5 Tips For Health This Fall
5 Tips To Stay Healthy This Fall
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
By Lauren R. Dyer, L.Ac
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), living with the seasons is essential to prevent illness and safeguard the balance of our body’s systems. As our external environment changes, our internal environment shifts too. Some examples of this are apparent everyday, even if we do not give them much thought. For instance in the Fall: it gets darker earlier prompting our circadian rhythms to adapt, our mood might change with decreased sunlight and absorption of Vitamin D, while the chill in the air tenses our muscles right up. Just like how these changes are anticipated from a Western view, for centuries doctors of Chinese Medicine also observed this natural phenomena. They came to understand how the seasons impacted our physiology, and as a result, gained wisdom of ways to adapt.
In TCM, Fall has a nature all its own: it is the season where the dynamic, warming, and active Yang energy of the summer wanes into the more structured, cooler, and introspective Yin phase of the year as we prepare for Winter.
So as the temperature drops, leaves change, and allergies/colds abound, here are some ways to stay healthy:
Tip #1: Eat More Warming & Cooked Foods
In TCM, keeping your digestive fire stoked is important for your overall well-being. Having a strong Spleen and Stomach are essential for nutrient absorption, distribution, and a healthy metabolism. When the temperature cools down, so does the energy of our digestive system. This is why cold and raw foods (salads, smoothies, ice cream, yogurt, etc.) can damage your digestive fire when consumed too frequently, especially in the cooler months. Instead, opt for foods that are cooked. These will warm your body and keep your digestive fire revving this time of year. After all, tis' the season for soups and stews anyways! If you still need your daily salads, try adding a cooked veggie, meat, or grain (like quinoa or rice) to offset the cold-ness! Or if you are more of a shake/smoothie lover, try not adding ice, using fresh (not frozen) fruits & veggies, adding a slice of fresh ginger root, or waiting to drink it at room temperature. You’d be surprised what one week of eating (and drinking) warm things will do for your digestion, especially if you notice you tend to bloat easily, get tired after meals, or have IBS-like symptoms such as loose stools. To learn more about how TCM views digestion, check out this Facebook post from a while back!
Tip #2: Keep Your Neck Covered
Just like how allergens, bacteria, and viruses can be seen as pathogenic factors in the West, in TCM, environmental elements (such as Wind, Dryness, Heat, Fire, Dampness, Cold, etc.) are considered pathogens too! Wind is considered a vehicle for illness, as it carries everything that can make us sick! It's no coincidence that the back of the neck is considered the "Wind Gate" and several Acupuncture points along that area have "Wind" in their name (like GB-20 "Wind Pool" and DU 16- "Palace of Wind"). When our neck is exposed in the Fall, we can get sick more easily. Yes…mom was right! Plus, a stiff neck is an early symptom of a cold in TCM. So, whether you want to don a scarf the size of a blanket (like Lenny Kravitz) or at least a jacket with a high collar, remember to cover your Wind Gate this Fall!
Tip #3: Let Go What No Longer Serves You
This might sound cliché (actually, it is...but let's run with it), however, it could not be a more accurate sentiment for Fall. It's a good time for introspection, looking at what mindsets and habits are no longer worth your energy, and re-structuring accordingly (the "get organized, get serious" back-to-school vibes still apply here). In TCM, Fall is also associated with the Lungs, which govern emotions of grief and sadness. Side note: one of the reasons I fell in love with TCM is how it emphasized how emotions (especially when excessive or repressed for too long) can affect our health. With that being said, sadness and grief tend to manifest in the Lungs as respiratory issues: a sudden (or chronic) cough, asthma, wheezing, and chest tightness, or repeatedly waking between 3-5am (the Lung’s time according to the TCM body clock). Although Acupuncture can help restore functionality to affected organs and help your body process "stuck" emotions, if you are trying to move through feelings of grief and sadness this Fall, I encourage you to also seek out support through a licensed professional.
As always, be gentle with yourself. Self-compassion is key.
Tip #4: Use Natural Remedies To Boost Your Immunity
When life gives you lemons, like a cold or chronic allergies, make a Lemon, Pear & Ginger Tea to combat it! It's basically a warm, spicy lemonade... Plus, it's high in Vitamin C, thanks to the Lemon, while the Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a #winning combo for cold season. Also, Pears nourish and moisten the Lungs in TCM - ideal for those pesky dry coughs and sore throats. Honey balances the ginger's spiciness, and if it's local, it will have bonus immune-boosting properties of its own! This is a tea I make in large batches and sip as a background drink during the day - because let's face it, how can I care for others if I am sick? I don't have time for that. Chances are, you don't either.
So! Here is a quick and easy recipe:
What You'll Need: 1 Pear, 1 Lemon, 3-4 pieces of Ginger Root (sliced into 1" pieces), Honey to taste, (the more local, the better)
What You'll Do: Combine the sliced lemon, ginger root, and pear into a small pot. Add 4 cups of water (6 cups for a more diluted flavor). Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Serve and add honey to taste! Allow it to cool as needed & enjoy!
Note: This tea is meant to have a strong flavor, but if you want something more mild, reduce the ginger. If you have signs of internal "heat" aka prone to anger/irritability, yellow phlegm, fever, excess sweating, bright red tongue, acne, hot flashes - ditch the ginger altogether.
If you rather opt-out of the DIY option, DAO Labs makes a tasty and naturally potent Immune Support Tea for colds and allergies. It's no coincidence they make theirs with Pear and Ginger too! If you are ready to have this on hand (they make it easy with individual serving pouches) head to their site and use the code EMPOWER at checkout for 10% off your first order!
Tip #5: Get Acupuncture & Gua Sha!
You know I have to emphasize this - because it works!
One of my favorite things about Acupuncture (and my job in providing it) around this time of year is seeing patient's reactions of joy and surprise when they can breathe better, stop coughing, and do not get sick or have allergic reactions as often—let alone sleep better, feel more relaxed, and have improved digestion (bonus side effects from treatment)!
Acupuncture is known to facilitate your body’s own healing process—and your immune system is a huge part of that! Acupuncture is not only a natural way to boost your immunity (aka your “Wei Qi” or Defensive Qi), but it is an effective alternative to popping cold/allergy pills - which (in case you didn’t know) can result in rebound-symptoms from overuse. There are several Acupuncture points that I use regularly to naturally reduce sinus pressure, stop headaches, help transform/drain mucus, and strengthen the Lungs. Also, remember the "Wind Gate"? If not, re-visit Tip #2! During the Fall (and Winter), you can actually get Gua Sha along your upper neck and shoulders at the earliest signs of a cold (stiff neck, sniffles, you know the feeling) to keep it from progressing! This trick has been used for centuries (and almost everyday in clinic lately), so if you need some Immune support too, feel free to schedule online!
Looks like that's it for Healthy Fall Tips. Let me know how these work for you & be well!
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Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical symptoms/condition. If you have any health concerns or an emergency, seek out medical attention. If you are a patient of ours with a health concern, contact us so we can help and make appropriate referrals as needed. If you have questions, reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!