Change of Seasons - Letting Go with the Lungs


We are fast approaching on the holiday season.  A time of celebrations, seasonal weather changes, and time constraints that can leave you feeling worn out and fatigued.  This time of year in allopathic medicine is often referred to as the beginning of "flu season".  Here in sunny Southern California we may not always have clear distinctions in the weather, however seasonal changes do exist.  We are beginning to experience foggy mornings and damp cold evenings. 

According to East Asian medicine, autumn is when we begin to make a shift from the relaxed and carefree mindset of the summer months and turn our focus inward with introspective energy. 

Autumn is associated with the lungs and the element of metal. We begin to move away from the expansive and free style nature of summer and begin to contract into the nature of autumn and winter.  This tends to make sense when we think in terms of warmth expanding  and cold contracts.

In Chinese medicine theory each organ has an energetic component and the lung "energy" is all about letting go so attempt to focus on finishing up unresolved projects and turn your energies inward.

Paying particular attention to the lungs during the autumn months is important as the lung organ is "yin" and is considered "delicate" because of the close relationship with the outside of the body taking air in.  There is a definite sensitivity with the lungs having to respond to environmental factors such as weather, pollution, smoke and other hazards.   The lungs are related to our body defenses and making sure we stay strong and healthy will assist to defend against colds and flu.  The lung is also associated with clear and positive communication, openness and the ability to allow yourself to relax and let go.  The lungs can become deficient due to grief, loss or even major life change.   These feeling of grief may linger and when left untreated  it has been known to lead to depression or profound sadness.

One of the most important things to keep in mind if you happen to be experiencing grief, loss or major life changes is to simply acknowledge how you are feeling and accept  what you are feeling in that moment.  Avoid the temptation to change that feeling or judge that feeling.  

Deep breath work,  mindfulness activities, acupuncture and massage may also assist in supporting the lungs. Be sure to avoid foods of the summer such as raw salads and cold foods.  Begin to move toward eating heartier foods that require longer cooking durations such as soups and stews which are easier to digest.  Keep in mind that autumn can be a drying time of year,  just look at the leaves that turn color and dry up.   It is vital to consume foods that are considered moisturizing or "yin" like foods.  Here are some dietary food therapy suggestions to strengthen the lungs:

black pepper
sweet potato
mustard greens
navy beans

Fall or autumn is not only a dry season but can also be associated with wind.  East Asian medicine considers wind the "leader of 100 diseases"

If there is wind and cold be diligent and protect the neck area with a scarf if need be.

Finally, when referring to the lungs and the autumn season in East Asian medicine we say the lungs are coupled or partnered with the large intestine organ.  The two work together to keep balance and harmony in the body.  When we think in terms of these two organs the lungs  breathe in fresh new air and the large intestine eliminates waste from the body.  Often times if patients are holding onto emotions and not able to work through them they may suffer with chronic issues related to constipation or elimination which really is in a physiological sense the truest form of "letting go".

 So remember, focus on these four things to keep your lungs and Large intestine strong and healthy for the season change:

1.  Deep breath work and mindfulness activities such as meditation

2.  Acupuncture and Massage

3.  Give yourself permission to let go of things that you may not need in your life any longer

4.  Dietary changes that shift away from cool foods and focus more on warming dishes.

Cori Zuckerman