By Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-founder and Acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center
As the fall season comes around the corner, we must be aware of what that means for the potential to become ill. Our bodies are used to the summer warmth and freedom to express ourselves. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fall is a time to start buckling down and completing the projects we have started in the spring. Fall harvests are an example. This does not only mean things external to us though. This also means the projects that we have going on internally. We need to become conscious of the Qi that flows within us and the cyclical patterns that it has.
In TCM, the body is made up of various channels or pathways that Qi flows. These correspond to organ systems and have, over the years, been associated with certain characteristics. For instance, the Lung and Large Intestine systems are associated with the fall. The emotion of the Lung/Large Intestine is grief or “letting go”. Many times people complain of a depression that comes at the end of the summer or beginning of fall as the air gets a little cooler and the days begin to get noticeably shorter. We have trouble “letting go” of the summer and we have a small grief process that goes along with that. Supplementing and caring for our Lungs is very important to combat this grief.
The proper flow of Qi from the Lungs is a downward direction. In the fall, the Lung Qi is instable. This may cause the Lung Qi to ascend or become “rebellious”. If the Qi is not descending, we see symptoms like cough. The Lungs are the uppermost organ and in being so, are the most vulnerable to Wind and Cold. This is why it is so important to start dressing warmer in the Fall. In the Fall, we see some temperature fluctuations. In the warmer times, many people dress like it is summer and then then end up catching a cold. The Lungs also control the Wei-Qi. This could be viewed as a protective barrier that we have to protect us from colds and flu. It resides between the skin and the muscles and serves to keep us warm.
Some things to consider during the Fall months in order to support the Lungs in doing their job to protect us are getting more sleep, avoiding foods that may cause phlegm, dressing in layers, using a netti pot or some type of sinus wash to keep the nasal passages clear of mucus, and practicing some type of self cultivation exercise like Qi Gong or yoga that focuses on pranayama or breath work. Getting more sleep will help to conserve Lung Qi. Phlegm will cause the Lungs to become blocked which will make it difficult to use the Lung Qi efficiently. Phlegm producing foods are foods such as milk, cheese, creams, and sugar. Also, raw foods should be avoided because they tax the Spleen. The Spleen will produce phlegm which will be stored in the Lungs. Foods that will benefit the Lung are foods like ginger, garlic, horseradish, onions, and mustard. These should be consumed in moderation.
Above and beyond doing what I have already explained, it is a good idea to seek professional help in strengthening the Lungs. Your local acupuncturist or massage therapist can help with this. I hope that this article has been interesting to you and I also hope that some of this information serves to help keep you healthy this fall. Please look out for my next season related article which will come out a couple of weeks before winter.