How to fall for Fall: An Acupuncturist perspective of Autumn and how to stay healthy during the transition!
Now that summer has officially ended, we move into my favorite season FALL!
Fall is associated with the Metal element in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The organs that are related to the Metal element are Lungs and Large Intestine. We will get into both of those organs a little later in this blog. But first I want to talk about another association with autumn and the Metal element, the stage of development for fall is Harvest.
The development of Harvest means exactly what you think it means, to reap the rewards of the seeds you have planted and create new life in the different projects in your life. To me fall always feels like the start of a new year, more than January 1st! All of the exciting adventure of summer comes to an end, and the real work begins. As a kid this meant going back to school, but as an adult who works through summer, fall signifies the start of new and exciting projects, and really focusing on work, instead of all the fun outdoor activities of summer!
Fall is the time for change. Nature knows to do this automatically as the long warm days become cooler and shorter, but as humans we sometimes resist the changes of the seasons. As the leaves began to change and let go of the trees they used to cling to, we need to do the same! This is a great time to clean out things that no longer serve you, by doing this you can make room for the new experiences and things that are coming during fall.
All of the changes that come with fall is all to get us ready for winter. It gets us physically and emotionally prepared for the cold dark months that are to come. It represents a time of acceptance for who we are and what we are doing.
Each element comes with its own set of characteristics that help us understand it better, and gives us a better idea on how we can support ourselves during its season.
The emotion of Metal is grief or sadness. This is a reflective time, a time of introspection. It gives us the ability to let go of the past, just as the leaves let go of the branches that were once their home. The organs Lung and Large Intestine represent the letting go and receiving of the body.
The Lungs in Chinese medicine inhale pure Qi (air), and exhale dirty Qi. They are in charge of regulation of the entire body. When the lung is out of balance, routines become inflexible and rigid, and the body itself begins to stiffen. It also gives way for illnesses of the Lungs, including bronchial infections, sinusitis, allergies, and asthma. With proper treatment and support of the Lungs at the beginning of Fall you can help your body to fight and avoid these lung related issues. Regular acupuncture treatments at the start of the season is a great way to create a stronger immune defense.
The Large Intestine is responsible for elimination. Only when the body can release the old and toxic can it give way to the new and pure. This is how the Lungs and Large Intestine are related. Without the Large Intestine doing its job of releasing, the Lungs would struggle to do its job of bringing in the pure Qi. When the Large Intestine is out of balance symptoms such as IBS, constipation, gas, and abdominal pain may be present. A Large Intestine disfunction can also be a sign that someone is having trouble letting go. Acupuncture is an effective way to teach your body that it is ok to release and let go of things that no longer serve us. It also is very effective for treating many digestive disorders.
So besides acupuncture what are some ways you can get your self ready for fall and keep your self healthy through the process of changing seasons?
Get Organized! This is the time to reflect on what you have accomplished during summer, and then build on it. Instead of taking on large projects like you do during summer, instead make a list of small manageable tasks that can be completed in less than an hour. That way you cross things off your list in a way that makes you feel accomplished.
Practice Letting Go! Let go of items in your house you no longer need, but also old emotions and pains. This is the time to forgive and move on, or I like to say bless and release ignorer to make room for new and positive feelings. Carrying around all of the old resentments weigh us down, and make the transition into each season even harder. A way to do this is write down what you are carrying around on a piece of paper and then burn it, as the smoke lifts into the air, the weight lifts of your shoulders as well. The Hawaiian idea of Ho’oponopono is something else you may want to look up to help you with moving on and relaxing old pain.
Make time for downtime! Summer is the season of go, go, go, but as we enter fall we need to start slowing down and getting back into daily routines. In Chinese Medicine it is said that during autumn the spirit is more accessible. So it gives you a perfect chance to get back into your meditation and connect with your higher self. Even just 10 minutes a day makes a huge difference.
Detox your body! A gentle please at the start of fall will help your immune system fight of the colds and flus of the season. A cleanse can be as simple as eating healthy fruits and veggies and only complex carbs for a day. It is the refines carbs that slow us down and clog up the bowels, so avoiding them will help the Large Intestine in letting go, which as we have discussed opens your body up to hold more of what is pure and good for you.
Drink more water! Being in Colorado where it is already dry this is a recommendation that I often give my patients, but Fall is also associated with dryness in Chinese Medicine, so it is even more important to be taking in more fluids. Water is also helpful to bulk the foods in our Large Intestine promoting bowel movements.
Breathe Deeply! This is the season of the Lungs, so treating exercises that strengthen the Lungs will also help to increase energy and calm the mind. In this time of year it is especially important to make sure you are exhaling completely, ignorer to expel the dirty Qi to make room for more pure Qi. So instead of focusing on the inhale let the inhale happen naturally as in response to your deliberate exhale.
Get Walking! This is the time to get our last minute outdoor time in before winter rolls in, so spend time outdoors taking walks around the neighborhood, before the chilliness of winter brings our exercise indoors.
And Last, Cover Up! The sun is going down earlier and the mornings are brisker, so be prepared. Keep the back of your neck covered with a sweater or scarf when the tempters are lower to prevent the ear fall sickness from attacking.
Change of Season also means the change of Food!
The weather is getting cooler, so your food should get warmer. The start of the fall is the time to start eating less cooling foods such as salads and raw foods that you would eat during summer. Warmer foods with longer cooking times will support the immune system and nourish the body for the winter months. It will also be easier on the digestive system. Since as we mentioned earlier Metal is related to dryness adding moistening food into your diet is important. Below is a list of foods that are beneficial for fall!
Garlic, Sweet Potato, Ginger, Onion, Cabbage, Pears, Walnuts, Black Pepper, Radish, Rice, Chili, Cinnamon, Leeks, Miso, Soy Beans, Almonds, Asparagus, Broccoli, Cucumber, Celery, Apricot, Banana, Eggs, Olives, Pickles, Vinegar, Apples, Plums, Grapes.
When we change and live with the spirit of the seasons it is easy to stay healthy. When we fight against the seasons, we often become sick and tired physically, and emotionally. The metal element gives us acceptance and self worth, so now is a perfect time to focus on ourselves and give our bodies some extra self love!
Here are some delicious fall recipes. These recipes are are adapted from the cookbook, Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen by Yuan Wang, Warren Sheir, and Miko Ono.
Healthy Lungs Fritillaria Pears
4 TBSP fritillaria (chuan bei mu) powder
4 large ripe pears, any variety
8 teaspoons honey, or to taste
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cardamom
Toasted almond slivers
Wash the pears but leave the skins on. Cut off the top 1/3 of the pear and save for later. Remove the core of the bottom part of the pear to create a hole that leaves the bottom and outside of the pear intact.
Place 1 Tbsp of the fritillaria powder, 2 tsp honey, ¼ tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp cardamom in the hole of each pear. Replace the tops onto the pears.
Place the pears in a steamer, cover and cook for 40 minutes or until soft.
Sprinkle the pears with the toasted almond slivers and serve warm.
Honey Sesame and Walnut Spice Balls
½ cup (about 2 ounces) black sesame seeds
1/3 to ½ cup (about 2 ounces) chopped walnut pieces
3-4 tablespoons raw honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp cardamom
If your sesame seeds aren’t already roasted, toast them in a wide skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. Continue frying until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. When they are done, transfer the seeds from the hot skillet to a bowl so they don’t overcook, and let cool for at least 1 minute.
In a food processor, add the sesame seeds, walnuts, and 3 tablespoons of the honey, pulsing until mixed well.
Roll into 3/4 inch balls. If the balls don’t stick together at first, add a little more honey and pulse the mixture until uniform.
Serve- and don’t tell anyone how easy this dish was to make!