As the days get shorter and temperatures begin to cool, it is the optimal time to start supporting our lung health and building our defensive Qi (energy) to help repel allergies and colds. Fall is the beginning of the yin, or cooling cycle that will eventually transition us to winter.
As we begin to bring out our sweaters, hats and scarves to protect our bodies from the cold and wind outside, we should also prepare to reinforce our insides with seasonal nutrition. The transition begins with fresh crops of autumn fruits and vegetables. Pumpkins, sweet potato and squash are abundant among the fallen leaves, as October brings thoughts of pumpkin carvings for Halloween.
Fall and Traditional Chinese Medicine
The cold, wind and dryness of fall weather make our respiratory system susceptible to cold and allergies. The lung is the most tender organ in our bodies, as it is the uppermost organ exposed to the outside air. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the internal organs associated with autumn are the lungs and large intestine, so we need to take good care of how we eat and dress for the cooler temperatures.
With days getting shorter, we spend more time doing indoor activities and focusing our energy inwardly and introspectively. The work of letting go of what was and allowing ourselves to move on is the emotional process most connected to the lung. It’s the perfect time to start organizing and preparing for the upcoming season and giving ourselves permission to regroup, refocus and hunker down for the winter.
The transition from summer to fall can be hard, not only because it signals the end of summer holidays and vacations, but also (and perhaps especially) for warm weather people or those who get down during the days with less sunshine. Getting a chill by being exposed to wind, cold and dry air is the perfect recipe for catching a late summer/early autumn cold. This leads to a scratchy and sore throat, cough and runny nose.
To strengthen your defensive Qi to protect you from colds, flu and allergies, prepare your body by getting enough sleep (since it gets darker earlier anyway), eating according to the season, dressing to protect from the cold and wind and getting acupuncture to build your lung Qi and/or to immediately treat your cold or flu symptoms.
Eating Right for the Season
Nutritionally, we want to prepare for autumn by shifting away from cooling foods eaten during warmer temperatures, like raw vegetables, frozen drinks and iced beverages. Now is the perfect time to start adding foods that generate fluids, moisten the lungs, support our digestive processes and balance our bodies to the outside colder weather.
Some of the foods we want to eat more of include: apples, pears, persimmons, figs, plums, bananas, grapes, pumpkins, nuts and seeds, hot cereals, onions, garlic, miso, broccoli, asparagus and dried beans.
Sweetening with a bit of honey is also good for generating fluids. Focusing on more soups and stews, grains, winter squashes and root vegetables will better balance our bodies with the season and prevent the digestive and cold issues that arise from too many cooling foods. When we mindfully eat for the seasons, we give ourselves the best possible chance of staying healthy all year round.
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