As the weather cools off and the leaves start to change color, I am reminded of the natural changes we go through in the course of a day, a season, and a year. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is a medicine that illuminates our body as organic parts of nature. Just as there is hot, cold, wind, and rain, our body also shifts internally in the weather. Bringing our body and our lifestyle into accordance with the seasons around us can have a profound impact on our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Each season has basic health and wellness principles to help keep us in alignment with nature. The organ system that is most closely related to the fall is the paired system of the Lung & Large Intestine. An easy way to remember this correlation is that fall begins cold and flu season. Most upper respiratory issues can be blamed on the lungs while the stomach causes most of your basic stomach flu symptoms. Most people don’t know is how closely the gut is related to the respiratory system. In functional medicine, this is the newest research, but TCM understood this link long ago! When the digestive system tries to break down a mucus producing food or something that causes a histamine reaction, it sends a byproduct of mucus up to the nose, so as to immediately rid itself of toxins. By keeping in mind some basic principles to maintain optimal health during the fall season, you will not only feel better but live more in line with nature:
- Limit the amount of “cold” foods – This relates to food and beverages that are cold in temperature (no more ice water!) and as well as the internal temperature of the foods. Think of the fall and winter foods that you grew up eating. Soups and stews are great for this season, as are starchy vegetables and cooked greens.
- Reduce mucus producing foods – The most common kinds of mucus producing foods are dairy products, refined & processed carbohydrates, and high fat red meat.
- Eat for the season – Anything the color of the leaves! Butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, squash, Brussels sprouts, beets.
- Vitamin D supplementation – This study shows that vitamin D supplementation can successfully reduce the likelihood of catching the flu: Research on Vitamin D supplementation
- Wear a scarf – This is a tidbit of ancient wisdom from TCM. The neck and shoulders are susceptible to “wind energy” which increases in the fall (think of how windy it gets when the leaves fall!). The neck is where wind and cold can enter the skin and impact the lung system. (ever notice how your neck and shoulders ache when you get a cold/fever?) Always cover up to protect that area.
- Practice deep breathing – When all of our cells are adequately oxygenated, we reduce our likelihood of ANY illness. Include a few minutes of deep breathing daily and you will decrease your stress and increase your body’s immune system capabilities.
- Qi gong to balance the lung/large intestine – A video is worth a thousand words!
- Keep up with your probiotics – A high quality probiotic (with at least 10-25 billion CFU’s per dose) is essential for good gut health. To answer your next question, yogurt is helpful but, alone, does NOT cut it. There aren’t enough live strains of bacteria and the dairy in yogurt makes it difficult to assimilate the bacteria.
This Butternut squash recipe will surely keep you happy & in alignment this fall season.