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Autumn Wellness: Stay Healthy this Fall with Chinese Medicine

by Heather Schuerlein, L.Ac, Dipl.OM

It's officially fall here in the Adirondacks, one of our most beautiful times of the year. As we start to transition from the heat and intensity of summer into the relaxed and cooler season of autumn, it is important to take good care of ourselves. For many of us, that means cold and flu prevention, allergy maintenance, and comforting old aches and pains that creep up in colder months.

Fortunately, Chinese medicine provides many ways to stay healthy and take advantage of the season. In Chinese medicine, each season has its own attributes and qualities, associations, and lifestyle recommendations to make the best of it. Let's take a look at what this means for Fall.


Fall In Chinese Medicine

Fall, along with spring, is a major transition time in our yearly cycles. Fall represents yang turning into yin as we move from the heat of summer to the chill of winter. Fall is associated with the element of metal and the organ system of the Lung and Large Intestine. 

What does that mean for us? It often means that respiratory issues are common in fall, such as allergies, rhinitis, bronchitis, and coughs. There is an emotional component to the Lung system as well: grief. The Lungs rule our attachment to the material world. They pull in the outside environment (air) and make it part of us (blood and qi). When we are unbalanced in our material attachment to things or people, we suffer from prolonged grief after a loss. During fall, some may find that old memories surface easier or that they feel the loss of a loved one more intensely. 

The Large Intestine is the organ that helps us parse through what we need and what we do not. Physically it helps us release our waste, and it has the same effect mentally as well. The energy of the Large Intestine helps us to release old habits or relationships that are no longer serving us. If you are holding on to what no longer serves you, this could result in constipation.


Common Complaints in Fall

Sniffling noses, watery eyes, coughing everywhere. Sounds like fall! These respiratory issues are quite common during this season. 

As the weather cools, those with arthritis or musculoskeletal issues may notice their long-gone issues returning or a worsening in their symptoms. Achy joints, strained necks, and overall fatigue can be common.

Due to the connection of fall to the Lung and Large Intestine, digestive disorders may need some extra care at this time. Bowel movements can become sluggish or irregular.  

For some, fall can be an emotional time of year. It may remind us of the lost of a loved one or may bring up areas of our lives in which we feel unfulfilled.


Eating through the seasons -Fall

Eating in harmony with the seasons is one of the best things you can do for your body. In any season, choose produce that is in season and local to your area (apples, pumpkin, squash…). Use cooking methods that balance out the season you are in. For fall, this means roasted methods (like roasting your vegetables), warm, cooked foods, such as soup, hearty foods like oatmeal and root vegetables. The cooling fruits of Summer have long since passed their season (think strawberries, watermelon) and the time has come to start warming the body for the long winter ahead.

During summer, we load up on fresh fruit and vegetables, lightly cooked items, and cold beverages. In fall we need to start warming things up. This means choosing more cooked foods over raw ones and foods that have a warmer nature. Start adding in more spices to your meals and switch out any cold or iced beverages for warm tea. Adding cinnamon to your coffee is a nice way to add some spice to your day.

Pumpkins, squash, seeds, grains, and root vegetables are great to start adding in to your diet in fall. Pears and apples are great for the lung, the organ of the season, so these make great snacks. The flavor associated with fall is “acid” which can mean aromatic or spicy. Load up your dishes with herbs and spices. Make a warming mulled apple cider with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to really embrace the fall flavors!


Exercising in Fall

Staying active is important through the fall season, but choose activities that are of moderate intensity. Our energy is full and vibrant in summer, but retreats in fall. Reduce your running speed or distances, spend more time doing yoga or walking, or opt for activities like tai chi. 

Qi Gong, which is similar to Tai Chi, is available at ONE Fitness and Wellness in Queensbury, Thursday mornings at 6:15am -7:00am.



Mental and Emotional Care in Fall

While summer is often busy and filled with active energy, socializing, and taking action, fall begins to focus this energy inward. This can be a great time for introspection, journaling, visualizing, reminiscing, and reflection of the past few months or years. Take time here to consider your needs and wants moving into the rest of the year and focus on your inner needs. 


Just as the trees lose their leaves in fall, this is also a good time for you to release what no longer serves you. Are you hanging on to unhealthy relationships, responsibilities, or perspectives? This is the time to let go of all that does not enhance your life. 

Meditation is a fantastic practice to start any time of year. With fall's internal focus, this can be a particularly helpful time of year to begin meditating regularly. 



Take Care and Prevent

It's much easier to prevent something than it is to fix it. During the change of seasons, we are most vulnerable to falling out of balance. This can mean a weaker immune system, digestive troubles, sleep issues, or higher susceptibility to stress. Take charge and prevent yourself from getting sick during the transition into fall to stay healthy all season long. Wear appropriate clothes, keep a scarf around your neck on windy days. Eat warm, whole foods, try to stay away from excess sugars and refined carbohydrates. Drink warm water with a splash of lemon and honey for extra vitamin C. Make sure to get enough sleep at night. 

If you are not already currently seeking care for a particular health concern, it would be of great benefit to book at least one acupuncture appointment during these seasonal transitions. It will recharge your system, boost your immunity, and help prevent any issues from coming up along the way. 

Make sure to spend some time consciously resting each day. Whether that is meditation time, a relaxing walk, or a warm bath, find something to help keep you at your best and be sure to make the time for it!

Fall can be a time of great transition. This is the time to take a step back and look at your life. As we turn in for the next few months, this is the time to dream, plan, and make way for the changes you’ll need to make to grow and move forward come spring.

Staying healthy during this time of year can set you up for a much happier and rejuvenating yin season. Rest, meditate, cook, and treat yourself right to make the most of autumn!Autumn Wellness: Stay Healthy this Fall with Chinese Medicine, Adirondack Wellness Group in Queensbury, NY

For more ways Dr. Heather Schuerlein can help you with Acupuncture, click here.