For me, autumn brings about dazzling colors on the trees, piles of leaves for my young kids to jump in, layering my outfits, chilly nights and most importantly…soups! I love soup season! We do many things on autopilot like preparing the yard or garden for winter, finishing up any summer projects or staying in bed just a little big longer. While most of our actions and thoughts seem routine, there is a reason behind all the madness.
The ancient Chinese believe that the seasons have a profound effect on our health and wellbeing and it is when we live in harmony with the seasons that our health is maintained. Settling into the autumn season, the days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing colors and the environment around us is preparing for the winter months. Fall is a time of harvest, a time to both physically and energetically pull inward. We gather the last of our gardens to store food and energy for the colder months, we wear warmer clothes to retain our heat, and we shift our thinking to a more serious and introspective tone to plan for the stillness of winter.
Below is a brief look into the lung system and how it functions.
The Lung System According to Chinese Medicine
- In Chinese medicine, autumn is associated with the element of metal and to the lung system. This season is governed by organization, order, communication, and setting limits. It is a time to finish ongoing projects and organize your life for the winter season.
- From a Western and Eastern perspective, the lung is the pump behind the action of inhalation and exhalation, in essence the flux of coming in and going out. It takes in the food we eat and the air we breathe and descends that energy to other organ systems.
- The lungs are said to govern the nose and open to the throat so any problems, such as sinus issues, congestion, sore throat, or cough all influence the health of the lungs.
- The lungs are in charge of the health of the skin, including mucous membranes and their inherent immunity. Any problems residing on the skin such as rashes, psoriasis or eczema also represent an imbalance in the lung system.
- The lungs are said to be the container of phlegm (mucous) in the body so the amount and quality of mucous in the body relates to the health of the lungs.
- Grief, sadness and melancholy are the emotions related to the lungs. Remaining in a chronic state of these emotions, the lungs become congested with unresolved matter and this interferes with the lungs dispersing nature. Symptoms include fatigue, lack of energy or dry skin. Conversely, weakened energy of the lungs can cause a gloomy state of mind.
- Our immunity reflects the health of the lung system. If the energy in the lung system is strong, pathogens are unable to penetrate our body’s defense. And how do we end up getting sick? By pathogens invading our skin, nose and throat which are all components of the lung system.
Keeping the Lung System in Balance
- The general guideline for cooking in autumn is to cook foods at lower temperatures over longer periods of time. Now is the time to dust off the crockpot and find a good soup recipe. Bitter and salty flavors move energy inward and downward and are essential for cooking this time of year. It is a good time to eat warming foods and leave the salads at a minimum.
- Physically protect the lung area. With the pathogen of wind and cold being so prevalent in the fall, it is important to keep the neck and upper back area covered and protected. Wearing a scarf is an inexpensive and easy way to stay warm, be stylish and keep the lungs healthy.
- Taking a deep breath is one of the best ways to strengthen the lung system. It is when we intentionally take a deep breath that we are flooding our cells with needed oxygen to carry out our body’s actions. Practitioners orders: take a nice walk outside in the crisp cool air and intentionally take deep breaths. This will fill your lungs with fresh clean air, oxygenate your body and strengthen the lung system.
- If a recent event in your life has you feeling sad or grief, take the time to really work through that emotion. Let go of things you can not control and focus your energy on moving past the event in the best way you can.
- Autumn is the perfect time to reorganize or clean out your living space. Go through your closet and pull out any unwanted clothes and earn bonus points for donating items to a local charity or shelter. Organize your office and shred unneeded documents or pack away old files. Clean out the junk drawer and get rid of anything that you have no use for. These actions are extremely liberating and are in harmony with the autumn season.
A quick note on allergies. With the Ohio Valley causing no shortage of allergy symptoms, autumn does seem to be the time of year when some allergy sufferers finally get a break. The pollens are gone, the grasses and weeds are dying and the lung system gets a much needed rest. To the surprise of many, this is the best time to actually treat for allergies. With the symptoms at rest, the focus of treatment targets the underlying deficiencies (mainly involving the lung system) of the condition and better prepares the body to fight against the allergens the following year.
The best way to stay healthy this autumn season is to learn about the nature of autumn and try to live harmoniously with its spirit. If we are aware of the world around us, we see that nature is slowing down and contracting, preparing to rest. It is a good idea to do the same. Eat warming and nourishing foods, sleep a little longer, and transition your focus to your internal life. Pay better attention to your own wants and desires, re-evaluate your sense of worth and strengthen your self love.