If there is one constant in life, it is change. Change may be considered to be good or bad but either way, change has power to challenge us, to shape us into a more resilient person if we let it. Easing into or transitioning into that change usually involves much time and patience with ourselves as we adapt. This season we are discussing the changes encountered during our Autumn years, the 40 - 60 age group. I am personally in this season of my own life.
Many people find this to be a time of reassessing their life, confronting past decisions, accepting new limitations and exploring new horizons, encountering career shifts, perhaps dealing with illness or divorce, working through changes in family dynamics, becoming a grandparent, caring for aging parents, or losing a parent, for example. Additionally, most of us in our Autumn years may also experience a variety of physical and emotional imbalances such as hormonal changes (a big one for me), sleeplessness, fatigue, irritability, a general sense of occasional overwhelm, sexual disfunction, and digestive or heart issues, for example.
Herbalist Kate Bodmann shares that "often well before a physical symptom arises, we have emotional signs that we are teetering out of balance. These imbalances are a subtle, or not so subtle, sign that something isn't quite right." Herbalist, Katherine Knight adds that stress and an unbalanced diet are the biggest culprits for the physical ailments of typical middle life issues. "Those two things basically starve and deplete our bodies, causing most of the symptoms by wreaking havoc on our kidneys, liver, spleen, and stomach (from a Traditional Chinese Medicine standpoint)", she says. "From a holistic perspective, each of these is a sign of a body system that is starting to need some support to stay in balance before the health concern becomes more entrenched and becomes more physical in nature. If we pay attention to our emotional health, we may be able to keep hormonal imbalances that create emotional and physical menopausal symptoms in check before they become too severe. We can possibly save ourselves a lot of grief and suffering if we can learn to pay attention to our emotional health before the body must resort to bigger red flags and stronger measures to get our attention. While many of us try to push ourselves beyond our limits, juggling our time and resources, the truth is that none of us are truly [Superhuman]. We may be for moments in time or seasons of our lives but eventually we all must take a step back and reassess. This lesson tends to come up in the mid-life years." (K. Bodmann)
One thing that we may want to reassess is our nutrition. What foods may help us through our Autumn years? "There are many foods that we can eat to help bring balance into our lives and to help ease the aging process. Foods such as black beans, mung beans, wheat germ, black sesame seeds, cucumber, tofu, ginger, thyme, lots of organic lightly-cooked vegetables of all types, coconut milk, etc. These depend on what each individual can tolerate and what parts of the body system are in the most need of balancing." (K. Knight) Katherine also recommends that we eat while sitting down, slow down, chew our food properly, and to make the time to rest and recharge. "Healthy eating and cooking doesn't have to be that difficult. Some of us just need a little guidance," she encourages.
What about specific herbs that may support us during the Autumn years? "There are many herbs that I may choose for this stage of life and they truly depend on the person. Some of the liver nourishing and clearing herbs that may be indicated that I use often in my clinical practice are Skullcap, Blue Vervain, and Bupleurum. They will begin to ease tension and unwind the body and mind so that more clarity is possible." (K. Bodmann) Other recommendations include Dong Gui (Dong Quai), White Peony, Motherwort, Schizandra, Ashwagandha, Maca, Horny Goat Weed, Black Cohash, Milk Thistle, Holy Basil, Reishi, Stinging Nettle, Astragalus, Ginseng, and Cordyceps. Molly S. (one of our herbalists at Prairie Star) adds, "As a person ages, they may find themselves feeling over-fatigued. American Ginseng is an adaptogen supporting the body's response to stress and helps to support adrenal function...Ashwagandha is another excellent adaptogen that promotes relaxation for most folks, allowing for a good night's sleep."
Of course, every person's constitution is different, and what may help one may not be as effective for another. "Every person is different and the herb combination would need to address each individual's specific needs or imbalances. In my practice, I help to figure out the best food and herb combination for my clients and give them recipes and examples of how to cook with such foods and herbs that work with their individual tastes, restrictions, culinary ability, and lifestyle." (K. Knight) "When working with a clinical herbalist, you will gain valuable insights on how to make gentle shifts in your life to help you stay in balance." (K. Bodmann)
Of course, the season of Autumn in life also brings happy changes, such as more family and friends to love, a renewed sense of freedom, feeling at peace with who you've become as a person, embracing new adventures such as travel, becoming more supportive and compassionate toward others, and broadening your mind as you learn new things or take up new hobbies, for example. Whatever changes the life season of Autumn brings to you, see them as opportunities for growth. Reach out for needed support from others and adapt to change. Doing so will improve your quality of life for many more years to come!