Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc
In this article, I share some of my TCM tips to keep healthy in Fall
The fall season is well underway and we’re getting used to the cooler weather.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body is seen as a microcosm of the natural world. We’re so closely connected to nature and our environment that we have to adjust and change the way we live according to the seasons. This is the best way to stay healthy and prevent illness.
The fall season relates to the lungs and the metal element. The emotions associated with fall are grief and melancholy. What this means is that if the energy of the lungs is weak, you may be prone to this feeling of sadness and grief in this season and prolonged grief can injure the lungs. These are some tips to take the best care of our lungs in this season and keep as healthy as we can.
#1 Protect yourself against wind and cold
In Chinese medicine, the lungs include the respiratory system (nasal passages, sinuses and trachea) and the skin. It’s the most superficial organ system. We also call it a “delicate organ” meaning that it’s very susceptible to damage by wind and cold.
The lungs are the first line of defense against viruses, bacteria, wind and cold, or what we call “external pathogens” in TCM. External pathogens are what make us sick with colds and flus and weaken our immune system. Wind and cold can easily invade through the back of the neck and upper shoulders. That’s why we can feel stiff and achy in this area of the body when we’re coming down with a cold or flu. It’s important to wear sweaters and even better add on a scarf in this season to protect your body against these external pathogens.
#2 Start eating warmer foods and less cold raw foods
Foods have different energetic properties – cold, cool, neutral, warm or hot. In this season, with the weather cooling down and the days getting shorter, we want to incorporate more warm cooked foods in our diets and eat less cold raw foods. For example, you can lightly steam your veggies instead of having them raw.
In the summer you could get away with eating colder raw foods. Summer is yang (warm) and our bodies are better equipped to handle cooler foods during the summer months. Start eating more soups and stews. Add ginger, garlic, cinnamon or nutmeg to your foods and teas.
#3 Drink warm water and eat moistening foods
Fall is dominated by wind and dryness and this dryness can affect your lungs. Stay hydrated to keep your lungs healthy, your skin moist and your digestive tract nourished. The lung is paired with the large intestine in TCM so dryness of the lungs can even cause digestive issues like constipation. Please avoid cold water and definitely never ever add ice to your drinks. Moistening foods like cooked pears, cooked apples, nuts and seeds, plenty of soups (but not cream-based soups), persimmons, tangerines, figs, pumpkin, miso soup, barley and seafood are a few examples.
#4 Avoid Sticky Damp Foods
Reduce the amount of sticky damp foods in your diet. Damp foods are not moistening but are actually clogging. They create mucus in the body and greatly congest the lungs. Damp foods include dairy products, refined sugar, greasy foods, deep fried foods, gluten and cold raw foods.
#5 Nourish your yin & take time for rest
The summer was all about yang energy – activity, movement, outwardness and warmth. Now that we’re in the fall season, the yang has turned to yin. Yin is stillness, quiet, inwardness and cool energy. It’s a time to slow down and nourish and cultivate our yin energy. It’s a time where we can be more quiet, still, take time for reflection and meditation. Do things that you enjoy and give yourself a lot of down-time. Consider journaling and writing down your thoughts and goals. Try to go to sleep earlier, I recommend no later than 10:30pm. Avoid screens close to bedtime and read a book instead.
#6 Walk outside and breathe deeply
This will help to bring in more oxygen to our cells. Taking in the fresh air and moving your body is a perfect way in improving and strengthening the Qi (vital energy) of the lungs. The fall is such a beautiful time of year and a great time to connect with nature. This will improve our energy level, brain function and immunity.
#7 Make your immune system a priority to prepare for winter
The winter months are ahead of us and they will come quickly. This is an important time of year to work on strengthening and preserving your wei-Qi (defensive-Qi) so that you can be at your best and strongest for the winter months. Your wei-Qi in TCM is the same as the immune system. It circulates under the skin and warms the space between the skin and muscles – this circulation of wei-Qi is controlled by the lungs – and protects you against external pathogens.
I recommend being proactive in boosting your immunity with these steps:
Implement the recommendations in this post
Have regular acupuncture treatments to reduce stress, strengthen the Wei-Qi and digestion and improve blood circulation.
Chinese herbal medicine is incredibly effective for immune health – ask Dr. Maryam about her immune medicinals
Dr. Maryam’s newly launched online Boost Your Immunity Self-Treatment Course to learn self-acupressure, diet and lifestyle tips to do in the comfort of your home!