An Overview About Seasonal Changes
Many of us have our favourite seasons of the year. For some, it’s summer or autumn, winter or spring.
Historically, our ancestors better managed and adapted to the seasons than we do today. They were more attuned to nature.
Depending on the season, our ancestors hunted, foraged and ate different foods, their habits and behaviours changed, they were more introverted in the cooler months and extroverted in the warmer months and they implemented tools to help their chances of survival during seasonal variations.
Fast forward to the modern day, many of us lack the ability to adapt to the seasons.
We choose comfort over adaptability. We rely on heating in the cold months and constant air conditioning in the hot months to balance our body temperature to feel a consistent state of comfort.
We forget that our bodies are innately designed to adjust to the seasons to maintain their strength and optimal well-being.
In this article, we’re going to explore how seasonal changes impact the body, what happens to the body when the seasons change, signs and symptoms that you need additional support and some amazing immunity boosting superfoods and medicinal mushrooms to increase your resilience, adaptability and immune strength.
Table of Contents
Do Seasonal Changes Have an Impact on Your Body?
As a holistic nutritionist, the key impacts of seasonal changes on the body typically happen during winter and spring.
In winter, many of us are more prone to dry skin and dehydration due to the cooler breeze and around heaters—which draw moisture from the skin.
During winter, there are more cases of eczema flare-ups as well as seasonal depression, also known as, ironically, SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
The seasonal affective disorder is caused by a lack of sunshine and vitamin D synthesis.
There are more cases of colds and flu during winter. Typically, humans spend more time indoors during this season and in closer proximity to one another which creates a greater chance of exposure. The cold air dries out our mucus membranes—the body’s first line of defence—and many of us are more fatigued, run down and vulnerable to a pathogenic invasion.
In springtime, allergies and hay fever are more common. Other issues such as sinusitis, dripping noses, itchy eyes, rashes, eczema, and asthma occur which are all signs of an overactive immune system.
In summer, the body is more at risk of dehydration, therefore, a bigger focus is on maintaining hydration since the body releases more heat to maintain optimal body temperature.
Most of us love summer when the days are longer and the sun is out charging our nervous system.
We spend more time outdoors and exploring nature— enjoying the beach, hiking and camping. We’re generally more grounded and social during summer which helps boost our immune system in more ways than one.
Seasonal changes impact our bodies in many ways, both physically and emotionally, mentally and psychologically. It’s all connected, just as we are to mother nature and her changing seasons.
What Happens to Your Body When the Season Changes?
The body is always naturally working towards finding homeostasis which is the state of optimal functioning and balance.
Whenever anything takes us out of homeostasis—such as a stressor— the body jumps into action releasing and activating hormones, neurotransmitters, microbes, proteins, immune cells, and sensory receptors. Thee are all called to action to make the necessary biochemical and bodily changes to enable us to find balance again.
Human beings are a part of nature, however, our modern lifestyles have taken us further away from that connection. We can see this is the effect seasonal changes can have on our health.
In the past, our ancestors implemented natural remedies and habits to offset the negative effects of seasonal variability.
For example, during wintertime, it was more beneficial to eat animal fat which is naturally rich in vitamin A and vitamin D.
These two nutrients are essential for immune function. We also lived by fires where the smoke from the firewood acted as a natural antimicrobial agent, cleansing the air and natural surroundings.
I’ve often wondered if our ancient ancestors experienced allergies and it seems fairly unlikely.
Today, our gut microbes have evolved alongside a more sterile environment with assaults on the gut from processed foods, alcohol, synthetic pesticides, pollution, drugs, and chronic stress.
Either way, there are some awesome strategies we can implement to help our bodies during these seasonal changes which we’ll explore right now.
During seasonal changes, the immune system can be greatly impacted and weakened by changes in the environment and our lifestyle.
Strong immunity corresponds to a strong gut which is a major organ of the immune system. Over 80% of the immune system resides in the gut.
The intestine and the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) are essential components of whole body immune defence. The GALT contains lymph nodes and immune cells scattered throughout the gut that work to protect the body from foreign antigens and pathogens while allowing tolerance to commensal bacteria and dietary antigens.
Additionally, the Mucosa-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (MALT) constitutes the most extensive component of human lymphoid tissue. MALT is scattered along mucosal linings in the human body—nose, eyes, mouth, skin, lungs and vagina in women.
In winter, the cold air and heating dry out these mucus membranes and our skin. People tend to drink less water in winter, adding to the dehydration of these membranes. As a result, our first line of immune defence—skin and mucous membranes—is compromised and we’re more vulnerable to “catching a cold or flu”.
Additionally, stress is the most common driver of a weakened immune system.
Stress is caused by many modern lifestyle factors such as traffic, work deadlines, finances, relationships, negative self-talk, nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut, or a lack of sleep.
All these stressors are communicating to the body that there is a threat. Many people are walking around unaware of being chronically stressed out.
How many of us have gone out and fallen sick the next day? Or had a big week at work and then all of a sudden we get the flu or a cold?
Microbes and viruses are always floating around us, on us, and in us. It’s only when our immune system is compromised by such things as stress that we fall ill.
It’s often said during winter that there’s a “cold/flu going around” which isn’t always true.
It’s more likely that people get sick during winter because we’re in closer proximity to one another, breathing in more foreign bacteria and recycled air from heaters.
People tend to make poor food choices in winter that negatively affect the gut and weaken immunity. We also avoid natural health boosters.
We do not get adequate sleep during colder months either. Our work demands we get up even though it's dark outside and our bodies are designed to get up with light and sleep more in winter.
These are some of the reasons why we get sick.
Combined with the lack of being in nature, less sunlight exposure, and vitamin D synthesis are all other reasons that may weaken the immune function during seasonal changes.
Try these immunity boosting superfoods.
Allergies are the opposite of a weakened immune system almost, it's the overactivity of the immune system.
The way our immune system and allergies work is fascinating. During infancy, gut microbes inform our infant immune cells who is a friend and who is a foe—which foreign bacteria or pathogen do we need to raise an immune response against, and who is not a threat.
It’s this miscommunication between immune cells and gut microbes that creates allergies.
When an allergic reaction occurs, the immune cells—mast cells specifically—release histamine.
Histamine is a compound that works to flush the lymph and irritate the mucous membranes to force the allergen out of the body.
Allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes and throat, runny nose, coughing, blocked or inflamed sinuses and congestion are all signs of the body trying to get rid of an allergen through our key emunctory organs.
Spring is the most common time to experience allergies. The weather changes, new seeds sprout, flowers bloom and the pollen count begins to increase and circulate in the air - but this also occurs as seasons change - changes in winds and the flora that surrounds us.
We also know leaky gut or gut permeability and a lack of microbial diversity worsens and drives allergies, as well as an inability for the liver to clear histamine from the body due to our DAO gene being unsupported, whether we have a genetic susceptibility or through our lifestyle.
Reishi is one of the best medicinal mushrooms for relieving allergy symptoms and overall health booster.
Low Vitamin D Levels
We refer to Vitamin D as a prohormone rather than a vitamin. The role of vitamin D in optimal physiological functioning is essential.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in bone mineralisation, cardiovascular health, immune function, mood regulation, hormone balance, fertility, skin health and so much more.
The UV rays from the sun activate pre-vitamin D within our skin cells (keratinocytes) and convert them to pro-vitamin D (25-OHD). This conversion enables vitamin D to be in its active form to perform its many functions.
Naturally, there's less vitamin D synthesis in the cooler months and in parts of the world with less daylight throughout the year. During these periods of low exposure to the sun, the body is not able to generate vitamin D as efficiently.
This reduction of vitamin D levels plays a major role in the ability of the immune system to identify and mount an immune response. Vitamin D synthesis also produces our feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin–vitamin D is required for the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.
Serotonin is not only involved in mood regulation, it’s involved in appetite regulation and optimizing sleep. Therefore, low vitamin D levels may develop the decreased ability to regulate our appetite and sleep patterns.
Depending on your individual levels, many health professionals generally agree that supplementing with vitamin D during winter is ideal.
As a holistic nutritionist, I recommend getting your vitamin D levels checked with a blood test and taking an appropriate dose to increase or maintain optimal vitamin D levels until safe or you can be exposed to more naturally sunlight daily.
Our mood can drastically change depending on seasonal changes.
The interesting thing about seasonal changes and mood is when we view morning sunlight and the sky, the body releases dopamine, adrenaline and cortisol.
The release and activation of these neurotransmitters and stress hormones inspires action and motivation within us which naturally elevates mood.
Additionally, when we achieve our goals we receive a dopamine hit which also improves mood. Hence why checking an important task off our to-do list is so satisfying.
During wintertime when the days are shorter, less sunlight, it’s often raining or snowing and cloud cover is more prevalent, those mood-boosting compounds such as dopamine decrease which naturally lowers mood.
Summer, on the other hand, is a period when we’re typically more active and feeling inspired. However, most people take holidays and vacations during summer instead of wintertime when the body should be doing less and relaxing more.
This means we’re working throughout winter, more stressed out, depleted and neglecting rest. We tend to exercise less and eat unhealthy foods during the colder months, opting for “comfort foods” such as high sugar foods and processed carbohydrates.
These wintertime habits and poor decision making decreases beneficial bacteria in the gut that synthesise serotonin boosting mood.
This is why it’s so important to include immunity boosting superfoods and medicinal mushrooms into your diet year round to maintain a healthy mood and strong immunity.
Try Lion's Mane mushroom to help elevate your mood.
7 Immune Strengthening Superfoods
There are many medicinal mushrooms and immunity boosting superfoods we can include in our diet to combat the negative effects of seasonal changes and season variability.
The following list is our top seven immunity boosting superfoods made up of medicinal mushrooms which include Reishi mushroom, Lion’s Mane mushroom, Turkey Tail mushroom, and other health boosters and herbal supplements—Ashwagandha root, Pine Pollen, Bee Pollen and Camu Camu berry.
Try including one or all of these best superfoods for immune system in your diet to improve overall health.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is one of the most famous and highly revered medicinal mushrooms in the world.
Studies have shown that Reishi mushroom may improve the immune system by enhancing key immune cells—monocytes, macrophages and T cell activity.
Traditionally, Reishi mushroom has been used for centuries as a powerful superfood mushroom to soothe allergies. Reishi mushroom is a potent liver tonic that helps clear out histamine to aid allergy symptoms.
Additionally, Reishi mushroom supports and restores a healthy gut microbiome, whilst also being shown to reduce stress levels and improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Reishi mushroom is also a potent antioxidant health booster that supports the body post viral and bacterial infections, as well as being a natural antiviral immunity boosting superfood.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is another popular medicinal mushrooms and well studied herbal supplement and one of the best superfoods for immune system.
Turkey Tail mushrooms are rich in unique polysaccharides compounds— PSK (polysaccharide krestin) and PSP (polysaccharide peptide).
These compounds work to strengthen the immune system, regenerate white blood cells and stimulate the creation of new immune cells within the body.
Turkey Tail mushroom is also a powerful medicinal mushroom for supporting gut health. The polysaccharide components in this superfood mushroom act as prebiotics to feed healthy probiotic bacteria in the gut.
Additionally, Turkey Tail mushroom is a potent antioxidant health booster that protects the body from oxidative stress which occurs with viral and pathogenic infections.
Lion's Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane mushroom is a popular natural nootropic superfood mushrooms that supports brain health and cognitive function.
The compounds in Lion’s Mane mushroom, particularly the hericenones and erinacines, have shown to have the potential to make Lion’s Mane mushroom act as an antidepressant health booster that can elevate mood and improve energy (1).
Lion’s Mane mushroom works its magic with the ability to improve serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline expression.
Lion’s Mane mushroom also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF)–all of which contributes to improving brain health and boosting mood.
Lion’s Mane mushroom is another potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and gut-loving medicinal mushrooms.
Ashwagandha root is a popular herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to increase adaptability and resilience of the nervous system by protecting against the depleting and immune lowering effects of stress.
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha root may improve immunoglobulin production, IFN-gamma and T-cells. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory superfood that decreases inflammatory cytokines and acts as one of the best immunity boosting superfoods (2).
Ashwagandha root is an incredible health booster that improves circulation, increases energy, decreases anxiety and depression, and enhances overall resilience.
Pine Pollen is the epitome of a superfood and herbal supplement. Pine Pollen powder contains anti-ageing, anti-fatigue benefits which makes it one of the best immunity boosting superfoods.
Pine Pollen boats over 200 bio-active nutrients. It’s rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants.
As one of the best immunity boosting superfoods, Pine Pollen contains brassinosteroids, gibberellins, arabinogalactan and polysaccharides which give its immune boosting properties and supports a strong immune system (3).
Pine pollen also contains a compound called Phenylalanine - which along with tyrosine enables the creation of dopamine - a key mood-boosting neurotransmitter.
Bee Pollen is another nutrient-dense and immunity boosting superfoods rich in enzymes, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and amino acids.
Bee pollen is a super antioxidant food that protects the body and cells from damage that occurs after a viral or bacterial infection.
Bee pollen is also a potent anti-inflammatory that may help reduce pain and swelling caused by allergies and viral infections.
Additionally, Bee Pollen has been shown to be beneficial in decreasing histamine release and improving allergy symptoms.
Camu Camu berries are a rich source of natural and botanical vitamin C–up to >600 mg vitamin C per serving–and an incredible health booster.
Vitamin C is the most well-known vitamin, especially for proper immune function and we must obtain it from our diet. The human body cannot synthesise vitamin C endogenously.
Vitamin C is involved in the function and creation of our immune cells such as macrophages, neutrophils and T cells. These immune cells all play a role in protecting us from pathogens and improving recovery from viral and bacterial infections.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and is concentrated in our adrenals which is required for cortisol production and the stress response. Replenishing vitamin C daily is essential for our entire wellbeing which is why Camu Camu powder is such an important herbal supplement.
On top of this, Vitamin C is required for collagen production - reinforcing our skin - our major immune organ.
Camu Camu is one of the best superfoods for immune system. It’s such a rich source of naturally bioavailable vitamin C that also contains the necessary bioflavonoids to further enhance immune function and promotes fast recovery.
Simple Tips & Tricks to Protect Your Body From Seasonal Changes
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, everyone’s body changes and adapts to its new environment during seasonal changes.
To protect your body from seasonal changes and developing adverse symptoms, try these simple tips and tricks.
- Try to continue the healthy habits you implemented in the warmer months—eat organic foods, moderate exercise, stay hydrated and expose your skin to the sun (even when it’s overcast).
- Be sure to stay hydrated even in the colder months.
- Include medicinal mushrooms, adaptogens and other immunity boosting superfoods in your diet.
- Get your Vitamin D levels tested and supplement if necessary. Foods rich in vitamin D include Cod Liver oil, shiitake medicinal mushrooms, egg yolks, beef liver, and wild seafood, particularly fatty fish.
- Strengthen your gut with prebiotic rich foods such as apples, sweet potato, psyllium husks, green banana flour, legumes, beans, artichoke and chia seeds. Medicinal mushrooms are also rich in prebiotic compounds—polysaccharides. We recommend trying our Mushroom Probiotics blend to support, restore and maintain your gut health daily.
- Drink superfood mushroom lattes everyday instead of coffee. Try this superfood mushroom beetroot latte or this anti inflammatory medicinal mushroom turmeric latte powder.
- Eat organic foods rich in quercetin rich such as onion, apples, citrus, parsley, sage and blueberries. Quercetin is great for alleviating allergy symptoms.
- Use heavier skin creams and body lotions to ensure your skin doesn’t dry out and remains hydrated during seasonal changes.
- Consume more immune boosting foods - bone broth, onion, garlic, oregano, apple cider vinegar, ginger and turmeric.
- Consume local raw honey to help combat hayfever and allergy symptoms.
- Include more herbal supplements like Ashwagandha root and superfoods for immune system such as Camu Camu powder (Vitamin C), Bee Pollen and Pine Pollen powder regularly in your diet.
- Incorporate the best medicinal mushrooms in your diet such as Reishi mushroom, Turkey Tail mushroom and Lion’s Mane mushroom. ¼ - ½ teaspoon of a high quality, organic, concentrated extract powder per day is all you need to experience all the amazing health benefits.
Seasonal changes can affect your health in many ways. When it comes to protecting your body from seasonal changes it’s important to support the immune system, balance the nervous system (specifically our adrenals and HPA axis–stress response) and the gut and digestive system.
These systems in the body are critical for maintaining excellent health and a robust defence system to combat the negative effects when the seasons change.
Consider including medicinal mushrooms in your diet. Some of the most popular superfood mushrooms include Reishi mushroom, Turkey Tail mushroom and Lion’s Mane Mushroom and other immunity boosting superfoods such as Ashwagandha root, Pine Pollen, Bee Pollen and Camu Camu.
These superfood mushrooms and health boosters can all help support the body during seasonal changes and often decrease the negative effects we experience.
Don’t wait to try some of the valuable tips and tricks we mentioned such as monitoring your vitamin D levels, eating wild and organic foods to strengthen the gut and immune system, exercise moderately, and drink mushroom lattes such as a mushroom beetroot latte and turmeric latte.
Lastly, drink more water and stay hydrated during the year.
- Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6982118/
- Immunomodulatory Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) Extract—A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial with an Open Label Extension on Healthy Participants - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8397213/
- The Top 5 Health Benefits of Pine Pollen Extract - https://wildkingdomextracts.com/blogs/mushroom-education/the-top-5-health-benefits-of-pine-pollen-extract
Written by Eliza Hedley
Eliza Hedley is an Australian-born health, mindset and abundance enthusiast obsessed with helping millennials experience living at a higher level.
Eliza's relaxed new age approach and understanding of nutrition and wellness sees her empowering and coaching individuals to understand that their health is the ultimate asset. Upon experiencing first-hand the power and place of tonic herbalism and medicinal mushrooms in everyday life, Eliza’s become an adaptogen fangirl and feels their utilisation in today’s world is essential for abundance and wellbeing.