Staying Healthy in the Autumn months
In Chinese Medicine, everything on earth is divided into categories that mirror and explain the natural world – including the seasons. Of the 5 seasons (TCM recognizes five: Spring, Summer, Late-Summer, Fall, Winter), the one I personally find most interesting is Fall.
The seasons are each linked to different natural elements, movements, emotions, flavours, organ systems, maladies and even sounds. Fall is the season of Harvest, and is related to the Lung and Large Intestine organ systems. Its element in nature is Metal, and the pathogen we must most take care to avoid in the fall is dryness. Poetic as this may sound – how does it actually translate to your daily life?
The Lung Organ System in Fall
The lungs are are closest internal organ that has contact with the exterior world, they are considered to be the “delicate” organ and easily affected by exterior pathogens. In clinic, Fall often sees an increase in respiratory illnesses, as well as asthma attacks due to dust in the air. Many of my patients also complain of drier skin and scratchy throats, starting in late Sept or Oct.
For this reason, it makes sense to protect your lungs and respiratory system in the fall – by covering up, staying away from drafts and not exposing neck, shoulders or back to the elements. In fact, most Acupuncturists (including myself) are sporting a scarf by mid September! Even on warmer autumn days, I make sure to protect my throat, chest and back to avoid drafts.
Eating moistening, nourishing foods to support the lungs (and skin) at this time of year is also important. Click here for a simple recipe for preparing Tremella – a.k.a “Cloud Mushroom”. This is a traditional food eaten in the fall – for its nourishing effects on the lung system as well as being a natural source of vegan collagen for the skin.
The lungs are also the organ related to grieving and their sound is said to be crying. Old sadness may resurface more easily for some during this season, with memories of losses from long ago. Others may simply grieve the loss of summer, and deny or want to postpone the changes that the new season must bring.
The Large Intestine Organ System in the Fall
In TCM, the large intestine organ system is linked with the lungs, both are responsible for excretion and both relate to skin health. In treatments, both Lung and Large Intestine acupuncture points are used to treat skin issues such as rashes and acne. Just like in Western Medicine’s approach, if bowels are not moving on a regular, healthy basis we consider that the body’s toxic build up will eventually reflect poorly on the skin.
The large intestine is also about letting go. If you’ve noticed yourself naturally wanting to purge more out of your life in the fall, this may be the reason why. Perhaps you feel the need to organize and clear out junk? If it is no longer serving you, the fall is an excellent time to let go and rid yourself of bad habits, unnecessary things or old (maybe harmful) emotions.
For instance, if a patient asks for help with quitting smoking – it may work best if they can schedule this for the fall. Resolutions to quit may stick as this is a natural time of “wrapping up” with the old, and allowing to make room for the new. Much the like the large intestine – we can better choose to let go of what we no longer have use for.
Acupuncture during times of Seasonal Transition
Acupuncture treatments can support and relieve many of the issues that may come up during this particular season. When combined with suggestions for self care and lifestyle recommendations, it makes it much easier to stay healthy and balanced in preparation for cold weather.