Staying Healthy during Autumn with Chinese Medicine

From Huangdi Neijing, the Chinese Medicine Classic:

“In the three months of autumn all things in nature reach their full maturity. The grains ripen and harvesting occurs. The heavenly energy cools, as does the weather. The wind begins to stir. This is the changing or pivoting point when the yang, or active, phase turns into its opposite, the yin, or passive, phase.
Just as the weather in autumn turns harsh, so does the emotional climate. This is the time to gather one’s spirit and energy, be more focused, and not allow desires to run wild.
One must keep the lung energy free full, clean, and quiet. Practicing breathing exercises and keeping the emotion in check will prevent kidney or digestive problems during the winter and help the body’s ability to store energy for the winter.”


In Balance with Nature

At Oriental Balance we believe that a healthy life requires us to live in balance with nature. When it comes to seasons it’s important to understand the character of the season to leverage it’s force and minimize imbalances.

The Nature of Autumn

Element – Metal
Color – White
Nature – Yin
Direction – West
Energy Flow – Downward
Emotion – Grief
Organs – Lung and Stomach
Taste – Spicy

Autumn – The Seasons of Transition

Autumn is the transition season between the hot summer and cold winter. It is the time that the yang, the Warmth of summer gives into the growing yin (cooling) energy of the approaching winter. After summer, autumn is time to clear excess heat from the body, and then as temperatures drop, it is time to start warming the body against the extremes. 

The Organs of Autumn: Lungs and Stomach

The organ system for Autumn is the Lungs and Stomach. Corresponding to the temperament of autumn, the Lungs pull in and refine the Qi (energy) sending it downward to nourish our roots. Lungs Qi gather and maintains strength. The stomach ‘let’s go’ of what is no longer necessary. A healthy balance between the Lungs and the Stomach will allow people to focus on core tasks, aware of what is essential and then let go of things that no longer serve them.

In TCM the Lungs are also very closely associated with the immune system as the lungs control the circulation of the Wei-Qi, the defensive Qi that protects you from the invasion of diseases such as flu and colds. The Wei-Qi circulates on the surface between the skin and muscles and works to warm and protect the body from external attacks by viruses, colds and germs. If the Wei-Qi is weak, the skin and muscles will not be warmed properly. This is one of the reason people tend to feel cold when they’re sick. A weakness in the lungs can lead to a weakness in the Wei-Qi, making a person prone to frequent colds. Autumn is the time to take special care of the lung to strengthen it and protect it from potential harms such as cold, pollution and dryness.

Managing the Dryness

Dryness is common in autumn and usually causes an itchy throat, a dry nose, chapped lips, rough skin and dry stools. We need to eat the foods that promote the production of body fluids and have lubricating effects such as pear, tofu, lily bulb and so on to counteract the dry environment. In terms of flavor it is advisable to eat more food with sour flavors and reduce pungent flavors as such things like onion, ginger and peppers induce perspiration, while sour foods like pineapple, apple, grapefruit and lemon have astringent properties and thus prevent the loss of body fluids.

The Emotions of Autumn

The emotion of Autumn is grief which is housed in the Lungs. It is natural to feel sentimental when we see the leaves falling and the flowers wilt. If grief is repressed, it festers in the body and over time weakens the Lung’s capability to extract sufficient Qi from the air or distribute that Qi around the body. If the Qi stagnates and does not move smoothly it might lead to a slow blood circulation or blood stagnation which can lead to serious health issues. Also when the Wei-Qi is week, our ability to defend ourselves is compromised. So we need to manage our emotions through deep breathing, meditation or simply do things that make us happy and be around with happy people.

The Metal Element of Autumn

The corresponding element of Autumn is Metal. Metal reflects our core issues, the most refined part of ourselves; an analogy is that of ore found deep within a mountain. The metal season is a time to examine the core issues, essential structure and guiding principles of life. During the summer, which is ruled by the Fire element, we deal more with the external – traveling and playing outdoors. Fall, on the other hand, is a time of organizing your life for the winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life.

Action Plan

  1. Dress for the weather
    The Lungs are considered by Chinese medicine to be the “tender organ” since the lungs are the uppermost organ in the body and especially susceptible to wind and cold. During the change in temperature, be sure to dress for the weather. It’s good to dress slightly less to prepare the body to get used to cold winter weather but don’t over do it.

  2. The Lungs like clean and fresh air
    Go into the nature for a hike or a picnic to enjoy the beautiful autumn. If you do live in a big city with bad pollution, it might not be a bad idea to put on a mask when the pollution index is high.
  3. Breathing Exercises
    Practice breathing exercises which strengthen the Lungs, increase energy, still the mind, and lift the spirits. They  are particularly appropriate for this time of year.
  4. Cleanse the stomach
    Look at your diet and eliminate unsupportive foods. If you plan to do a detox session Autumn is the season to do it.
  5. Eat Right
    Eat foods that strengthen the lung and moisturize the body such as pears, tofu, lotus  root and so on. More detailed eating plan please stay tuned to the Part two, what to eat in Autumn.

Reaching a healthy balance also always depends on your individual body constitution. Diagnose your TCM Body Constitution.

[staffbio staffname=”Grace Yu” staffimage=”” stafftitle=”Specialist in Chinese Medicine Gynecology” staffemail=””]Grace Yu obtained her PhD at the Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Gynecology. Her adviser and mentor is Professor Luo Songping, an internationally renowned gynecologist. Grace also learned Craniosacral Resonance therapy from an internationally renowned teacher. Read more.[/staffbio]

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