As we move into fall we transition from the vibrant, yang energy of summer into the quiet, yin energy of winter. Autumn is the season of harvest, reaping and storing what we have grown in the summer to sustain us during the cold winter ahead. Taking natures lead, now is the time to conserve the yang energy we cultivated during the summer months to ensure we have energy to spare during winter.
Lung energy rules over autumn and it creates Wei Qi, which means defensive energy. Wei Qi is a specialized energy that runs primarily between the skin and muscles. It protects the body from the exterior by controlling the opening and closing of the skin pores, regulating body temperature and controlling sweat. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views external elements such as wind, cold, heat and dampness, to be pathogens that can enter the body. These pathogens enter the body when Wei Qi is weak causing colds and flus. Asthma, runny nose, sneezing, congested sinuses, coughing and shortness of breath are a few signs that Lung energy needs a boost.
In Chinese Medicine the Lung is paired with the Large Intestine. The Large Intestine plays an important role in immune health by acting as a barrier between the internal and exterior world, preventing pathogens from entering the blood stream. Ensuring proper nutrition and adequate fibre is necessary to maintain digestive health. Traditional Chinese Medicine regards the Large Intestine as the organ related to letting go, not only of physical waste, but also past hurts, grief and thought patterns that may hold us back. Resistance to letting go may also take the form of clinging onto unhealthy relationships or objects that are no longer needed that we cannot part with.
Here are a few simple tips to boost immune health this fall;
Eat warming foods to build up energy. Raw, cold food is taxing on the digestive system especially as weather gets colder. To keep the digestive fire going eat well cooked foods like soups or stews. Follow natures cues by enjoying an abundance of seasonal foods such as cabbage, parsnips, squash and turnip. Lung energy may be improved by adding pungent foods to the diet like garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish and black pepper. For an added immune boost consider adding a probiotic or fermented foods to your diet to improve overall digestive health.
Dressing warm to protect the body from wind and cold is essential. In Chinese Medicine wind is seen as an external pathogen that allows illnesses like cold and flu to enter the body. The neck is particularly vulnerable to wind making it important to wear a scarf.
Rest and decompress to prevent stress from taking its toll on the immune system. As the days grow shorter it is important to retire to bed earlier and conserve energy. Autumn is a great time to enjoy leisurely outdoor activities and treat the Lungs to fresh fall air. Remember the Lung is linked to the Large Intestine, responsible for letting go. Slow down and take stock of what no longer serves you. Clinging to what is not beneficial to wellbeing or unnecessary creates barriers that may lead to stress and eventually illness.
Make health a priority by adding regular acupuncture treatments. As a preventative measure acupuncture may be used to strengthen Lung energy and help Wei Qi keep illness out. And if a cold or flu does hit acupuncture may alleviate symptoms and speed up recovery time. Consider adding cupping therapy to help strengthen Lung qi and provide relief from colds, coughs or asthma.
Jeanette is a Registered Acupuncturist and Reiki Master at Trinity Registered Massage Therapy located at Huron Crossing and Sage Naturopathic Clinic in Kitchener.