It seems like just yesterday we were sweating through 80° days… oh, probably because we were. The changes in seasons always require some adjustment, but when they are as abrupt as this one it’s no surprise that some people are left feeling a little “blah.”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season corresponds to a certain element. It is important to keep this element balanced and strong during its season in order to maintain health. When the seasons change suddenly, however, sometimes our bodies cannot adapt quickly enough. In autumn, the resulting imbalance can lead to asthma, colds, feelings of sadness, and sleep disturbances.
Autumn is more yin in nature than the fiery yang that is summer. As our days turn from warm to cool, and as we move from more daylight hours to more darkness, we experience a change from yang to yin. During yin seasons we find ourselves being more introspective and less active. We no longer crave ice-cold beverages, but instead look to balance the yin outside by drinking warm things like cocoa or hot tea. Autumn is also a time of letting go. Just as the trees lose their leaves, so we too must let go of things that are bothering us.
The concept of “letting go” in autumn is exemplified by the season’s associated organs. Autumn is Metal, which corresponds to the Lung and Large Intestine. The Lung is the organ through which we inhale refreshing and nourishing air, while the Large Intestine allows us to rid our bodies of waste and toxicity. A balance between these two activities is integral to feeling healthy and keeping away feelings of negativity, stubbornness and depression. The emotion associated with the Lung is grief. Someone with a Metal imbalance may therefore have a hard time letting go of past trauma or pain, or they may feel sad for no reason.
Additionally, qi flows through the Lung meridian most heavily between 3 and 5 a.m. If you find yourself waking up between these times at night, it’s likely your Metal element is out of balance.
Letting go is not the only important aspect of fall. The Lung is also responsible for the proper circulation of Wei-Qi, which is the defensive Qi that protects our bodies from illness (similar to the immune system). If the Lung, and therefore Wei-Qi, are weak, symptoms of asthma, the cold, or the flu may develop. Thus, strengthening our Lung is important to keeping illness at bay.
So, how can you make sure your Metal element stays strong this autumn? Acupuncture for seasonal balancing is an excellent, not to mention fast-acting, option. Due to the way acupuncture works, it is actually more effective at preventing disease than treating a disease that has already occurred. Many patients notice a decrease in emotional and sleep symptoms after just one seasonal balancing treatment.
Certain dietary changes can also help keep your Lung and Large Intestine healthy. The Lung likes dryness, so decreasing intake of mucus generating foods such as dairy and fried foods is a good start. In addition, the following foods can help strengthen a deficient Lung or Large Intestine (or keep an already strong organ strong!): garlic, ginger, cinnamon, almonds, broccoli, onion, pears, and navy beans. Slightly cooking or steaming the broccoli or onion will be more beneficial than eating it raw.
Last, but not least, make sure to spend at least a few extra minutes outside each day. Inhaling the crisp fall air is an excellent way to invigorate not only your Lung, but your entire body and mind.