Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Few Fall Health Tips

Fall is around the corner.  Here in Asheville we have truly begun to feel the chill the past couple of days.  For me this is a time of hot tea in the morning while I gaze out at my herb garden, taking my daughter back to school, wearing scarves again, formulating new herbal tinctures to protect my patients' protective qi and enjoying the beautiful colors as they appear on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, autumn is associated with the element metal, the spicy or pungent taste (think daikon radish, ginger, garlic), the organs lungs and large intestine and the emotion of grief.  There is even a time of day that metal is most active, 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.  It is often in the fall that we find ourselves waking early.  It is important to pay attention to the feelings and emotions that arise upon these wakings and allow them.  Sit with them.  Don't resist.  Quiet your mind and you will easily sink back into sleep.

So here are a few tips for staying in balance this fall:

  • Keep your neck covered.  It is believed that wind which can cause disease, enters through the Du channel at the back of the neck.  Try it and see.
  • Avoid raw, cold, and processed food.  These are hard to digest, while cooked vegetables, grains and meats are nourishing and grounding to the body.
  • Avoid sugar.  It has been proven that eating one tablespoon of processed sugar can depress the immune system for over an hour.  Probiotics and fermented foods, on the other hand, have the opposite effect, boosting immunity and regulating digestion.
  • Practice breathing exercises, especially slow, deep breathing from the diaphragm.  This strengthens the lungs and prevents illness.  (I will outline some of my favorite breathing exercises in my next blog post.  Stay tuned.)  
  • If you feel a scratchy or sore throat, immediately drink some scallion or ginger tea while taking a hot bath with 5-10 drops of eucalyptus oil and 1 cup of epsom salts.  
  • A cold or flu is easily cut short with acupuncture, herbs and gua sha.  So see your acupuncturist early.  If you wait until it is lodged in your chest it will be harder to treat.  
  • There are many herbal formulas, each for different stages of sickness.  See your acupuncturist or herbalist for a preventive formula to keep your lung qi healthy as the weather changes.
Enjoy the crispness of this beautiful season and be well.

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