By Jeanette Turnbull, R.Ac.
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 creates Wei Qi, which translates to defensive energy. Wei Qi is a specialized form of energy that runs primarily between the skin and muscles. It protects the body form the exterior by controlling sweating, the opening and closing of skin pores and regulating body temperature. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views external elements such as wind, cold, heat and dampness as pathogens that can enter the body. When Wei Qi is weak and not functioning well these pathogens are able to invade the body causing colds and flu. Asthma, runny nose, sneezing, congested sinuses, coughing and shortness of breath are a few signs that Lung energy needs a boost.
In TCM the Lung is paired with the Large Intestine. The Large Intestine plays a significant 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 intake is necessary to maintain digestive health and keep this second line of defense active. TCM 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 can seem to part with.
Here are a few tips to boost immune health this fall:
Eat warming foods to build up energy. Raw, cold food is taxing on the digestive system, especially once 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 some probiotic or fermented foods to improve overall digestive health.
Dressing warm to protect the body from wind, cold and damp is essential. In TCM wind is seen as an external pathogen that allows illness like cold and flu to enter the body. The neck is particularly vulnerable to wind making it important to keep the neck covered and wear a scarf.
Rest and decompress to prevent stress from taking its toll on the immune system. As days grow shorter it is essential to retire to bed earlier to conserve energy. Autumn is a wonderful time to relax, 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 unnecessary or not beneficial to our wellbeing creates barriers that may lead to stress and eventually illness.
Make health a priority by adding regular acupuncture treatments to your current health routine. 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 draw out illness, help strengthen Lung qi and provide relief from colds, coughs or asthma.