Autumn health tips according to Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine talks about maintaining health by balancing the Five Elements in the body – Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. The Metal element is associated with the autumn season, and with the Lung and Large Intestine meridians (energy pathways in the body). Healthy balanced Lung Qi is essential for our everyday functions of respiration (breathing), our immune system, and the health of our skin and mucous membranes.
Mood: How grief, sadness and not letting go can affect our health
From an emotional point of view, the Metal Element is associated with attachment and boundaries. When you think about it, the Lungs and Large Intestine (i.e. our colon) are parts of our internal organs that have close contact with the outside world (breathing in outside air, and getting rid of unnecessary wastes from the body). When our Metal Element is balanced, we are able to open up and make connection with others in a way that’s good for our well-being and for others. And when the time for that connection is over, or is no longer beneficially for everyone’s well-being, we are able to grieve appropriately and let go as needed.
Having emotions is natural and not the problem itself. The problem only happens if we hold only them and are unable to let go, which might cause Lung Qi Stagnation. How do we know if we have Lung Qi Stagnation? We may feel tightness in the chest or throat, we might sigh often, or we might feel out of breath easily. Over time, we may have a greater tendency to feel sadness, worry, prone to crying, or prone to self-criticism.
I’ve also found that long-held emotions can be held in tension knots in the shoulders and upper back, especially along the inner border of the shoulder blade. This area is rich with acupuncture points to balance our emotions. Upper back pain and tension is common, and sometimes all the physical therapies in the world don’t see to help. In this case, it may be worth considering if there are long-held emotional patterns like grief, sadness, hurt, frustration, fear or anger.
It is important not to suppress grief when things change or are lost, but to feel the emotion, process it (i.e. speaking about it, journalling, doing rituals, meditation, etc.), and allow it time to pass through. Breathing long, deep, and with awareness can also help with cleaning this grief or sadness that we might hold inside. I have found in the clinic that people with constipation also often have difficulty clearing coughs and other respiratory problems. Eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables with their peels (organic when possible due to pesticide contamination of the peels).
Food: How to eat in the Autumn
In the autumn season, it’s natural to start to eat heartier foods than the light foods of summer. Root vegetables are delicious baked, roasted, or sauteed. It’s advisable to slightly increase the sour flavoured foods such as sourdough bread, lemons and limes, grapefruit, pickled and fermented foods, leeks, aduki beans, vinegar, rose hip tea, yogourt, etc. White foods including onions, garlic, turnips, radishes, daikon, cabbage, pear, etc. are traditionally seen to be protective of the Lungs.
For those who have dryness (dry cough, throat, skin, etc.) you may wish to have more moistening foods, such as tofu, tempeh, spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, seaweeds, almonds, pinenuts, sesame seeds. In severe cases, where the dryness comes along with weakness or frailty, goat or sheep dairy may be helpful. For those who are dry, bitter, spicy or warming foods may make the dryness worse; these include coffee, hot peppers, and dry ginger.
As always, choose a varied diet that focuses primarily on vegetables and plants (such as mushrooms and herbs). Chewing thoroughly, eating mindfully and joyfully always help us to assimilate our food. When we are not relax while eating, our body cannot process our food and drink properly. It’s easy to develop digestive problems as well as nutrient deficiencies.
If you have further questions on your Lung and Large Intestine meridians, please call 416-890-7770 or click here to book your free 15 minute consultation with Pauline!