Autumn brings so much that I love. That sense of abundant harvest, seemingly everywhere you go. The Autumn treasures gathered by little hands. The daily changes in colour as we drive through the forest to school. But it also catches me out, every single year.
It’s a season of damp and while I may love the sleepy morning mists and the smell of the damp earth, my body apparently does not.
My very dear friend Jodie – a medical herbalist – has reminded me every Autumn for the last decade, when I’ve called her because I feel grotty, ‘your body doesn’t like the damp, darling, we need to warm it back up and dry it out’. And every year that’s what we do.
One of the methods she uses for diagnosing her patients needs is, funny as it sounds, ‘tongue analysis’. Over the years it’s become entirely normal that during consultation she’ll ask ‘can I see your tongue?’. Even over the phone I’ve often described my tongue to her and bizarrely enough it’s become a way that I can check in with my own body.
The week before last I wasn’t feeling great – sluggish, low energy, slower digestion, the odd headache – and the first thing I did was go to the mirror and stick my tongue out. ‘Hmm’, I thought, ‘I definitely need something’. Trouble is, for the life of me I couldn’t drag the knowledge Jodie has imparted to me from the dark corners of my brain. As is the case so very often in the busy days of mothering, I know that I know, but I can’t seem to make myself remember.
So thank goodness for friendships where you can text a description of your tongue (I spared her a revolting picture!) and get this back: ‘spleen imbalance, excess damp, b12 deficiency, GREENS GREENS GREENS, ginger, beetroot, SLEEP, warm foods, nothing cold!! warm soups, stewed fruit with cinnamon’. Love her. If she didn’t have a baby of a few months old I’d be banging down the door of her clinic for supportive herbs and reflexology as well, but actually I’m in the midst of a crazy month and managing it myself is exactly what I need.
It’s the thing I’ve found the most empowering about taking back the ownership of my health. I feel so strongly about it. Two decades ago, in my teens, with very stressful stuff happening around me, I suffered the debilitating symptoms know as IBS. I was then, like many, completely of the mindset that my GP would ‘fix’ me. He didn’t. And, likely, couldn’t. Given his remit and what I’ve since learnt about my body. So I suffered on for many years.
My Dad died suddenly when I was in my mid-twenties and, eventually, feeling worse than ever in all the ways that you can, I ended up at Jodie’s clinic. We knew of each other from school, but I had no idea that it would be her who opened the door that day. And so began my journey to self-healing. From her and others I learnt about herbs and nutrition and balance and imbalance. About symptoms and causes and how to read what my body needed. I listened, I changed, I took care of myself and I took back the power over my wellbeing. I have huge respect for the good work that can be done in allopathic medicine (GP, hospital, etc), but it wasn’t what I needed at that time.
These days I tend to know what has put me off balance and can either remedy it at home or see my herbalist, homeopath or osteopath for some extra support. It isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but it is mine and, I tell you, I feel really good on it!
After my I’d had my memory jogged with that super-helpful text the other week I got right to it. Soups, broths and stews simmered on the stove, laced with ginger and warming, drying spices. The slower the cook, the better the ease of nutrient absorption I read somewhere. Everything had handfuls of greens chucked in at the last minute and, to my surprise, even my boys slurped it all up hungrily. I drank herbal tea, hot water with lemon, ginger and turmeric, or just hot water. Dairy and bread don’t do great things for me anyway and they fall into the ‘damp-inducing’ category in lots of nutritional writings so I fully binned those for a while. Breakfast baffled me. It’s always the breakfast that I get stuck on.
Dragging out a few cookbooks I searched for hot, warming, spiced breakfast that didn’t involve too much sugar or natural sweetners. The spleen (as it’s considered from a Traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint), I gather, needs a little sweet food but not an excess. And as I flipped over a page of ‘Oh She Glows’ there it was. The perfect Autumn damp-irradicating, spleen-balancing breakfast to end all breakfasts – Baked Pear and Apple Oatmeal with ginger and cinnamon. Oh. My. Stars.
It took just a few minutes to throw into a dish, used up some of the abundance of apples and pears currently filling the kitchen and in half an hour the house was smelling so amazing that we were all rubbing our hands with glee.
You have to try this for breakfast this Autumn. Trust me.
Baked Apple and Pear Oatmeal with ginger and cinnamon
(adapted from Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon).
Baked Apple & Pear Oatmeal with ginger and cinnamon
2 heaped cups of rolled oats
1-2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of sea salt
500ml unsweetened almond milk
65ml maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 pear, peeled and chopped
50g pecans, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Lightly grease a casserole dish (I use coconut oil)
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
In a large jug combine the wet ingredients and mix well.
Pour the combined wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Spoon into casserole dish. (To save washing up I combine it all in the casserole dish in the first place!).
Tuck the apple and pear into the mixture.
Sprinkle with pecans if using, pressing them down into the mixture and bake for 35-45 minutes, until it’s bubbly around the edges and the fruit is cooked through.
Cool for a few moments before spooning into bowls and devouring. Also, pause to notice how amazing your house smells and congratulate yourself on being a goddess at making breakfast.
Important note: please be aware that I am not a health professional and this blog does not constitute advice in any way – it’s just my personal experience and what works for me at this time of year – always consult a professional for advice on your own wellbeing.