Summer is fading out as cooler temperatures are presenting us with the beauty of changing leaves to oranges and reds. Autumn in Chinese medicine is the season related to the Lungs, so it’s prudent to pay attention to our health. Typically, this time of year we see an increase of patients coming in with symptoms of a cold. This year however, we won’t know if these are symptoms of a cold, seasonal flu, allergies or Covid! There can be significant overlap in the presenting symptoms, with the exception of a fever which means it is either a flu or Covid.
With this very real scenario, it’s even more important to pay attention to our lung health. During the past year and a half, we have worked to support our patients in promoting Lung Qi to help reduce the respiratory impact of airborne viruses. Reinforcing Lung Qi helps strengthen the resistance to illness and frequently reduces the severity and longevity of colds and flu.
Autumn energy brings introspection, emotional awareness and concerns over health, especially in this pandemic which is now an endemic. As the Lungs are associated with the emotion of grief we often feel “off” without understanding what is happening. This past year there were numerous articles written about the emotional effects of isolation during the lockdown, fears of Covid, brain fog from the uncertainty we have experienced, physical issues from sitting at the computer for hours on end and many more.
In addition to all of these new life experiences, we are connecting to our own losses as leaves begin to change and eventually fall off the trees. A very interesting symbolism and symbiosis with nature.
Here are a few tangible suggestions to help you take better care during Autumn.
- First of all, recognize that life is about change and it is fair to experience shifts in emotions. Be attuned to your inner self and give yourself permission to connect with your emotions, including grief, and process them constructively.
- Dress to protect your Lungs by wearing layers as the temperatures drop and wear a scarf to keep your lungs and throat warm.
- Eat foods that are more pungent and warming to your system. Eat fewer colder foods as we want to balance ourselves with outside temperatures. Gravitate to foods that ripen during the seasons and you will naturally stay in balance with the outdoor elements.
- As our energy goes inward, we spend more time inside and it is a good opportunity to cook warm, heartier foods than we might eat during the summer.
Foods to eat during the colder months include:
Root vegetables like onions, carrots, turnips, yams and sweet potatoes. They grow underground and help strengthen digestion and promote colon health. Pungent roots like onions drain dampness and benefit the lungs as well.
Winter Squashes like pumpkin, acorn and butternut are chock full of nutrition and can bring a light sweetness to a meal.
Fruits that ripen this time of year are apples, pears, peaches and grapes. The summer fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber and raw salads are too cold and damp producing to eat in abundance during the colder temperatures. Pears in particular are good for lung health and can be steamed or poached with warm herbs like cinnamon and cloves.
Lentils and legumes are complex carbohydrates which mean they provide a longer lasting form of energy than simple sugars. The soluble fiber content is good for helping regulate blood sugar and cholesterol and it aids in healthy digestion. They are also a good vegetarian source of protein.
Pungent foods and spices are the taste of Autumn. They include warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger. Foods that are pungent are onions, radishes and garlic. Mint and lemon balm are good for the sinuses.
Mushrooms (my favorite) are great for supporting the immune system, especially the Lungs and Kidney. Throw them into everything you cook.
Animal protein and soups for those who eat them. Choose to cook at low temperatures for longer period of time to promote deep nourishing heat in the food.
Wishing you a healthy and peaceful Autumn!
Karen is a registered dietitian as well as registered acupuncturist. One of her specialties is the balance method and seasonal balance method which treats conditions that are affected by weather and/or time of year. Examples are colds, allergies, weather related arthritis or pain flare-ups, emotions triggered by a time of year/ anniversary of life event.
Lots of Veggies Vegetable Soup
Makes 6-8 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium or large onion, diced
Salt and fresh black pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled & diced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
4-6 garlic cloves, diced
2 Tsp oregano
¼ Tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 zucchini, diced
1 can (15 ounce) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1-2 cups chopped bok choy (greens and white) or kale
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add diced onions, ½ Tsp salt and several grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Add sweet potato to mixture and continue cooking for a 2-3 minutes. Stir to combine ingredients together.
Add wine and cook for about a minute. Add canned tomatoes, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Mix well.
Add in vegetable broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer, cover for about 20 minutes.
Add cherry tomatoes, zucchini, chopped whites of bok choy (save greens for the end) and chick peas and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in bok choy and season to taste with salt and pepper.