As the weather gets colder and life gets a little stressier, our bodies will start to feel the pressure. We spoke to naturopath Michelle Irving about some shortcuts to wellness, her top natural remedies for everything from concentration and memory to liver function (ahem) and the classic pain in the backside, stress.
Capsule: Ok, first of all can you explain a little about what naturopaths do?
Naturopathy is a philosophy of holistic healthcare based on a combination of hundreds of years of traditional knowledge, combined with scientific evidence. The basis being if the body is provided the right tools at the right time, it has an innate ability to heal itself.
When you visit a naturopath, your health plan is devised by exploring your personal health history, diet, exercise and lifestyle. Everything is connected – nothing is in isolation when trying to address the ‘root cause’ of a health issue. Similar to having a personal trainer at the gym, this is like having a personal wellness coach.
In terms of your naturopathy ‘toolkit’, what are your top five natural herbs that you use time and time again, and why?
I love all the herbs and they all have their place in different situations but my personal favourites are:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somifera) – A nice overall wellbeing tonic
- Echinacea – Not my favourite tasting, but great for healthy maintenance of our lymphatic system
- Bacopa – or Brahmi – This was helpful when I was studying as it really supported my concentration and cognition
- Milk Thistle – For our livers which work so hard throughout our lives, keeping our filter clean!
- Passionflower – The name is great, the flower is unique and great support in this busy stressful world and for a good night’s sleep.
Be sure to think about what medications you are taking and any health issues you may have before you can decide which herbs to take for yourself, and consult with a health practitioner.
It’s a tough time for a lot of people at the moment, and stress and anxiety are at all-time highs. What do you recommend for these?
Everybody handles everything differently, and we are all on our own journeys during this ‘new normal’. In my opinion Bach Flower Remedies (like Rescue Remedy) are a nice gentle place to start with mild anxiety and even some of the Red Seal Herbal Teas such as Chamomile, Zen or Relaxing tea. Then you have B vitamins, magnesium, fish oils and herbs like passionflower, chamomile and lemon balm
Just remember, don’t suffer in silence, do reach out to friends and family if you need someone to talk to.
Let’s talk about the four pillars you and Red Seal suggest we need to support our wellbeing: Nutrition, mindfulness, exercise and sleep. Do you have a top tip for each to help us on our way?
Nutrition – Ask yourself ‘Did your grandparents eat it?’. This is a great way of checking if it’s a whole food or not and if it’s over-processed.
Exercise – Have you moved today? – Choose the stairs over the elevator, dance while you clean the house, all the little things add up.
Sleep – Try to limit your screen time before bed and remove them from your room when you’re sleeping, or at least put them on flight mode.
Mindfulness – Positive affirmations are great – my favourite one from Louise Hay during good or bad times is ‘all is well’ – your brain can’t always tell the difference between what is real or imagined.
What would someone’s perfect morning routine look like to you?
Well for starters, take the word ‘perfect’ out. We are human, we are not always perfect, some days we‘ve got it together and others it all falls apart as soon as we hop out of bed. We have tomorrow to start again well.
But on a good day, meditate, yoga stretches, exercise, glass of warm water with lemon juice, a nutritious breakfast, and so on.
What do we need to be on the lookout for in winter when it comes to our health?
Make sure to get natural sunlight – Vitamin D supports our immunity. Think about any nutritional top-ups you may need and how you can adapt your diet to support your winter needs, you can consider topping up with the appropriate supplements if need be.
“ASK YOURSELF – ‘DID MY GRANDPARENTS EAT IT?'”
We all know there’s no cure for the common cold, but what’s your advice for both building up immunity and dealing with the symptoms?
Well, if someone sneezes, walk away… But seriously, if you know you are stressed, try to prioritise rest, as stress can impact your body’s immune defences. Then follow our four pillars – nutrition, exercise, sleep and mindfulness. Try to reduce your sugar and alcohol intake as they can undermine your hard work in your wellness routine.
Vitamin C, Zinc and Probiotics are a great baseline to support your immunity every day. During the cooler winter months, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that supports the body’s immune defences. *Read the label and use only as directed.
Is there one product/ recipe/ herb that you consider a holy grail and a must for every Kiwi household?
Hmmm that’s a tricky one – when I started this wellness journey I thought I would find the one elixir, but instead I realised it’s a balance of everything. In my family growing up it was a lemon and honey drink when we were sick which always felt comforting, and then water – can’t live without it – ideally filtered.
Mindfulness is a word that gets chucked around a lot – what does it actually mean, and how can we do it daily?
Try and spend 10 minutes a day in the ‘right now’ – not later tonight, not tomorrow but right now as that is the only thing we can realistically change. So many of our worries are based on future events that haven’t even happened yet that might never happen.