Greetings Friends and Patients,
I’m writing this on this beautiful late summer, sunny day as seasonal transition time is upon us, yet I can’t help be affected by the dark cloud that is threatening Florida, has devastated Texas, the Caribbean, the smoke that is devastating the west coast etc. There is a lot to be worried about right now, which adds to the vulnerability of our bodies that already exists at this time of year. I had these few tips and ideas ready to share with you all anyway, but it seems more timely than usual.
Fall is right around the corner.
New seasons are an opportunity to assess our states of health and realign with our natural rhythms. From an acupuncture perspective, Fall is about refinement. It’s time to pare down, to let go of the excesses we allowed ourselves in summer and focus on what’s necessary for winter.
In acupuncture theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Weather and climate, particularly during the transition from one season to another, factor significantly into acupuncture diagnoses and treatment plans.
The transition into fall is especially noteworthy because it signifies moving from the more active seasons to the more passive. This directly impacts how we feel, and how we prevent and treat illness.
Each season is linked with a natural element, organ and emotion. The element, organ and emotion of fall are, respectively, Metal, Lung and grief. These three things usher us throughout the season, serving as barometers for where we’re at and offering insight on how to be better. With Metal, Lung and grief as our guides, here are seven acupuncture tips for staying healthy this fall:
1. Stay Hydrated
Dryness of all kinds is common in fall. Since Lung is the most exterior organ, it is the organ that relates most closely to the skin. Dry skin and even rashes tend to show up in fall. Drink a lot of water and keep your skin hydrated with non-alcoholic (alcohol will dry you out more) moisturizer.
Another reason to stay hydrated is to regulate digestion. The Lung’s paired organ is Large Intestine, so sometimes digestive issues can flare up this time of year. Constipation, due to the dryness of the season, is most common, especially in people who struggle with the “letting go” aspect of transitioning into fall.
Two ways to do this: (in addition to water without ice)
Herbal Tea: During Fall & Winter, carrying herbal tea in place of water is incredibly beneficial – it can warm you, promote digestion and boost immunity. Some favorites are Ginger Tea – great first thing in the morning to warm you up and stimulate digestion. Gynostemma is a great herbal tea with a myriad of health benefits – promotes longevity, cardiac health, lowers cholesterol levels, and is packed with antioxidants. And of course, our Enlighten Tea which is called "Free and Easy Wanderer" in Chinese. (Please note that if you are on any immune suppressing therapies or have clotting/bleeding disorders, these teas may not be for you)
Bone Broth/Stock: The wisdom of long simmered bone brother goes back thousands of years. The benefits of this cannot be overstated – both increasing immune function as well as aiding in healing. While theoretically I would love to suggest that you all spend Sundays making your own (I have to do something while my husband leaves me for the Buffalo Bills every Sunday until January) this is NYC after all, so I’m pleased to report that I have a supplier of prepackaged frozen Bone Broth that you can get from me – or head down to Brodo on Second Ave between 12th and 13th Streets to pick some up.
2. Use a Neti Pot
As fall encourages us to let go of the inessential priorities in our lives, many of us also find ourselves letting go from our nasal passages. Bring on the tissues! Fall is the most common time of year for the onset of nasal infections and post-nasal drip, both of which plague many people well into winter. Keep a neti pot in the shower and use it regularly throughout the season to help keep your nasal passages clear – literally rinsing out allergens and germs, before they infect you (and even after)
3. Wear a Scarf! (and socks)
Acupuncturists (and your mom) are always going on about wearing scarves. It’s for good reason.
Lung, the organ associated with fall, is considered the most exterior organ. It is the first line of defense against external pathogenic factors. As the weather turns cold and the wind picks up, the Lung organ is extra vulnerable. In Chinese medicine, Wind is the cause of 10,000 diseases—and common colds are just the tip of the iceberg. Depending on how deep Wind has penetrated the body, it can cause allergies, arthritis, stiff neck, headaches, body aches, asthma, skin rashes, hives, dizziness, and more.
Further, pathogenic factors such as cold and wind invade the body at the back of the neck, so keeping that area protected is very important in the fall. Even if it’s sunny, always bring a scarf when you head outside (or especially on the subway where the A/C can be icy coming down the sides over the seats)
Beyond weight loss, exercise helps to circulate blood, speed up metabolism, strengthen immunity, detoxify the body, and improve mental health. I also have seen it help many forms of chronic pain.
Even if you are limited by an injury, energy level or time, finding some form of regular exercise is paramount to staying healthy all year long. This time of year, especially in colder climates, there is a temptation to spend more time on the couch and less time outside moving around. But exercise almost always pays off.
If you aren’t in the habit of working out regularly, start with (or just stick with) walking. You can do this nearly any time of day, almost anywhere, and you can bring a friend or interesting podcast along to help distract you. Start to add in other activities at your own pace, things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, quick 15-minutes runs, yoga, light weight training, a dance class, or whatever works for you.
Sleep is important all year long, but especially in the Fall & Winter.
In Chinese medicine, too little sleep can be linked to anxiety, poor immunity, hormonal imbalances, stress, and low energy. Ideally adults should be getting at least 7-8 hours per night. If you’re missing out on a full night sleep, try taking naps, getting to bed earlier (11pm is ideal), and just generally slowing down a bit.
If you have trouble sleeping, it is important to still use nighttime to rest. Your body needs that dark, still, quiet time in order to balance out all the energy you use during the day.
Start by putting away your phone and computer at night and avoiding the TV. Screens are stimulating and can trick the brain into thinking it’s time to be awake. Turn down the lights, climb into bed, and do something that relaxes you like light stretching, meditating, listening to soothing music, or reading. Eventually, even if you still can’t sleep, turn all the lights out, lie down, and rest.
Your body will ultimately find a way to rest, but it may have to get sick or extremely fatigued in order for that to happen.
For more self-care tips for insomnia, read this article.
6. Eat Warm Foods
Step away from the salad! The cool, raw, refreshing salads of summer will not do you any favors come fall. Just as we need to start keeping our bodies warmer on the outside, we need to stay warm on the inside as well.
In fall, eat warm, cooked food. Instead of cold cereal with milk, choose oatmeal. Trade the salads for oven-roasted veggies over brown rice. When cooking, throw in some onions, ginger, garlic or mustard—these pungent foods are known to benefit the Lung organ.
Veggie wise, root vegetables such as beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash are ideal. If you go for out-of-season vegetables, make sure they are cooked. If you’re craving fruit, reach for something seasonal such as apples, pears, grapes, figs or persimmons.
7. Get ahead of your stress!
Fall is when we ought to embrace our Metal-esque qualities: strong, definitive, focused, discerning. It is time to get down to business, to gain clarity about what really matters to us.
As satisfying as this can be, it also can be overwhelming. If I hunker down at work, how will I make time for the kids? If I focus on cooking healthy meals and eating at home to save money, how will I socialize with friends?
Make a list of which priorities deserve your attention. Write them down and glance at the list periodically throughout the season.
I use a combination of meditation, acupuncture, crocheting and reading to stay relaxed. If you find yourself feeling frantic, focus on activities that slow you down. Incorporate them into your schedule on an ongoing basis and find a routine that works for you.
Fall heightens our innate ability to get stuff done. Take advantage of it by reminding yourself where to focus.
I’d love to be a part of your wellness plan this Fall. Drop me a note and let me know how I can help you achieve your health goals for the coming seasons.
Lastly, while these emails will generally be seasonal, expect a follow up in the next couple of weeks with some exciting event news!
Wishing you all a happy & healthy Fall.