How to Stay Healthy This Fall

Fall is officially here for most of us and I’m starting to see the first round of sniffles and colds.  I have amazing herbal formulas in my office for you to stop a cold in its tracks or get rid of a nasty cold that is hard to kick.  Acupuncture is health care so keep your appointment if you aren’t well.  Acupuncture will speed healing and get you better fast! 

Seasonal changes can cause stress on the body if we don’t adapt our habits to our new environment.  Chinese medicine correlates autumn with the Lung and Large Intestine-the organs of inspiration and elimination respectively. This organ system rules the skin, respiration, body fluids, metabolism, blood circulation, immunity, bowel movements, the appreciation of beauty and the emotion of sadness.   

Fall is the time of year where we prepare for turning inward, breathing and taking in what is of value and eliminating that which no longer serves us.  If we take steps now to support our bodies as we prepare for even colder temperatures, we can preserve health and wellness even throughout the harshest parts of winter. 

1. Be prepared-don’t get caught without a scarf and an extra warm layer!

Your mom was right-cover your neck and pack a sweater!  We have a tendency when the weather cools suddenly to get caught outside without being properly dressed for the weather.  The lung system is comprised of our lungs, nose, throat and our skin.  They produce a substance called ‘Wei Qi’ which is our body’s protective Qi.  This fine vapor circulates throughout our skin, muscles and organs.  Its’ job is to defend us from bacteria, viruses and even other people’s energy.  When our Wei Qi is weak, we are more susceptible to getting sick or to being energetically “attacked” by others.  Chinese medicine considers wind to the “the leader of the 10,000 diseases.”  Wind can quickly bring disease into the body by way of inadequately covered skin causing immediate injury to the Lung and immune system.  Weakened lungs can cause further problems once we enter the winter season such as metabolic and digestive issues. 

2.  Let go

Autumn emphasizes the cycle of dormancy and preparing for rebirth. This allows us the opportunity to release old thoughts and negative patterns. Through this process of letting go, we can grow and thrive with fresh perspective.  This season is also associated with grief and nostalgia.  The energetic direction of fall is down and in and this can cause melancholia and depression in many people.  Our thoughts can turn to how things once were and cause us to mourn times and people that are no longer in our lives.  Be aware of this tendency to want to hold onto thoughts of the past and actively release them to make way for new experiences. 

3.  Add warm foods to your diet to combat the colder temperatures outside

Altering your diet is important to ensure that the body adjusts to the changing seasons.  It is beneficial to begin cutting back and gradually eliminating the cooling foods of summer, i.e. raw foods, salads and iced drinks. During the autumn season, it is important to add more cooked and warming food.  Some of these include: acorn squash, leeks, butternut squash, carrots, chestnuts, corn, green peas, broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, bok choy, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, brussel sprouts, red cabbage and yams. Some favorite grains and beans are amaranth, barley, quinoa, spelt bread, kidney beans, and white and navy beans.  Pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts are also beneficial.  Start your day with oatmeal or porridge and have soup for lunch/dinner to stoke your digestion and keep your internal environment and organs warm.

4.  Go to bed earlier

We all need more sleep-even more so in the winter when our bodies are working harder to keep us warm and protected against the elements.  Try going to bed one hour before your normal bedtime and see how you feel.  The hours that you spend asleep before midnight are twice as restful as the hours clocked after midnight.  This is because our bodies are meant to be asleep when it’s dark outside and our systems have to work much harder to maintain proper functioning.  Give it a try.  Your body will thank you.  I’ve been getting in bed by 10:30/11pm lately and I LOVE it. 

5.  Breathe deeply and smoothly

The Lungs and Large Intestine are the organs associated with the fall season.  Our lungs connect us to the external world with each breath. The Lungs as a physical organ enable us to breathe in fresh air, literally representing inspiration and an internal, introspective quality.  They also enable us to exhale carbon dioxide and other impurities, representing letting go of what we no longer need in our lives.  The Large Intestine has an additional function of purging toxins from our body.  Nourish a breath practice this fall, even if it’s just a couple of minutes a day.  It will clear your mind and calm your spirit.

6.  See your acupuncturist for a seasonal tune-up!

The seasonal ailments related to fall are breathing difficulties and bronchitis, colds and flu, allergies, skin problems and constipation.  Even if you are not someone who typically experiences these symptoms throughout the fall/winter season, it’s important to give your body the proper tools to adjust to the change in the environment.  Everybody can use a little strengthening of their system to fortify them against the season’s extremes.  Be proactive about your health this fall.  Schedule an appointment now for your seasonal tune-up!  If you do happen to feel a cold or flu coming on, there are fantastic herbal formulas that can either knock out or at least cut short on the duration of your illness

7. Enjoy the fruits of your labor

Summer was a season of high creativity, drive, energy and socializing.  This is a time of harvest, when we gather the colorful, abundant fruits and vegetables that are all around us. It is a time to enjoy the fruits of our labor and settle in for the cold of winter.  What have you learned this summer?  What experiences have you collected?  What do you know now to be true about life and yourself that you didn’t know three months ago?  We may stock up on goods or bring out our warm clothes, just as animals grow their winter coats, store food, and prepare in their own way for winter. 

8.  Go within, reflect and focus

Fall is the season associated with the metal element. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the metal element governs the mind, organization, order, and stability.  We tend to be more reflective, turning inward to our work, our families and our homes during this time.  It is a time to organize, prepare for the winter season ahead and reflect on our lives. Spiritually, it may be a time to go within and evaluate ourselves.  Spending more time indoors may give us the opportunity to quiet the mind, meditate, do yoga and, perhaps, contemplate where we are and where we want to go.

9.  Stay hydrated and moisturized inside & out

Itchy skin is a typical manifestation of autumn’s dry quality.  This dry weather usually causes dryness in the mouth and throat, rough or itchy skin, nose bleeds, hair loss, and occasionally, even constipation.  The body needs extra fluids to counteract the dry environment.  Certain foods can act as lubricants and promote body fluid production such as sesame, honey, dairy products, pineapple, pear, loquat fruit, sugar cane, and bananas. All of these moisturize internal dryness caused by lack of body fluid, and restore normal functioning of the lungs.  Use an organic olive or coconut oil to hydrate your skin from the outside.

 10.  Add sour flavors to your diet to astringe and prevent loss of fluids

The reason we want to bump up our consumption of sour foods is because they help our bodies hold onto moisture and keep us lubricated.  Think of the face you make when you bite into a lemon.  Your lips purse and contract in response to the flavor.  This is the same mechanism that occurs in your body when we eat sour natured foods.  Sour flavors also tend to move downward in the body, which benefit the lungs.  Reduce onions, peppers and other foods that induce perspiration.  Add astringent foods like pineapple, apple, grapefruit, lemon, sesame, honey, and banana.