What does the changing of the seasons mean in Chinese medicine?
In Chinese Medicine, the different seasons correspond to the five cyclical phases represented by the Five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.
The fall season is associated with the Metal element and the organs of the Lungs and the Large Intestine.
The delicate organ
In Chinese medicine, the Lungs are in charge of respiration and govern Qi or life force in our body. The Lungs take in the pure air and facilitate the process of combining it with Qi from our food. This forms what is called Gathering Qi or Zong Qi that the Lungs then spread all over the body to nourish it and support our daily functions.
The Lungs facilitate the exchange of air with the environment, so it’s considered the most delicate of the organs. The Lungs can be easily exposed to outside climate and pathogens, especially wind and drafts that make us more prone to catch colds and flus.
The Lungs have a close relationship with the skin. If the Lung fluids are able to function properly, it nourishes the skin and keeps the opening and closing of the pores regulated. If this function is not working properly, then the skin will lack moisture and be rough and dry or there may be problems with abnormal sweating. If the pores are too open, then the body is not protected against the outside environment and more prone to catching colds.
The emotions related to the Lungs are grief and sadness. Unprocessed grief and sadness can lead to an imbalance in the lungs and cause sickness.
Let go of what doesn’t serve you
The Large Intestine is the paired organ of the Lungs. The Large Intestine is in charge of properly getting rid of waste in the body.
The Large Intestine has an effect on our capacity of letting go of things physically and emotionally. An imbalance in the Large Intestine can manifest through physical symptoms such as constipation. Emotionally, it can manifest as not being able to let go and dwelling in the past.
Keep what nourishes you
Both the organs of the Lungs and the Large Intestine have the important function of processing and letting go of what our body does not need, and keeping what nourishes us.
When our body is in balance, our body properly functions to support us. We breathe in and keep pure air and we exhale waste products our body needs to release. The Large Intestine transforms stools and reabsorbs fluids back into the body, excreting what we don’t need in our stools.
If our Lungs and Large Intestine is in balance we are able to process our emotions and let go of things that don’t serve us anymore and keep what nourishes us.
A time of introspection
Everything in the universe alternates between yin and yang and is ever moving and changing with the seasons. Fall signals the shift from yang to yin. Yang represents light, sun, brightness, activity, Yin represents darkness, moon, shade, rest.
In the fall, the yin energy of nature is coming out after the yang energy of summer.
Fall is the season of slowing down, going inward and a time of introspection and reflection.
Eat what’s in season
Eat less raw and cooling foods because continuing to eat these foods in the fall can contribute to more digestive problems, joint pain and becoming more prone to colds and infections.
Foods that are in season in fall are naturally more warming. Eat more cooked nutrient dense foods like soups and broths. Eat more grains, squashes and root vegetables.
Fall can bring drier weather and the lungs do not like dryness. Foods that benefit the Lungs, generate fluids and moisten dryness include pears, apples, persimmons, pumpkins, figs, nuts and seeds.
Living in harmony with nature
If you have a weaker immune system or are especially prone to conditions such as asthma, breathing problems, or skin problems, these conditions may worsen in the fall. So it’s important to strengthen your Lungs during this time.
Breathe deeply and attune to your body’s needs. Activities such as meditation and Qi Gong are beneficial for strengthening the body and the mind. Getting acupuncture treatment and herbs is also especially important during this season.
The key to staying healthy in Chinese medicine is to live in harmony with nature. What this means is attuning to the energy of the season.
Fall is a time to replenish your reserves and cultivate things that nourish your mind, body and soul.