Content Type: Blog Post
The myths and misconceptions of seasonal wellness
Every change of season, the seasonal wellness fallacies making the rounds. While these are particularly prevalent when we change from warmer months to cooler, they are certainly shared each time we see the seasons change.
From the well-meaning mother telling her child they’ll catch a cold if they don’t wear their jacket, to the colleagues who relentlessly squirt sanitiser onto every possible surface… the fear of germs runs deep.
My son recently returned home from school feeling very anxious about germs. I suggested to his teachers that perhaps we could take the alternate route of teaching children that we don’t need to be afraid of germs. Instead, we could encourage them to keep their bodies strong and healthy through eating nutritious clean food, drinking healthy water, getting out into nature, the sunlight and enjoying movement.
So are we instilling needless fear into our younger generations? Frightening our kids, rather than educating and empowering them to understand how the world of germs, bacteria and viruses work?
It’s been a difficult few years for all of us, and many people now view germs as scary, unstoppable beasts – especially when we’re looking at how to keep healthy during seasonal change. But in reality, viruses and bacteria are all around us – and, in fact, inside us. They are actually an incredibly important part of our everyday lives.
This two-part article series will dive into the myths and misconceptions surrounding bacteria and explore all the ways we can take charge of our own seasonal wellness. Instead of leading people from a place of fear, let’s work towards empowering people with knowledge.
Common myths about winter wellness
Myth #1: Viruses and bacteria are the enemy
It’s true that some bacteria, fungi and viruses can make you sick. But that’s not the full picture. There are also many microbes that are there to help you. Their jobs include helping to digest your food, boost your immune system, maintain your skin health and even support your reproductive health. We have a symbiotic relationship with mitochondria, and they are deeply involved in our body’s everyday processes.
As Martin J Blaser, the director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences in New Jersey wrote in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, ‘It is reasonable to propose that the composition of the microbiome and its activities are involved in most, if not all, of the biological processes that constitute human health and disease, as we proceed through our own life cycle.’ So while we may want to steer clear of the bad germs, we should also be protecting the good guys.
And while some of us might try in vain to eradicate all bacteria from our lives, there are actually trillions of microbes living inside and on your body this very minute and more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. But this is not something to fear. ‘Microbes matter,’ explains Ed Yong in his book I Contain Multitudes. ‘We have ignored them. We have feared and hated them. Now, it is time to appreciate them, for our grasp of our own biology is greatly impoverished if we don’t.’
Zach Bush, MD, says microbiomes are the foundation of human life and health. In his recent interview with Isabel Lucas in Byron Bay, Bush explained that to be human is to be an ecosystem. ‘To be human, first of all, is not a single-species event, it takes 1.4 quadrillion bacteria to make me healthy. It takes 14 quadrillion mitochondria with many different species being exhibited in my body for me to actually even digest a single meal.’
Myth #2: Food cannot act as medicine
Studies have shown that certain nutrients and botanicals can play a big role in seasonal wellness and even winter wellness. For example, Vitamins D and C, zinc and Echinacea are believed to play pivotal roles in terms of prevention and internal treatment of common colds. And we can target our gut microbiome with probiotics or dietary fibre to benefit human health.
As scientific research becomes increasingly advanced, we have better means of measuring the effects of food and nutrition on human health. Ana M Valdes and her colleagues noted in their journal article Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health, ‘We are entering an era where we can increasingly modify health through food and measure the effects through our microbes or metabolites.’
Experts believe that quality nutrition can benefit human health and food can act as medicine. Interestingly, Bush says that the medicine found in plants is often from the relationship between the bacteria, fungi and mycorrhizae in the soil and plant rootlets. He is a major advocate for focusing on soil health to get the best levels of vitamins and minerals from the food you grow.
Conventional farming practices have affected the trace minerals present in the soil, and this has lowered the nutritional quality of our fruits and vegetables. Because of that, they simply can’t play as much of a role in supporting our immune systems and healing our bodies as they could in the past.
Bush believes (and I agree!) that regenerative agriculture is the solution. By focusing on rebuilding organic matter and living biodiversity in the soil, commercial farmers and backyard growers can ensure that the food they grow really is medicine (and really is good for us!).
Myth #3: Getting sick is always a bad thing
While it doesn’t feel good to be unwell, getting sick can actually be a good thing. For one thing, we can build up our adaptive immunity. Adaptive immunity is our ability to better withstand illnesses in the future. And this can increase in response to being infected with or vaccinated against a microorganism.
So after you get over a case of the common cold, some argue that the antibodies that stay in your body may help you to prevent another infection in the future or reduce the duration or severity of the infection next time.
Even just exposure can help our immunity. ‘Exposure, little and often, may help to refresh the immune system’s memories of commonly circulating bugs, as well as updating them with information about new variants,’ writes Linda Geddes in The Guardian.
At the very least, falling prey to the common cold usually encourages us to practice self-care and give our bodies much-needed rest.
Myth #4: Cold weather will make you sick
We’ve all heard the parables about what you should or shouldn’t do to avoid catching a cold in winter. Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest myths.
- Cold weather will give you a cold. You only get a cold from coming into contact with the cold virus.
- Leaving your hair wet will give you a cold. Nope! Colds are caused by viruses, not from wet hair.
- You lose heat through your head. This is also untrue and is thought to have started from a military experiment conducted in the 1950s.
Want to learn more about seasonal wellness?
Our next article will lay out all the ways you can improve your wellness! In the meantime, if you want to ensure your mind and body are in optimal health for a better chance at seasonal wellness this year, check out our amazing resources on HOLGRO, from nutrition-based therapies, information on gut health and health benefits of movement.