Chinese Medicine’s Perspective on the Fall Season

by Debbie Yu LAc, RYT

fall sceneTraditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers us a wealth of health related knowledge that is in tune with the seasons.  How do we nourish ourselves in the fall?  What foods are ideal in the fall?  How can TCM help you with your skin as the weather becomes more dry and cold?  AIM’s newest team member, Debbie Yu, share some of this wisdom in her latest article.

FA –LU –AIR to nourish —How you do you nourish yourself?

 

The first thing that often comes to mind is food – but what other sources of nourishment are important to you? The sun?  The moon and stars? The people who surround and touch you? Water?  Air?

In spirit of fall, let us delve deeper into the Lungs, the organ associated with fall in Chinese medicine, and the organ that helps nourish us through the air we breath.

With fall, comes change. You can see it in the leaves. They turn colors, and without hesitation, fall to the ground, decompose, but eventually give to new life. You can also smell it in the air, crisp and refreshing.

The lung’s physiological function is to inhale clean fresh air, and exhale stale stagnant air. They also inhale (inspire) value or what is of importance, and exhale (expire) what is no longer of value.  Just like the leaves that fall without hesitation, the lungs, without grief or sadness, help us let go of thoughts, ideas, or people that longer serve us, or prevent us from being present in the moment.

We create qi from the food we eat and the air we breathe. The quality of the air we breathe is equally as important to the quality of the food we eat.  How different do you feel breathing in air from a forest or your backyard, than breathing in air from your office?

Office air is often filled with recycled, stale, dry air, devoid of nutrients. Sometimes even stepping outdoors to a bustling road in your downtown city can be more beneficial to your lungs than the indoors.

By focusing on our breath, we also turn ourselves inward.  This in itself is nourishing. As we transition from summer to fall, we also transition from outward to inward, or from yang to yin.  Summer is the most yang time of the year, full of fire and activity. However, In Chinese medicine, seasons are constantly changing, so once we reach the peak of summer, there is no other direction to go, but to hike back down.  Fall is a time to harvest the fruits of our labor, to conserve energy in preparation for the cooler months to come.

Breathing, mediation, acupuncture, and bodywork are all practices that help bring us inward, and sync us into the innate rhythms of our body. They remind us to care for and nourish ourselves.

 

CauliflowerFALL FOODS –  daikon, cauliflower, pears

In Chinese medicine, dietary therapy consists more of general recommendations as opposed to a strict diet. We take into account the season, individual constitutional needs, the innate temperature of foods, and the affinity of the food (to a certain organ system).

Daikon is a plentiful and inexpensive Chinese radish that can be highlighted as the main ingredient in many dishes, and it is becoming more and more known in the Western world as a superfood.

When raw, daikon is sweet, cool and pungent. It has an affinity to the lungs. It is especially appropriate now, because the lung is the organ associated with autumn. Daikon opens the chest, and relieves cough and congestion. Good respiratory health contributes to a good immune system. Modern research tells us daikon is high in vitamin C and has antibacterial/antiviral properties.

It’s cool nature helps clear heat (or inflammation).  Inflammation is associated with virtually every disease, including cancer. Several sources say daikon is now used to fight cancer cells!

When cooked, daikon is more stimulating to the digestive system. Again, modern research says it is high in digestive enzymes, which make it a good companion when eating foods high in fat.

daikonA few ideas for daikon:
-Pickled daikon
-Daikon rice cakes
-Daikon congee
-Added to soups
-Baked daikon pastries
 

 

 

 

Cauliflower and Pears

If daikon (from previous post) sounds too intimidating, how about something more familiar, like cauliflower or pears?

Sweet, pungent, and white, cauliflower is similar to daikon in many ways – from a Chinese medicine perspective, as well as a western biomedical perspective.

In Chinese medicine, cauliflower has an affinity towards the Lungs, the organ associated with the season of fall. It can help clear cough and strengthen immunity. It is high in vitamin C.

In western medicine, cauliflower is classified as a Brassica-genus vegetable, a genus recommended in general by the National Cancer Institute for cancer prevention. These vegetables have many anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. They also mildly stimulate the liver to help clear stagnation.

 

Cauliflower is great simply steamed, sautéed, or roasted, with a bit of salt and pepper.  Other possibilities: mashed cauliflower to substitute mashed potatoes or roasted cauliflower leek soup.

 

pearsPears, esp, Asian pears have a high water content, and moisten the lungs in cases of dryness. They are a great fruit to have to increase immunity and prevent common colds during the fall.

If you do get a cold, marked by sore throat and fever, a warm pear sauce with rock sugar or honey can be very soothing and aid recovery.

Dermatology and Chinese Medicine

With the baby boomers retiring, there is unfortunately a shortage of medical doctors, and dermatologists are no exception!

If the skin condition is not urgent, it might be worth giving acupuncture and Chinese medicine a try first (or while you wait for your dermatologist appointment, scheduled in 3 months).

External care and hygiene is certainly important, but if you’ve tried too many products, washes, and lotions, and are still frustrated with your skin, it is quite possible there is an internal imbalance that needs to be addressed.

Many medications prescribed for skin conditions, such as antibiotics, cortico-steroids, or birth control pills, only treat the superficial inflammation. Though it may relieve some symptoms, often times, it will only come back if left untreated.

In Chinese medicine, the skin is an outward manifestation of the [Chinese] “Lungs.” To parallel, it is known in modern physiology, that the skin is the body’s first line of defense from foreign microbes. The Lungs breathe in “fresh inhaling clear qi,” oxygen, and energy that support our immune system. Those with compromised “Lung qi” may be those who travel frequently or work with young kids. They catch the common cold more frequently than others, they might have allergies, or…

lung lac pointsNo system is ever independent of another. The Lungs also have a direct relationship with the “Large Intestines.” By harmonizing the digestive system, we can also clear up the skin!

Chronic skin conditions, or chronic inflammation in general, tend to deplete the body of its natural fluids overtime. Inflammation is like fire. You can see the red, and feel the heat. Heat up a pot of water, even on low, and eventually it will burn out. The presentation of the skin may change, becoming more dry and flaky. In Chinese medicine, we will additionally seek to nourish these fluids.

There are several other pathologies in Chinese medicine, so see your acupuncturist for an individualized assessment and treatment!

 

Debbie Yu recently left her private practice to join the team of health care providers at Alpine Integrated Medicine.  She is currently accepting new patients on Mondays and Saturdays!  Call (425) 949-5961 to book now!
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About alpine integrated medicine

AIM is based on the idea that when we martial our collective expertise, we can achieve great health outcomes for our patients. A truly integrated clinic, AIM's practitioners work together to provide an experience tailored to each individual. We believe in the power of natural healing, combined with the most current medical science available.
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