Transitioning To Autumn
With autumn approaching, the energy of plants is moving down into their roots. Becoming aware of the energy of this season, we notice changes in ourselves as well. This season is a time for the body to begin gathering energy for the colder months to come.
The lungs and large intestine are the organs associated with fall. The lungs are responsible for the circulation of Qi (the body's natural flow and energy/circulation), and are also very susceptible to cold and illness. For this reason, it is important to stay healthy and warm during the autumn. If the Qi circulation is weakened, muscles will not be able to warm the body properly. Even though we have some warm days, it is important to wear a scarf to protect the neck and throat so that the lungs do not get attacked by pernicious influences in the environment.
The summertime is the season when the yang energy (bright, warm and active) is ascendant, with long sunny days and time with family and friends. That energy starts to change as we move into the yin (dark, cool, and meditative) time of year, and it is around this time as we make the transition to autumn that many patients begin to express that they feel “depressed” or “down.”
Although we enjoy all of the modern conveniences, it is important to remember that our bodies, minds and spirits are very much connected to the rhythms of nature and it is perfectly natural to feel this change in energy as a downward movement. As a way of embracing the change, this might be a good time to start a meditation practice, or to transition to a more yin form of exercise, like yoga.
Because we are moving into the more inward-looking time of the year, it's a good time to get more sleep and to nourish our bodies with foods that support our immune system and provide grounding to our spirits.
Vegetables of autumn like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale can help purify and protect your body against free radicals. These color-rich vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, which then turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for our immune system, especially as the cold and flu season rolls in. These vegetables can also strengthen your lungs and large intestine to fight illness.
Vegetables to cook with carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, broccoli, parsley, kale and turnip greens. The bitter greens balance the sweet taste of the root vegetables and squashes. Additionally, foods to cook that are in harmony with the season include more sour/fermented foods, as well as foods rich in protein and fats.
Another way to support the immune system and the large intestine is to incorporate fermented foods into your diet. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt help restore the healthy bacterial colonies found within the gastrointestinal tract. In fermentation, bacteria or yeast feed on natural sugars found in foods. This makes it easier for the gut to digest and allows for nutrients to be absorbed.
People who do not ingest fermented foods can develop immune deficiencies, which can lead to serious illness and disease. For instance, sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, actually has anti-carcinogenic components. Yogurt can help prevent colorectal cancer, breast cancer and yeast infections. Kimchi has been shown to help improve symptoms of asthma and other allergic reactions, while also lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Sour/pungent/fermented foods to incorporate into the diet include sourdough bread, sauerkraut, adzuki beans, yogurt, rosehip tea, ginger, garlic, horseradish.