The fall season is a popular time to focus on strengthening the immune system to prevent cold and flu, and treat allergies. You may have seen signs at the pharmacy for the flu shot or advertisements of various antihistamines. However, by following simple health guidelines culled from Eastern medical wisdom, you can learn how to naturally transition through every season with better immunity.
From an Eastern medicine perspective, each season concentrates on an organ system or pair of organs. Fall being the season of the lungs and colon, it makes sense that we see a myriad of respiratory and immune issues pop up. Another aspect of autumn is dryness. Perhaps you may notice a dry cough, dry lips, or dry sinuses? In some cases dry stool or hair loss are also side effects of increased dryness. What if there were simple tips that could help you fend this off? Or, in the very least, minimize the severity? Consider that if you were to follow a set of simple lifestyle guidelines leading up to each season, you would feel much better from the start!
Eastern medicine philosophy brings with it a wealth of knowledge not only about acupuncture and herbs, but also lifestyle guidelines that teach us how to stay healthy when dealing with climatic and seasonal change. Having studied and observed the patterns clinically, I can say with confidence that the Eastern medicine assessment of what happens from season to season is spot on. This approach has also been particularly helpful in understanding what to expect in different countries (and different climates) and why it is so important to eat locally and seasonally.
Local and seasonal foods provide the correct set of nutrients to adjust to seasonal change. For example, in fall, since we may become dry in the respiratory system or the colon, the root veggies of the season help to soothe and moisten these tissues. Furthermore, in spring the sprouts, lettuces, and fresh veggies assist us in cleansing the body of the heavier foods of winter. If we were to continue eating heavy foods into spring, then the allergies and mucus conditions would be much worse. If we miss out on the correct foods leading into fall, then we may suffer more cough, dry throat, cracked lips, hair loss, and dry constipation.
Since we are trying to combat dryness this fall, we use the wisdom of food energetics to introduce moistening foods. Foods to consume are things like pumpkin, pear, small amounts of honey, seeds and nuts, and winter squash (i.e. butternut). Foods to avoid are pungent foods that dry and induce diaphoresis (sweating) which makes us lose fluids. Examples are onions, garlic, ginger, and peppers. To retain moisture, we should lean more into sour foods such as lemon, apple, and grapefruit.
Herbs that are helpful for the season depend on what exactly is happening. For example, if the throat or lungs are dry, then slippery elm tea with a teaspoon of honey can assist. If there is a cough then coltsfoot tea should be added. At the onset of an cold, oregano oil can assist in killing the virus or bacteria. Beyond that, we have a comprehensive repertoire of Chinese herbal formulas to treat anything under the sun.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to maintain a general health balance so that you will not be vulnerable to attack by opportunistic bugs and allergens. Factors that could easily lead to poor immunity are: improper diet for the season, improper attire for the season, blood sugar imbalance, poor gut health, and excess stress. Internal health and immunity are intricately intertwined. Once you are equipped with the proper tools, you will transition smoothly through the seasons and steer clear of common cold and flu.
Are you curious about how Eastern medicine and functional nutrition could strengthen your immune system and stave off allergies and illness? Stay tuned for further posts on how proper nutrition, herbs, and targeted vitamins can assist you in improving your immunity, energy, and overall wellness.