Fall is a transition time from summer to winter, when crops reach maturity and nature begins to draw inward in preparation for winter. Much in the way that nature is changing, so should we begin to make changes to our own habits. Synchronizing our habits and our lifestyle with seasonal changes can lead to a healthier transition and fewer seasonal illnesses in the winter months.
To support our body’s movement towards yin, autumn is a time when we should:
- Dress for the weather! The body’s inward movement of energy means that we need extra layers of clothes to maintain warmth.
- Exercise more moderately. Vigorous exercise brings energy to the surface and opens the pores, making us more vulnerable to the elements. Our body is also naturally less flexible in the winter, take care not to stretch as deeply in the winter months to prevent injuries. Gentle, moderate exercise is important to keep our body limber and to counter the brittleness of winter.
- Rise later in the mornings.
- Because autumn is a time of collection, calm and focus, it is a natural time for study.
The organs associated with fall are the lungs and the large intestine. In order to promote healthy lung and colon functioning, fall is a good time to focus actions on cleansing and protecting the lungs and the colon. Fortifying the lungs and the skin and mucous membranes protects against viruses and bacteria that lead to the colds and flus that are common ailments in the winter months.
Fall foods should be heartier in both flavour and type and prepared using cooking methods that are more warming. Eat less raw foods because their cold nature can be hard on digestion in the winter, especially for those with weak constitutions.
- Cook foods slower and longer. The metal element is related to the sense of smell and cooking methods should stimulate healthy appetite and digestion through aroma.
- The flavour of autumn is pungent, and foods of this flavour should be eaten during this season to promote lung and colon health, with a focus on white foods as this is the colour associated with fall. Pungent foods include vegetables in the onion family, garlic, horseradish, ginger, turnip, cabbage, radish, daikon, hot peppers and chilies, and white peppercorn.
- High fibre foods help cleanse the lungs and colon. High-fibre foods benefit cholesterol levels, and encourage healthy bacteria in the colon. Examples of high-fibre sources are the bran of whole grains, fruit pulp, and vegetable cell walls.
- Foods that are high in beta-carotene such as dark green and golden-orange vegetables should also be eaten because they offer protective benefits for mucous membranes. This includes carrots, broccoli, kale, turnip, mustard greens, winter squash and pumpkin, and parsley.
- Because dryness also accompanies the cool weather, moistening foods can also be introduced. Moistening foods include soybean products such as tofu, tempeh and soy milk, spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, seaweeds, almonds, pine nut, peanut, sesame seed, eggs, pork, clams, oysters, and mussels. A moderate amount of salt when cooking also moistens dryness.
Living in harmony with the rhythms of nature and taking sensible actions to adjust our habits to the changing seasons are simple ways that we can boost immunity and maintain health. It was believed in ancient Chinese medicine that we could prevent disease and promote longevity through such habits. Certainly they are easy and useful habits that cost us little in time or money!
“The change of yin and yang through the four seasons is the root of life, growth, reproduction, aging, and destruction. By respecting this natural law it is possible to be free from illness.” -Neijing Su Wen