The Squirrel and the Bear: Helpful Tips from Nature for Fall Health

Posted by – October 05, 2015
Categories: Guest Post Health & Healing

Guest post by Marcey Shapiro

Fall is upon us, ushered in this year by a magnificent lunar eclipse the week of the equinox. Seasonal changes are a great time to retune to the cycles of the earth, and to share some helpful seasonal suggestions for maintaining optimal health.

The natural world is our original teacher. By following the examples of nature, we can live more harmoniously through the seasons. Good teachers for the fall and winter seasons are the squirrel and the bear. They can give us clues about preparing for our own human health through the coming seasons. Nature shows us that while fall can be a busy time of year, thriving animals will use this time of year to prepare for the coming of winter.

The Squirrel

Autumn is an especially busy time for squirrels. They collect and bury nuts, bulk up their weight, and thicken their fur to fortify themselves to thrive through the cold of winter. In this, they symbolize preparedness. We would do well to learn from the squirrels. There are many ways to emulate their industry.

If you like to garden, plant a winter garden of roots and greens, or plant garlic for harvest next summer. Sweet pea flowers planted now, if your agricultural zone allows, will get a good start and reward you with early color and lovely fragrance.

Fall is a great time of year to make winterizing soups and stews and lay away some back stock in the freezer, or just to stock up on some of your favorites. It is also a good idea to do canning, drying, preserving, and storing of the rich bounty of the fall harvest.

Prepare your winter clothing and bed (this includes warmer bedding if you keep the house cool).

Eliminate all sources of mold in your home. Once the windows are closed, indoor air pollutants can become much more troublesome.

You might also want to stock up on bath salts, Epsom salts, teas, supplements, and medicines that you and/or your family members might need for the fall and winter. It is good to already have trusted remedies on hand when they are needed.


Here are some of my favorite remedies to have on hand for cold and flu season:

For prevention and immune strengthening:

  1. Homeopathic flu prevention: Influenzinum by Boiron (current year). Use three pellets daily for two weeks at the start of the flu season then once a week throughout the season.

  2. Immune strengthening herbs and mushrooms: Jade windscreen tablets or tinctures is a traditional Chinese herbal remedy used to fortify the immune system during the cold and flu season. Alternatively, you can eat cooked shitake, enoki and/or maitake mushrooms regularly (at least twice a week) or take an immune-strengthening mushroom tincture or tablets such as Host Defense (Fungi Perfecti).

  3. Take organically-raised colostrum capsules.

  4. Use cod liver oil.

  5. Pay attention to the health of your gut microbiome! Remember that about 70% of our immune systems are centered in the GI tract, and that the health of our microbiome is an essential component of immune health. Regularly include lacto-fermented foods like raw sauerkraut and other cultured veggies, miso from paste, kefir, and kombucha. If these are not an option, consider adding a probiotic supplement.

  6. Include more vitamin C-rich foods like red and yellow bell peppers, citrus fruits, and broccoli in your diet.

  7. Add astragalus root to soup stocks and broths.

At the very first sign of a flu or cold:

Choose a few of the following suggestions. If you find that one method isn’t doing anything for you switch to another.

  1. Vitamin C: 500–1000 mg every one to two hours. Decrease the frequency if you get an upset stomach or loose stools. Try to get GMO-free vitamin C, perhaps from tapioca, or GMO-free corn. I do not recommend using a lot of Buffered Vitamin C. If you prefer it, take no more than 5 grams per day.

  2. Oscillococcinum and Alpha CF are common homeopathic flu remedies. You can get either at many health food stores and pharmacies.

  3. Take micellized vitamin A unless you are pregnant or breast feeding (beta-Carotene is not the same thing). Do not use this longer than ten days per month even if the flu develops.

  4. Yin Qiao and Gan Mao Ling are two commonly used Chinese medicine preparations, available as tinctures or tablets, that are great at the first sign of cold or flu.

  5. Garlic “shots”: Finely chop one clove of garlic and put in a small cup. Add juice of one whole lemon and ⅛–¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Drink it down fast! Chase it with water if needed. Do this two to three times per day for one to two days, or until your symptoms are gone.

  6. Go to bed! Do not push yourself.

  7. Try steam inhalations or diffusing antiviral essential oils like chamomile, ravintsara, pine, lavender, or eucalyptus (not for small children!).

The Bear

The Bear is another animal to that reminds us of the need for preparedness for the upcoming winter. Bears, of course, will enter hibernation, but to survive without food or water, they need to strengthen themselves beforehand. Thus the bears gorge on salmon and other rich foods at this time of year. They, like squirrels, also put on some weight, and thicken their coats.

We have to be careful because of contaminants in the water but it’s wise for us at this time of year to eat a diet rich in the omega oils that we so need. Many of these same foods that are rich in omega oils are also high in fat soluble vitamins A and D, which are essential for proper immune function.

In the fall and winter months, especially in northern latitudes, we cannot get enough UV light to make vitamin D from sunlight, even if we are outdoors a lot. Making vitamin D from sunlight is dependent on UVB, and UVB in sunlight is low in fall and winter. Be sure to include plenty of vitamin A- and D-rich foods, like cod liver oil or egg yolk, ideally from pastured or free-range chickens, and their free-range livers. Remember that vitamin D must be balanced with A for the body to utilize either appropriately.

Bears also begin winding down metabolically late in fall, resting and sleeping more. You may also notice a desire to go to sleep earlier, or to sleep more hours in fall and winter and this is fine. Try not to override this urge by revving up with electronics or excess of stimulating activities. We are “hardwired” to sleep with the light cycle, and with the waning light; it is natural to recharge by allowing ourselves more quiet time, rest, and sleep. Fall is also a good time to begin to look inward in preparation for the stillness of winter. It is a great time to enjoy meditation, contemplation, and conscious breathing, reminding ourselves to be fully aware in the present moment.

Marcey Shapiro


Marcey Shapiro, MD, is the author of Freedom from Anxiety and Transforming the Nature of HealthA family physician, Dr. Shapiro has extensive training and experience in many areas of natural medicine including Western and Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, flower essences, homeopathy, breathing techniques, nutritional therapies, Scenar®, and hands-on modalities such as Ortho-Bionomy® and Biodynamic Osteopathy. She works with patients to address the many facets of illness/imbalance—biophysical, psychological, and spiritual—and creates realistic treatment plans that incorporate a variety of modalities. You can learn more at

Tags: Homeopathy Marcey Shapiro

About the Author

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Julia was delighted to find out that “professional book recommender” was a job. She has been working in marketing and publicity with independent Bay Area publishers ever since. She joined North Atlantic Books in 2014. She lives with her husband and two very nice cats in Oakland.