Chinese Medicine health tips for the Fall season
The Fall season is a slow pivot, a transition from the warm and expansive Yang of Summer toward the cold contracting Yin of winter. Days become shorter and colder, leaves dry up and fall. Nature, as well as the human body, begin to contract, to internalize.
Fall: Metal movement
Yin organ: Lungs
Yang organ: Large Intestines
emotion: grief, sadness, letting go
Sensory organ: nose
金: The "metal" season according to the classics : harvest
The great classic of the Yellow Emperor 【黄帝内经】 Huang Di Nei Jing, in particular the second chapter of the 【素问】Su Wen section, the chapter called "The Great Treatise on Regulating the Spirit with the Four Seasons" (四氣調神大論) gives us wisdom regarding lifestyle and how to maximise health through living in harmony with the seasons.
Here are a few of the recommendations concerning Autumn:
春生, 夏長, 秋收, 冬藏 “Spring gives birth, Summer grows, Autumn harvests and Winter stores.” 早卧早起，与鸡俱兴“In Autumn it is desirable to sleep early and get up early at the crowing of the cock.”无外其志，使肺气清"Do not direct your mind to the outside so the Lung Qi remains clear.”
What to eat?
In the fall, we want to eat foods that support the defenses of the body. Continuing on the trends of late summer, we want to tonify the "earth" organs spleen and stomach, which will generate enough Qi necessary to the health of the "metal" organ lungs.
At the same time, we also want to moisten and lubricate our lungs, which are particularly prone to dryness in this season, and make sure our large intestines are moving and evacuating freely.
Add moistening yet warming foods.
Even if you live in a rainy region, Autumn is considered to be drying. Think about the leaves drying out on the trees and falling. Consider foods that moisten (fluids and yin tonics) but that are also warming in nature. Yin tonics and moistening foods include pears, tremella mushrooms, goji berries, spinach, grapes, persimmons, etc...
Keep the bowels moving
As mentioned previously, the large intestines tend to be more prone to dryness during the fall. Regular activity and increased fiber intake can help lubricate and regularize the bowels.
Consider adding sesame seeds or oil, flax seeds, and a little bit of honey.
A little sour goes a long way
In Chinese medicine, the sour flavor helps protect fluids and even build them up. Include sour foods such as green apples, lemon or lemon juice, vinegar, and even some cheese. Pickled and fermented foods are also a great addition: sour pickles of all kinds, sourdough, kombucha, etc. In case of a cold or flu, stop consuming sour foods, as they keep the pathogens inside when they need to be vented out.
Add white foods (read more here):
The color associated with the Metal element and season is white. Increase white colored foods such as almonds, lotus roots, asian pears, etc. Disclaimer here, we are not talking about processed foods that look white, like bread or cheese. At all times, Chinese medicine recommends to avoid dampening foods such as white sugar and dairy.
The grain traditionally associated with the metal movement is Rice.
Almonds neutral and sweet, they ventilate the Lungs, relieve cough and asthma, transform phlegm, lubricate intestines
Honey is both a general tonic and a lubricant of the large intestine.
Lilly bulb: extra moistening for Lung Yin, also calms the spirit and contributes to good sleep
Snow Fungus (tremella mushroom) 雪耳: clears Lung heat, strengthens Spleen and Stomach, promotes body fluids, tonifies Qi, invigorates blood, tonifies Yin. [Ni, Mao Shing. Tao of Nutrition]. More on tremella here
Asian pears, also know as Nashi pears or apple-pears : regenerates body fluids, quenches thirst, calms the Heart, lubricates lungs, relieves restlessness, promotes urination, clears heat, detoxifies, lubricates the throat, dissolves mucus, descends Chi and stops cough.
Herbs and spices: bay leaves, caraway seeds, cardamom, chives, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, leek, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric.
keep tonifying your "earth" digestive system with the recommendations from late summer
Wear a scarf!
Your Lungs are vulnerable to dryness and wind, and as a classically described "delicate organ", sensitive to temperature changes—all of which occur during the fall.
It is common knowledge in China that one must cover the neck and chest area during the fall, so wear a scarf!
Comparison between Chinese medicine & Ayurvedic perspective : Autumn, Vata season
The similarities between Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are really interesting here. Autumn is considered the Vata season: the word vata means to blow or move like the wind. Consisting of the elements air and ether, it is the principle force of motion in the body and mind [Ayurveda college].
For Ayurveda, Vata also means tendency toward coolness and dryness. The seat of Vata is in the large intestines. So the Ayurvedic recommendations for Autumn are very similar to Chinese medicine: keep the intestines and the skin moist and lubricated, warm up with cooked foods and spices, build routines and avoid distractions.
A close look at the foods recommended (in this wonderful article that sums up Vata balancing) shows the same list: rice, lemon or lemon juice, cheese, sesame seeds or oil, squashes etc.
Yoga poses for the Fall: twist, fold & stabilize
All the poses below are designed to active the digestive organs, remove stagnation and anchor in the belly in order for us to not be blown around like leaves in the wind during times of change, and those practices are especially relevant during fall season.
Emotional balance in Autumn: out with the old, in with the new
The two organs that relate to the Fall season are Lungs and large intestines. One lets us inhale fresh air, the other lets us evacuate waste.
Physiologically, the Large intestines have the function of receiving the waste material sent down from the small intestine, absorb the last bit of useful fluids, and evacuate the unwanted leftovers. Emotionally then, it is obvious to see the relationship with attachment and letting go, a connection that Dr. Freud himself described extensively.
The Lungs, organ of breath, allows us to take in oxygen and expel CO2, working both on invite the new and letting go of the old. Their associated emotion is grief.
Autumn is therefore a perfect time to do some cleaning. What we usually call a spring cleaning, or decluttering is actually more suitable when done in the Fall. Beyond decluttering things, think also of sorting out through relationships and habits.
Eat moistening foods: Pears, snow fungus, honey almonds, lilly bulbs
Keep warm and wear a scarf
Declutter your house and your mind
Increase your sleep
practice twists and folds as well as belly breathing
Sun, L.B. Wang, T. (201) 黄帝内经二十四节气饮食法 [Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic Dietary Therapy for the 24 Seasonal Nodes]. Beijing: Chemical Industry Press.
Ni, Mao Shing. Tao of Nutrition