Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Season Of Autumn

As Fall approaches, I want to educate people in what this season means in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In Fall, the air becomes cooler and crisper.  The days become shorter, leaves change colors and havest is right around the corner.  The time of yang and warmth of the sun begins to lessen and give way to yin and cooler seasons of fall and winter.

Fall and Metal
In TCM, there are five elements.  Each element combines with a season.  Fall’s element is Metal, which is linked to the concept of boundries.  Think of a metal sword you would not cross it if were angled towards you.  Metal can cut through and holds command.  The metal element allows us to let go of what is not necessary and store only what is needed for winter.  Emotionally we need to return ourselves to earth from the yang of the summer.  It is important to slow down and start getting ready for winter.  The energy of fall is returing inward and in turn, we become more introspective.  We need to remember that this is the time of letting go and returing to the earth.  We need to let go of the fast paced lifestyle of summer and rest to get our bodies ready for the winter. This is a time to look within ourselves and ask, what do I no longer need and what can I let go of? If you are balanced energetically, the metal phase will be harmonious and you can discern what to let go of and when. Metal corresponds to the yin organ, the lung, and because it opens through the nose, the lungs are easily susceptible to cold, heat, dryness, dampness, and most of all, heat and wind. This can effect the biggest organ of the body; the skin.

Fall and Dryness
Fall’s climate in TCM is that of Dryness.  The moisture of summer gives way to autumn dryness.  This may not always be true in Southern California, but the weather does get cooler and especially drier when the Santa Ana winds blow in.  In turn, it is a common problem in Fall.  It can manifest as constipation, dry throat, dry skin, dry eyes, brittle hair, thirst, and lack of sweat.  It is important to drink tea or room temperature water to help our body remain hydrated.  It is also beneficial to stay away from spicy foods which can worsen the dryness.We need to nourish our yin to prevent it from being depleted or undernourished.

Fall: Connection to Lung and Large Intestine
In TCM, the organs related to fall are the Lung and the Large Intestine.  The lungs open directly to the exterior through the nose, mouth and skin.  Its function is to regulate and control the breath through inhalation and exhalation.  Through inhalation, the lung is internalizing the lung energy.  It pulls in the Qi, sending it downward to nourish our roots.  With exhalation the lungs release.  This is the same movement of life that occurs when the leaves “fall” from their branches. The pairing of the Lung with the Large Intestine is not arbitrary but exists because of the energetic relationship and symbioses of the two organs as they are balanced in a yin-yang relationship. The lung absorbs oxygen from the world and creates energy for the body. The large intestine absorbs food and water and circulates it through the system cooling the body.  It plays a major role in the balance and purity of bodily fluids and assists the lungs in controlling the skin's pores and perspiration.  Lung and large intestine receive energy and food and they release, and let go of what the body does not need. The lung releases carbon dioxide, the large intestine releases feces.

What should you eat during autumn?
One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to get in touch with the energy of harvest through fresh foods. It is important to transition into warmer, cooked foods during this time and keeping the salads and raw foods at bay until next summer.  The color of the season is yellow/ golden orange.  I suggest being conscious of this color when you are looking for your daily vegetables and fruits.  Examples would be carrots, sweet potatoes, yams.  This is a great time to tonify the lungs and cleanse the large intestine.  This can be done by adding protective and purifying foods to the diet.  This includes pungent foods: especially white pungent like onions, garlic, chives turnips, ginger, radish, daikon root.  Dark leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, chard and spinach.  Seaweeds, fiber, oats, arrant and     quinoa are also great for the body during this season.

During this season, support the lungs by incorporating more Yoga, Qi- Gong, or even just taking a few extra deep breaths throughout the day. If you have an acupuncturist, this is a great time of year to receive treatments to tonify the lungs or cleanse the large intestine.

Food in Season during Autumn:

Brussels Sprouts
Collard Greens
Italian Parsley
Jerusalem artichokes (a/k/a sunchokes)
Shelling Beans
Winter Squash

Concord grapes
Niagara grapes

Wild Turkey

Atlantic Mackerel
Native Oysters
Pacific Salmon
Red Snapper
Scallops (bay and sea)

A guideline for what to eat during autumn is to locate what is available at your local farmer's market and use that as a template for building a meal that is appropriate to the season. This goes for autumn and any other season as well.

Kale is a great ingredient for seasonal eaters as it is one of the few green vegetables that is abundant and flavorful during autumn and winter. It can be substituted for cabbage or spinach and makes a fine side dish when blanched. Kale is a nutritionally rich food containing:
vitamins A, C and E
a substantial mineral content including manganese, iron, calcium and potassium
phytochemicals such as sulphoraphane (linked to cancer prevention)

Other Autumn Tips
1. Carry around a sweater/sweatshirt/scarf - even if it feels warm because autumn it is cold in the shade and warm in the sun. This is typically the season where people still dress like it is summer because of the sun still has warmth during the high point of the day. This drastic change in temperature without the proper protection from the environment can put your body at risk.

2. Eat soup - this is the time of season to begin thinking about making more nourishing wholesome, all-encompassing foods like soups. Soups usually contain meats, veggies, and carbohydrates. They are a great meal in one! The temperature is also warming to the yang to prepare oneself for winter.

3. Keep hydrated - autumn is the time of dryness. The moisture of the humid summer gives way to autumn dryness. It is important to remember this and drink tea or room temperature water to help your body remain hydrated.

4. See your acupuncturist - winter is often the time when people catch the most head colds. Seeing your acupuncturist can shore up your protective qi and lessen or eradicate head colds during the winter.

5. Get out and enjoy the weather change from summer to autumn, but remember to be prepared like your local boy scout. You don't want to be caught off guard.
My search for only the best food, drinks and recipes.Another blog about my adventures in Los Angeles. Follow me in my crazy world of blogging. Only the future knows what it holds...