-based diet offers the quality of nutrition the body needs to function at its best. While meat does offer its own nutritional benefits (mainly protein), today’s meat products contain an assortment of growth hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful substances. These substances act as toxins in the human body and accumulate over time. The same can be said for processed and refined foods, such as white flour and sugar. With the right diet plan, a plant-based menu will provide all the nutrients the body needs, including protein.
Staying active throughout the year offers a range of health benefits, especially during the cooler months. Exercise gets the blood pumping. This allows your immune system’s white blood cells to circulate quicker, which helps keep germs and viruses from developing into colds and flu. Exercise also causes the brain to release endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals that promote feelings of calm and contentment.
Boost Your Immune System
For those of you less inclined to try a plant-based diet, a quality probiotic supplement may offer a more favorable alternative for boosting immune system
health. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria—the kind your gut needs to function at its best. In effect, a healthy immune system protects you against colds, flu, and allergies by supporting the systems most affected by the changing seasons. All-in-all, our bodies are designed to adapt and adjust to the world we live in. Health problems only develop when essential nutrients and supports are lacking. Making just a few changes along the way can keep us happy and healthy no matter what the season.