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Chinese medicine and how to live in harmony with the fall season

Do you feel it? The slight nip in the air, the cooler drier weather, the shorter days? As the warmth of the summer sun starts to fade, the leaves change, and things begin to slow down a bit, we too, transition from the expansive nature of summer to a more reflective and slower schedule.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fall season is associated with the Metal element and encompasses the Lungs and Large Intestine. The Metal element governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. It is time to finish projects that were started in the Spring and harvest the bounty of our hard work. It is also a time to transition inwards both physically and mentally. Just like the trees in fall let go of their leaves, it’s also a time for us to let go of old, negative thoughts we have bottled up over time and unburden ourselves by welcoming change, introspection, and self-reflection with open arms. The transition from summer to fall is not easy for some as they struggle with letting go of the longer days and warmer weather. Yet, others welcome the beauty of the fall season, the changing of the leaves, and the crisper weather. No matter where you fall, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you transition smoothly.

Lungs and Large Intestine

The Lungs and Large Intestine work as a team and play a vital role during the fall season. Our body’s defensive energy, otherwise known as Wei qi, is dependent on the health and strength of our lungs and large intestine. Failing to take care of these organs can put us in a vulnerable position during the winter. Optimizing our immunity will help prevent the common cold, flu, shortness of breath, seasonal allergies, and nasal congestion that are common this time of year.

Emotionally, the lungs relate to unprocessed grief and sadness. Suppressing these emotions can damage the lungs and foster illness. Addressing these feelings through support groups, working with a therapist, or meditating is key to optimal health. When lung Qi is balanced, there is clarity of thought and inner peace.  The energy associated with the large intestine allows us to let go of things physically and mentally. Someone who suffers from constipation or feels more uptight, stubborn, or has a negative, half-empty versus the half-full attitude likely has an imbalance in this meridian.

Tips to Live in Harmony with the Fall Season

The dryness of the fall season and the fast-approaching cold winter put our lungs at center stage. To transition seamlessly from summer to winter it is necessary to keep our lungs moist, healthy, and strong. Following these Chinese medicine tips will enable our bodies to transition smoothly.

How to Care for and Nourish Your Lungs:

  • Exercise: Restore your Metal energy, strengthen your organs and cleanse your body by going outside and exercising. Take brisk walks in your neighborhood. Taking in the pure and cool autumn air while stretching and letting go of negative thoughts and beliefs is vital.
  • Breathe: Incorporate breathe work. Long, slow and deep breaths fill your body with energy, while slow exhalation can assist you in slowing down your thoughts and letting go. Practice qi gong. Qi Gong is an ancient practice that includes movement, meditation, and breathwork and fosters the smooth flow of energy throughout the body.
  • Keep warm: Protect your lungs and throat by wearing a scarf, sweater, or jacket. As the lungs are susceptible to wind and cold, keeping these areas protected is crucial to prevent colds and the common flu.
  • Sleep: Early to bed, early to rise is what we say in Chinese medicine. Sound sleep is vital to our health. It’s also the ultimate way to let go, provided your sleep is sound and undisturbed.
  • Use a Neti pot: The lungs open to the nose, so keeping your nasal passages clean and clear is essential to ward off seasonal illness.
  • Stay hydrated: The fall season is associated with dryness. Staying well-hydrated fosters good energy and strong immunity. In general, we suggest consuming approximately half your body weight in ounces.
  • Enhance your immunity with acupuncture: Acupuncture can boost your immunity, reduce seasonal allergies and keep you feeling strong and healthy all year.

Preparing your Body to Transition

As the Earth is slowly transitioning from hot to cold weather, we recommend that you prep your body for the winter by including warm food and drinks that are local, organic, and in-season into your diet.

  • The color white: In Chinese medicine, the color associated with Metal is white, and the flavor is pungent. Foods that are white or have white centers are said to nourish our lung energy. Incorporating radish, turnips, white peppercorns, rice, oats, almonds, cauliflower, and naturally pungent foods like ginger, onions, and garlic can strengthen your lung energy. It is important to note, however, that all white foods don’t nourish your lung energy. White flour and sugar can deplete your immune system.
  • Nourish Lung Yin: The lungs are the most yin organ and require moisture to function properly. The cool and moist nature of pears moisten and protect the lung yin.
  • Herbs and spices: Add herbs and spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and herbal teas to your diet to enhance your immune system. Ginger is considered a qi tonic, promotes circulation, and treats phlegm in the lungs accompanied by cough. It also has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Avoid raw and cold foods: Instead, choose warm foods such as slow-cooked meals, soups, stews, broths, and casseroles that are easy to digest.
  • Fermented foods: Include fermented foods to feed your microbiome, strengthen immunity and improve digestion. Some of our favorites included sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.

Time to Switch from Yang to Yin

Gone are the carefree, audacious days of summer that were all about embarking on new adventures, traveling, exploring different interests, etc. With the onset of fall, it’s time to make a switch from the easy-going, free-spiritedness of summer to a more self-examining, introspective autumn.

In Chinese medicine, the emotions associated with the lungs are loss, sadness, and grief, whilst the large intestine is associated with letting go. It is a time to inhale the pure and let go of things that no longer serve us and a time to step into an organized, more structured form of life. Here are some tips to mentally prep yourself for the upcoming season:

  • Finish projects you began in the summer. Bring structure to your life by practicing mindfulness and planning.
  • As you’ll be spending more time indoors, make sure your space is cozy and clean.
  • Do a deep clean. Go through your closet, home, garage, and declutter. Retain things that mean the most to you and sell or donate the rest.
  • Spend time meditating and journaling. Self-care and time for reflection allow us to uncover and address negative feelings. Journaling your thoughts can help bring clarity and closure to things that you may be harboring.

As our bodies begin to transition from the yang of summer to the yin of winter, we need to take things slowly, be more mindful, and present. Tune into what you love, surround yourself with people you feel the most connected to, and focus on what serves you and adds value to your life. Reject the rest.

Need help boosting your immune system, increasing your energy, or transitioning to the new season? Schedule your free 15-minute consultation to learn more and get started.