Living in Harmony with the Seasons-Fallby Shawna Snyder, L.Ac., Dipl. OM on 02/11/16
Autumn is here with its shortened days, cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage. In Chinese medicine theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Weather and climate, particularly during the transition from one season to another, factor significantly into the prevalence of certain conditions we see at the clinic determining acupuncture diagnoses and treatment plans. Now that our environment has transitioned into a new season, it is an opportunity to assess our states of health and realign with nature’s rhythms.
According to Chinese medicine, the season of autumn is associated with the element of Metal associated with the Lung and Large Intestine systems which govern organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. Therefore, the Lungs and Large intestine are the organs important to be kept in balance at this time of the year as they are most susceptible to imbalances during this time. Lung Qi (energy) gathers and maintains strength and the Large Intestines “let go” of what isn’t needed. Specific physiological responsibilities of the Lung system include maintaining the integrity of the skin, respiration, body fluids metabolism, blood circulation, immunity and melancholy (or grief) emotion. Fall typically has dryer weather which may affect the Lung and Large Intestine organs as they are the most vulnerable at this time. Signs and symptoms of imbalances within these organs manifest as an itchy throat, a dry nose, chapped lips, rough skin, hair loss and dry stools.
Here are Chinese medicine-themed tips for staying healthy this Fall.
Mentally Preparing: Make a List of Your Priorities
Fall is when we ought to embrace our Metal-esque qualities: strong, definitive, focused, discerning. It is time to get down to business, to gain clarity about what really matters to us. To access this energy, it might be helpful to make a list of priorities which deserve your attention. Write them down and glance at the list periodically throughout the season. Fall heightens our innate ability to get stuff done. Take advantage of it by reminding yourself where to focus.
Do Acupressure on Lung 7
One of the best points for strengthening the Lung organ is Lung 7. It is a great point for cough, shortness of breath and nasal congestion. Lung 7 is easy to access yourself. Make a thumbs-up sign. When you do that, you’ll see a depression at the base of your thumb (referred to as the anatomical snuffbox). From that depression, Lung 7 is located approximately two finger widths up your arm.
Dryness of all kinds is common in Fall. Since Lung is the organ that relates most closely to the skin, dry skin, itchy skin and even rashes tend to show up in Fall. Drink a lot of water, herbal tea and soup as well as keep your skin hydrated with a good quality moisturizer.
Another reason to stay hydrated is to regulate digestion. The Lung’s paired organ is Large Intestine, so sometimes digestive issues can flare up this time of year. Constipation, due to the dryness of the season, is most common, especially in people who struggle with the “letting go” aspect of transitioning into fall.
Dress in Layers
is considered by Chinese medicine to be the "tender organ." The Lungs
are most susceptible to cold and dryness. So, during the change in temperature,
be sure to dress for the weather! In northern Virginia we may have a frosty
start to the day and by afternoon the temperature is in the 70’s. Office buildings can be another challenge as
the central indoor temperature may not be suitable for everyone, leaving some
freezing and others feeling too warm.
So, dress in layers to keep your body comfortable for all the different
temperatures you may be experience, otherwise it is an open invitation for
coughs, sore throats and the common cold.
Choose Nourishing Foods to Support Lung and Large Intestine Health
Step away from the salad! The cool, raw, refreshing salads of summer will not do you any favors come Fall. Just as we need to start keeping our bodies warmer on the outside, we need to stay warm on the inside as well. In Fall, eat warm, cooked food. Instead of cold cereal with milk, choose oatmeal. Trade the salads for oven-roasted veggies over brown rice. When cooking, throw in some onions, ginger, garlic or mustard—these pungent foods are known to benefit the Lung organ. More pungent foods and herbs include: capers, cardamom, chives, cinnamon, cloves, dill, leek, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, wheat germ, watercress, cabbage, turnip, horseradish, pepper and chili peppers.
Veggie wise, root vegetables such as beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash are most nourishing during this season. Ideally, eat what’s in season and locally produced. If you go for out-of-season vegetables, make sure they are cooked. If you’re craving fruit, reach for something seasonal such as apples, pears, lemons, grapes, figs or persimmons. Other beneficial foods are lily bulb, white fungus, nuts or seeds, lotus root, honey and moderate amounts of soy milk and dairy products.
It is a Chinese tradition to eat porridge for breakfast and soup for dinner that is made with the above ingredients.
In Chinese medicine, every organ is associated with an organ and the emotion associated with Fall is grief (or sadness). It’s a natural shift in energy and it is the time of year to pull inward, to grieve let go and to reflect on any unresolved sadness. Grief that is expressed fully and resolved is strengthening both physically and psychologically. When the Lungs are out of balance or you are dealing with excessive personal grief, you may have difficulty coping with loss and change, a sense of alienation and experience a prolonged sense of sadness that doesn’t go away. However, the Lungs are also associated with clear thinking and communication, openness to new ideas, positive self-image and ability to relax, let go and be happy. Take this time to evaluate and assess your own situation and how you engage with life’s challenges.
Fall is about refinement. It’s time to pare down, to let go of the excesses we allowed ourselves in summer and focus on what’s necessary for winter. It is a time of organizing your life for the winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life. It would be a good time now to finish projects that you began in spring and summer – harvesting the bounty of your hard work. Of course, it's also the perfect time to begin more introspective, indoor projects. Acupuncture can help balance your body to promote overall health. Wishing you a happy and healthy Fall.