We have reached the joint of the seasons, late Summer into Fall. This is the most vulnerable time of year for many people. With days and nights alternating between hot and cold, the body undergoes extra stress when adapting to swinging temperatures. Because of this, colds and flu most often arise now.
This is due not only to climate changes, but also because we are entering the Metal time of year. The energy of its Organs, the Lungs and Large Intestine, should flourish now, and yet they are often taxed as temperatures flux.
The Lungs open to the nose and control breathing and the skin, including the opening and closing of pores, while the Large Intestine rules elimination. If the Lungs are weak, or you overindulged in cooling summer foods or over-activity, then excessive mucus builds in the Lungs, impairing their breathing function. The result is asthma, bronchitis, allergies, shortness of breath, chronic sinus infections, stuffy nose, nasal drip, mucousy coughs or other upper respiratory ailments. Since the Large Intestine and skin eliminate toxins, skin eruptions and constipation often show toxicity in the body or suggest an overactive life. Colon purification and mucus elimination from the Lungs (letting go!) are beneficial now.
On the other hand, air is dryer in Fall and can injure the Lungs since they need a certain amount of lubrication to protect against inhaling dry air. If dryness invades the Lungs or Large Intestines, then dry coughs, stuffy nose, sinus infections, dry skin, constipation, or dry stools can result.
It can be difficult to know how to dress and eat at this time of year. Although evenings are cool, the warm days entice us into enjoying any remaining good weather. We continue to eat summer’s cooling foods (watermelon, salads, ice cream, iced drinks, raw foods and juices), dress lightly (few clothes, exposed necks, arms and midriffs) and live as if summer still exists (continuing at summer’s hectic pace, adding in night school while still working eight-hour days and gardening afterward).
Just as we harvest bounty from our gardens, now is the time to stock up for the coming winter. It’s also time to pull back from multiple summer activities and store your energy. Similarly, change your diet to warming foods so you protect your digestive fires for the cold winter to come.
Shorter days and cooler nights send the surface fires inward to store for the coming winter. Support your immunity by eating warm food and drinks, adding in spices and limiting sugar (it depletes the immune system by 50%). Layer your clothes so you stay warm or cool as needed. Cover your neck with a scarf, even if it is warm outside, as fall winds are cool (colds and flu invade the body through the vulnerable back of the neck). However, when it warms up, take off a few layers so you don’t lock summer’s heat in, as this leads to coughs with fever. Begin reigning in your energy — slow down and let go. Keep your abdomen and lower back warm and on cooler nights, sleep with a hot water bottle over these areas. If you keep windows open at night, make sure they aren’t near your bed to prevent waking with stiff neck and shoulders.
Eliminate juices, raw foods and main meal salads as these cooling foods are inappropriate for Fall and Winter. Excessive intake of cooling and dampening foods (greasy foods, flour products such as breads, muffins, pasta, cookies, pastries, chips, raw foods, juices and frozen foods and drinks, dairy) cause cough and upper respiratory disease, especially in Fall.
Eat mostly cooked food, root vegetables, winter squash, barley, rice, spices such as garlic, ginger and black pepper, increased protein and roasted foods which support Lung functions and alleviate Dampness. Cook seasonal fruit and add ginger, cinnamon or cardamom to prevent mucus formation.
HERBS FOR FALL:
The best herbs for Fall include spices such as garlic and black pepper (they clear Lung mucus), expectorants such as elecampane, mullein, coltsfoot, mulberry root bark, platycodon, wild cherry bark and loquat, and immune strengtheners like astragalus and reishi.
If there’s dryness, use herbs that moisten the Lungs such as black sesame seeds, marshmallow and ophiopogon, or herbs that moisten the Intestines like flaxseeds and marshmallow.