In Chinese Medicine the season of Autumn is associated with our Lungs. Autumn teaches us the art of “letting go” and how to embrace positive or negative changes in one’s life. If our feet represent the roots of a tree, and the branches represent our arms and hands, the leaves are our life experiences that we currently hold onto. As we learn and grow from these experiences, we transition into a newer version of ourselves, just like the beautiful vibrant autumn leaves. We slowly let go of these experiences as we learn to heal or cope with our past. By the time next Autumn arrives, our roots and branches are stronger and taller, making room for new leaves or new life experiences.
Energy of the Lungs
Our Lungs are the vital respiratory organ that supplies us with fresh Energy or Qi (chee) from the Earth. Our Lungs utilize this energy to provide a protective barrier on our skin, which we describe as our Defensive Energy or Qi, our immunity that fights against the external Pathogenic Factors (Six Evils or Pathogenic Qi: Wind, Cold, Summer-Heat, Dryness, Dampness, and Fire). Therefore strong Lungs equals strong Immunity. Those who have a weaker constitution or a chronic Lung imbalance are more susceptible to cold and flu, and these individuals may need more time to heal from influenza. When the Lungs are functioning at an optimal level of efficiency, we are able to inhale more Qi, providing more nourishment to the Lungs and other organs. Whereas when one experiences an internal imbalance or disharmony that impacts the Lungs, symptoms may manifest as: shortness of breath, shallow breathing, cough, sinus congestion, skin issues, and feelings of grief or sadness.
Food as Medicine
To nourish and strengthen our Lung Energy as we transition into colder weather (Yin Season), we implement warming foods to help generate internal heat or Yang energy. We are not describing it as “warm” solely based on temperature or physical touch, it is the energetic warmth the food gives our body after consumption.
Warm Cooking Methods: Longer duration at lower temperatures, Slow Cooking, Stewing, Baking, Roasting and Sauté. Smoking and Grilling foods are also Yang generating, however these cooking methods should be used in moderation as they may create excessive Yang energy and cause Dryness (dry symptoms: sore throat, dry mouth, dry skin, or feeling too hot).
White Colored Foods: According to the Chinese Five Elements, our Lungs are nourished by food that is naturally “white” in color or has “white centers”. Examples: white meats, sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, onions, garlic, potatoes, turnips, mushrooms, cauliflower, daikon radish, asian pears, rice, oats, barley, tofu, or soy beans.
Sour Fermented Foods: The “sour” flavor has an astringent effect, bringing energy inward to prepare our body for the colder months ahead. Fermented foods contain natural probiotics that support our intestinal flora, improving our digestion. Examples: sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt. (Please avoid dairy if you tend to experience a lot of phlegm, mucus or congestion).
Warm Teas: Oolong, Chai, Rooibos, Ginger, Pumpkin Spice, or Cinnamon.
During this time, it is beneficial to avoid excessive amounts of Cold Foods: raw fish, raw vegetables, too much dairy, and iced beverages (ice cold smoothies).
Lifestyle Advice: Practice meditation and breathing exercises to enhance your Lung energy. Wear a scarf and layers to protect you from external wind and cold. To balance your emotional health and well being, make time for self-care, and do more of what makes you feel happy and at peace.
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