Transitioning into Autumn
The transition from Summer to Autumn always gets me thinking about how much our environment affects our thoughts, emotions and behavior. Here is how the change in season affects me: I no longer want cooling foods like iced drinks, sandwiches, salads or cold treats. Instead, I find myself spending more time cooking warm and comforting foods like soups, casseroles and warm teas. While I still spend time outdoors, I have a tendency to ‘nest’ and stay close to home. I clean, organize and plan a whole lot more than I did in the Summer. I’m also more sensitive to drying skin and chapped lips. I tend to drink more liquids and stock up on organic skin and lip moisturizers.
How does the transition from Summer to Autumn affect you? How does it affect your thoughts, emotions and behavior?
What if we looked at the transition in seasons from a different perspective? Let’s look at it from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) standpoint. According to TCM it is believed that the seasonal cycles of nature are mimicked inside the human body. So it is important that we harmonize our own energy with that of our environment in order to stay healthy.
Here are some ‘fun facts’ related to TCM and Autumn.
Element: Metal Color: White Nature: Yin Organs: Lung and Large Intestine Taste: Spicy Emotion: Grief Autumn and Lung
The autumn correlates with the Lung system, which dominates over the skin, respiration, metabolism, blood circulation, immunity and melancholy emotion. The season presents both vulnerability as well as an opportunity to strengthen and nourish these vital organs.
As the air dries, so does the moisture in the human body. The reduction in moisture in the upper respiratory tract and mouth can lead to coughing, increased phlegm and bronchitis. Sore throat, dry nasal passages, breathing problems, bad coughing, headache, chapped lips and constipation are among some of the symptoms associated with this season. These are all symptoms our bodies exude during this time of year. Rather than suppressing the symptom, what if we focused on treating the imbalance of fluids and moisture within the body?
So how do we do that? Drinking replenishing fluids and eating foods that promote moisture in the body are the way to go.
Eating with the season
The dry weather usually causes an itchy throat, a dry nose, chapped lips, rough skin, hair loss and dry stools. This is a time when we need to eat to promote the production of body fluids and their lubricating effects throughout the body.
Foods are important to ensure that the body adjusts to the changing seasons (maybe there is something to the fact that I focus more on food and cooking around this time of year). In the fall, eat fewer cold, uncooked foods-such as salads-and more warmer and cooked foods. Switch from salads to soups and steamed vegetables such as winter squash, winter peas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and yams. Incorporate yellow and red foods into your meals. Start your day with hot oatmeal. (Again, I find my body naturally makes this transition in the Autumn season.)
Here are some warm and nourishing foods and herbs that are great for Autumn:
Apple (prevent loss of body fluids) * Banana * Beets * Bell pepper * Bok choy * Broccoli * Brussel sprouts * Cabbage * Carrot * Cauliflower * Cinnamon * Cranberry * Figs * Garlic * Grapes (treat nasal dryness and sore throat) * Grapefruit (prevent loss of body fluids) * Honey * Horseradish * Leeks * Lemon (prevent loss of body fluids) * Lotus root (treat nasal dryness and sore throat) * Pears (treat nasal dryness and sore throat) * Persimmons * Pineapple (prevent loss of body fluids) * Plums * Pomegranate * Pumpkin * Red cabbage * Rosemary * Sage * Sesame (produce internal moisture) * Spinach * Soybean Milk (produce internal moisture) * Thyme * Tofu (produce internal moisture) * Turnips (produce internal moisture) * Whole grains * Wild rice * Winter squash * Yam
(Interesting that most of these foods are simply seasonal foods being harvested at this time of year. Rather than going to the grocery store and being fixated on the same produce, herbs and grain choices all year around, try eating seasonally. Meaning, choose the foods that are most in season and create your menus around those foods.)
Avoid foods with pungent flavors and spicy foods such as onions, chilies, pepper and other foods that upset the respiratory system and can cause indigestion.
Turning Inward for Preparation
In Autumn, TCM holds that everything needs to turn inwards so as to prepare for the harsh winter (huh, maybe there is something to my ‘nesting’ this time of year). Autumn is the season associated with the metal element. The metal element governs the mind, organization, order and stability. We tend to be more reflective, turning inward to our work, our families and our homes during this time. It is a time to reorganize and prepare for the winter season ahead and a time to reflect on our lives.
Emotionally, this is the season associated with grief and sadness. It is important to keep the mind clear and “let go” of negative emotions, which can impact health more strongly during the fall. There are supposedly consequences of not adapting to Autumn. Immediately this may cause an injury to the Lung and Immune System. Later on in the winter, you may experience metabolic and digestive problems including diarrhea and undigested food.
Massage Therapist Thought: It’s very common that we automatically go for the perfect moisturizing cream for dry skin and the perfect lip balm for those awful chapped lips. Instead, remember to focus on hydrating from the inside out with some of the food choices listed above. Think more about your body and how it relates to its environment; physically, emotionally and behaviorally. So that when your body is going through transition, you are left with a sense of connectedness with your environment and ensured that your body is not failing you, but rather making the necessary adjustments to prepare you for the Winter. Did you know that The American Massage Therapy Association celebrates National Massage Therapy Awareness Week this time of year? The designated week for this year is October 24-30 and it’s a time to celebrate, promote and educate all that massage can bring to your life. Celebrate Massage this autumn & call OMBE and book your next massage session!