Autumn is upon us as we (hopefully) usher out the scorching heat and welcome the cooler temperatures. According to Five Element Theory in Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the season associated with the element of Metal. It is a dry season, which follows the humid summer. Our bodies are microcosms of the environment around us, and so, dryness can become more problematic during this time.
In the body, Metal manifests as the lung and large intestine organs, which govern the functions of purification and release. The lung and large intestine are the most vulnerable organs during this season, while dryness can be a concern as well. Common ailments during the fall include:
Dry hair & skin
Colds, including influenza (hello, flu season!)
Neck & shoulder stiffness
Emotionally, Metal is associated with grief, which is held in the lungs. Over time, if grief has not been processed, and it is held on to, then it can weaken and damage the lungs, resulting in physical manifestations such as shortness of breath, frequent lung infections, or chronic cough.
Now is the time for letting go and for mourning the losses of our past. In all ways, both physically and emotionally, Autumn is the most natural time of the year to purify the body, release all that is old and let go of all that no longer serves. Grief is often left unexpressed because it is painful to accept and express. However, if sadness is buried, then eventually, one can become stoic and unable to express joy, creativity, or love. Grief is not an emotion to fear, but to honor, as grief ultimately washes away – sometimes literally through tears – all the losses that have been experienced.
So, what are some healthy, natural ways to stay healthy during the fall?
Use a Neti Pot. Neti pots are terrific and easy-to-use tools that help keep nasal passages clear. When properly used, the neti pot prevents dryness in the sinus and nasal cavities, while preventing and combating pesky upper respiratory infections.
Stay hydrated. Because there is a tendency to dry out during this time of year, it is important to stay appropriately hydrated. However, be sure to stay away from the cold drinks (no ice!) and alcohol. Alcohol will create more dryness. Warm teas, such as ginger, turmeric, or cinnamon tea are good. Also, warm water with honey and lemon is an excellent choice, since honey is moistening for both the lungs and the large intestine. Honey helps relieve dry cough and mild to moderate constipation. So, feel free to indulge in a warm cup of warm honey lemon water each morning.
Wear a scarf. Yes, flu season is upon us, and an easy way to catch the flu, or any other virus, is through cold or wind on the back of the neck. It may be an old wives tale, but in reality, Chinese Medicine theory has shown that covering the nape of the neck can significantly reduce the likelihood of catching a cold. And, of course, wash your hands.
Eat warm foods. Forget the salads and the cool, refreshing foods of summertime. Now is the time to eat cooked foods, so roast your veggies and season them up with garlic, ginger, and onions, which benefit the health of the lungs and are warming in nature too. Just as it is important to keep warm on the outside, so too is it important to stay warm on the inside.
Regular acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is an important strategy to staying well and maintaining optimum health during the fall. During any change of season, our bodies are much more susceptible to illness than at other times. Acupuncture boosts the immune system and aids in the prevention of illness. Acupuncture also treats coughs, colds, the flu, dry skin, and constipation; so if you start to notice some of these symptoms popping up, make your appointment quickly.
Let the tears flow. It can be hard to accept loss and to mourn; however, it’s important for both physical and emotional well-being. So, if you find it hard to cry, try immersing yourself in a tear-jerking series of movies (one by Nicholas Sparks perhaps?). Whatever it is that can get the emotions flowing will help release the pain of the past and open you up to a clear and brighter future.
Stay healthy this fall, and keep your acupuncturist on speed dial. You never know when that first sniffle may pop up.
*This article was originally published in October 2015 edition of Indigo Sun magazine.