In gardening and farming, autumn is the time to reap the rewards of the hard work of summer with the fall harvest. It’s the time to wrap up any outdoor projects and prepare to go inside. Our ancestors were more in tune with the rhythms of nature then we are. But, we can still see how nature sends subtle messages: Trees let go of their leaves and “go quiet,” and retreat to store their energy, so is the body energy in autumn.
Autumn in Traditional Chinese Medicine prepares us much in the same way. Just like the fall harvest is the fruit of hard work in the summer, autumn is the universal experience of completing any outstanding projects and enjoying the benefits of that work. Physically, fall is the time the body’s energy needs to move inward to prepare to ward off illnesses, such as colds and flu.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a multi-faceted healing system that has evolved and expanded over many centuries. At its core, TCM is a healing modality that centers on the energetic flow in the body and how it also interacts with the energy of nature and other dynamic forces.
In TCM, when the subtle energy (qi, pronounced chi) of the body flows freely, it creates states of balance (homeostasis) and consequently good health. When energy is blocked, it leads to disease and poor health. Chi flows through subtle energy channels (meridians) of the body. Also, qi is a dynamic part of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, wind) which in turn correspond to the organs, seasons, emotions, flavors, and other bodily influences.
In turn, each organ is linked to a specific emotion and season. Each organ also has a corresponding partner organ; they work together to keep the body in balance. The lungs and colon work together and represent the energy of autumn.
Lungs and Large Intestines
Lungs – The lungs in TCM are known as the “delicate organs” because they are easily influenced by aspects of nature, such as wind and the cold. The lungs dominate respiration, body fluids, skin, blood circulation, and immunity.
The lungs bring in energy and send it downwards into the body. Through exhalation qi, moves throughout the body. The lungs also represent sad emotions. When in balance, the lungs represent clear thinking just as the fall air is crisp and clear. When out of balance, there is sorrow and the inability to let go of the stressors that affect your life negatively, such as emotions, experiences, people, job, etc. If sadness is prolonged, it can lead to problems with the lungs.
Colon – Damp and dry conditions upset the colon and intestines. The large intestines or colon remove waste, so they in effect “let go” on what isn’t needed. The lungs bring in the new and the intestines release what the body doesn’t need. Fall is the time to reflect and release what isn’t required. Unbalanced energy in the colon or intestines can show up as diarrhea, constipation, irritable syndrome, etc. Chronic constipation is associated with the inability or unwillingness to discharge negative emotions.
Foods to Help Prepare for Autumn
Foods are one of the most important ways to prepare for the changing season. For autumn, foods that support the lungs and colon help prepare the body for winter and the conditions related to fall like dry air. To balance dry air, eat moisturizing foods like snow ear mushrooms, pears, tofu, dairy, and honey. Generally, you want to consume fewer cooling foods like salads and eat warmer foods such as soups, oatmeal, and stew.
Here are a few other foods that support the body in the fall:
Citrus fruits: grapefruit, lemons, limes, etc.
Fermented foods: yogurt, pickles, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso
Vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes, beets, squash, etc.
Fruits: pears, apples, grapes, and other autumn fruits
Grains and Legumes: rice, beans, lentils, oatmeal
Spices: garlic, cinnamon, cloves
This is a simple overview of the influences of the autumn energy on the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine like other healing modalities is a complex system, but some of the basics for any season are to eat healthy (especially foods that are in season), exercise, and take care of your emotional health. To get the most out of TCM and its benefits, make an appointment with a qualified practitioner.
- Crowell, April Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN. Autumn’s Energetics and Foods. Retrieved from https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/nutrition/seasons/fall/.
- Suttie, Emma, D.Ac, AP. Autumn/Fall. Retrieved from https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/nutrition/seasons/fall/.
- What different foods are consumed each season and what are their health benefits? Retrieved from http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/food_diet_advice_season.html.