Autumn: Wisdom for Immunity
As I write this post, there is a noticeable change in the air even in Los Angeles. A change in sunlight, and that familiar feeling of introspection that comes with the shift from summer to autumn.
With this shift, comes natural changes in our bodies, moods, and health. Personally, I already feel an extra swing in my step and feel extra tuned into infinite possibilities. Autumn is my favorite season. I absolutely love the coolness in the air, the beauty of the colorful leaves, and the traditional foods that are often associated with autumn, such as pumpkin, butternut squash, and crispy apples. It’s interesting to me how different people resonate with different seasons. Patients often share with me their favorite seasons.
With autumn around the corner, I have begun seeing more patients with lung issues such as fall allergies, colds, and coughing, as well others seeking treatments to assist them through a grieving process or a letting go process.
This is typical this time of year, which falls under what Traditional Chinese Medicine considers a “Metal” phase in the 5 elements of nature; where the Lung meridian and Large Intestine channels take center stage.
It is also a natural time of year to switch from the more “expansive” spirit of summer (think travel, going out more, and staying up late), to a more “contractive” time conducive to going inward, staying home, and sleeping more.
When we are in tune with our bodies and how the seasons affect us, adjusting our lifestyles to coincide with the change in season is instinctual; however, if you’re like most people, you probably do not sit around thinking about how to adjust your diet, lifestyle, thoughts, exercise, sleep, etc. to harmonize your health with the seasons.
It simply isn’t a part of our cultural consciousness.
But, despite our lost knowledge here, learning to honor the changing needs of your body within the cycles of the seasons is a powerful way to reduce risk of common seasonal concerns of body, mind, and spirit.
In today’s post, you will learn what you can do to strengthen and protect your health during the fall. This fortifying approach will in turn create a reservoir of health to sustain you in the winter months.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Fall offers us the perfect time to let go of those things which no longer serve us. This frees up any stagnant mental and emotional space to embrace those healing feelings of clarity, relaxation, release, focus, happiness, and flow.
Here are 5 ways to let go this fall:
Breathe—wind is a key element in fall. Therefore, take the time to focus your deep breathing techniques as you become aware of that which needs to be released. Big exhales.
Purge—this will be unique to each individual, but if nothing else take the time to purge your closets of unused clothing. Not only will it free up more space, but those clothes will be deeply appreciated by those who need them this winter.
Resolve old hurts—what pains or hurt feelings can you release this fall? These unresolved emotions can express themselves as grief and negative self-image, leading to imbalance and illness of the Lungs and Large Intestine. Take advantage of fall’s energy to let old wounds heal. Forgiveness allows us to release what we are holding onto, whether forgiving others or forgiving ourselves.
Give—this goes hand-in-hand with purging and resolving old hurts. Give away what you no longer need, and give yourself the gift of release and freedom that comes from forgiveness of self and others. I find a special joy and satisfaction when I get rid of something I no longer use and drop it off at my local Salvation Army or Goodwill.
Sleep—if you think about it, the act of sleep is the ultimate way of letting go. Thanks to a special type of lymphatic system in the brain (more on that in an upcoming post) called The Glympathic System, sleep facilitates the cleansing and organization of your brain. To keep things simple, aim to go to bed an hour earlier (the kids too) or, if your schedule permits, wake up an hour later.
Food to Emphasize (and minimize) in Fall
In the Traditional Chinese Medicine tradition, the flavor of fall is pungent and should be balanced with sour. This ensures the body’s mucosa stays moist and warm—which prevents infection, without becoming too damp/cold—which causes congestion in the Lungs.
Some examples of foods to include in your meals this autumn include:
Orange vegetables like winter squashes
Fermented foods (including yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh)
Lemons and Limes
Spices: bay leaves, black pepper, chili, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, rosemary
Dark, leafy winter greens such as kale, chard, mustard greens, etc.
Warming soups and stews
Foods to minimize are those that create coolness and dampness, such as:
Uncultured dairy products like cold milk, cream, etc.
Raw foods (including salads, instead opt for cooked vegetables)
I hope this post has helped you feel more in tune with the season and all of its possibilities.
Follow these tips and you can rest easy knowing you have created a reserve of strength, happiness, and health for the fall and winter months to come.