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A holistic approach to winter wellness

As we seek to support mind, body and soul in the winter months, Cloud Twelve Club's Nutritionist, Herbalist and Homoeopathic practitioner Jenya Di Pierro talks about wholesome ways we can help ourselves.

Jenya Di Pierro is the heart and soul behind the beautiful Cloud Twelve Club in Notting Hill. Down to earth, highly experienced, deeply passionate and blessed with a good sense of humour, she is trained in naturopathy, herbal and functional medicine, specialises in female hormones and autoimmune health and is a member of the Fertility Nutrition Centre. Here she shares her wisdom on holistic winter wellness.

Functional medicine is probably the most comprehensive way to assess health because you look at the whole person and try to address the cause as well as the symptoms of someone's issue. For example, if there’s an issue with the immune system, often there’s a problem in the gut so you might want to address that first in order to strengthen the immune system in the initial instance.

Herbs, which are essentially food, are well understood by the body, making them act in a gentle but powerful way because the body absorbs them easily. What a naturopath does is support all the pillars of health - diet, herbal and supplement regime, stress reduction and even things like sleep, rest, gratitude and joy - these are all fundamental to healing. Because, for example, if you're depressed, you won’t have the vitality to absorb everything the body needs.

In most cases you can't neglect any of these pillars as they all affect health. It's about reducing the bad guys (toxins, viruses, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, etc) and giving the body back its balance by improving the good guys. When you do that, the body can heal itself - we just need to give it the right environment to restore its natural processes.

How does the body react to this time of year?

Typically in the colder months we have a slower metabolic rate, the body is cooler and our mood can be a little bit on the low side. We're more susceptible to stress.

For prevention, you can offset that hibernation instinct with some form of exercise. Simply going outdoors and absorbing sunlight for a little bit is excellent. It encourages the body's production of endorphins and moves the lymph, which houses our immune cells and that help us fight infections. It also keeps our body warm, promoting better circulation and nutrient supply to organs and tissues.

I go outside into the garden barefoot and practice grounding, which is absorbing the healing energy of earth. Practising breathing exercises, and things like qigong, acupuncture and yoga are.

We also have a tendency to accumulate toxins in winter because we're sluggish and that can lead to a weak immune system. I wouldn't do a full blown detox at this time of the year - that's better when it's warm and the body is circulating better. However, you can do gentle detoxes - for example, using an infrared sauna, which is a golden tool for detoxing in Europe. It's better than a regular sauna for detox because you stay in for about 30 minutes and get a really deep detox. That helps remove the hardest toxins like heavy metals from the body. I love it because when you detox through something like diet or fasting, the toxins go into your bloodstream which is why you get headaches. When you detox in a sauna the toxins go out of the body through sweat, so you don't get those issues.

All the programmes I do include reducing environmental toxins, particularly in things like hidden plastics (a coffee machine has plastic parts for example, pre-cooked soups made in factories, which all have plastic tubes that the hot liquids run through).

Another thing I would really recommend in the winter months is simply giving your body a break. Slow down a bit and enjoy the quiet time. It's a great time for meditation, reading a book, pondering and living in the moment. I love winter and autumn - it's as though it gives you permission to rest.

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What do we need more or less of in the winter months?

Autumn and winter is the period when it gets colder and our immune system is affected as well as our mood. We also lose vitamin D, which is great for the immune system.

In autumn and winter we need to be careful not to make the body too cold. In the summer raw foods are great because they're cooling and they contain the highest level of nutrients as they’re fresh. When they’re seasonal they’re the most nutritious as well. However, in the winter when our bodies are cold and circulation is slower, warming foods are better. I do like salads but I energetically improve the heat level by adding ginger or chilli and things like stews and soups full of spices are excellent.

In winter we need to watch how much we eat and when we eat as our bodies aren't metabolising as efficiently as in the summer months. That means not eating too late at night and eating smaller portions. Historically, people ate a bit less as there was less around in the winter months, following that biological clock and eating seasonally is very helpful.

With that in mind, in the past, a lot of nutrition came from fermented foods that were preserved through winter - things like sauerkraut, which has more probiotic strains than any tablet. It's a great source of fibre and vitamin C as well.

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What sort of things should we be including to achieve those goals?

I'm a great advocate of immune boosting foods - garlic is the most potent antibiotic and antifungal, horseradish is great for the respiratory system, apple cider vinegar contains probiotics - I add it to salad, but I also take it as shots when I'm sick.

Aromatic spices

Aromatic spices are also excellent at this time of the year - anything you can smell. In Ayurveda winter is often linked to kapha dosha characterised by cold, heavy, damp and stagnant qualities and hot spices are extremely useful for balancing these states.

Herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil, ginger and cayenne pepper in warming stews and soups offer lots of diverse nutrients that are great for the gut and boost our immune system. You have to think of your gut like a rainforest that needs lots of different nutrients to thrive. You don't just want to eat broccoli everyday because it will wipe out all the other great nutrients you need.


Mushrooms are also excellent. You don't need to have them in the form of expensive powders. They contain high amounts of polysaccharides that are known for their ability to boost the immune system, fight inflammation and positively modulate gut flora. Eating cooked mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake and others, at least twice a week, is an easy and powerful way to maintain and build resistance against pathogens.

Eating seasonally

Eating seasonally is a good way to help the body get what it needs. I am currently foraging for things like hawthorn berries and rose hips, which I use to make a medicinal brandy. Equally however, seasonal fruit and vegetables will have more nutrition in them as they're locally produced and aren't travelling miles.

Inhalations and infusions

If you're ill, then steam inhalation with eucalyptus or gargling with a sage infusion is very good for the body.

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