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Keeping Healthy in Autumn

Keeping Healthy in Autumn

Traditional Chinese medicine advice for health and harmony in the fall season

Fall is here!  Days are getting shorter, weather is getting cooler, and the natural world is moving into its dormant phase: leaves and fruits wither and fall, seeds dry, tree sap descend to the roots.  The seasonal change also affects our bodies– particularly the skin and immune system, leading to drier skin and an increase in colds, coughs, and allergies.  Ancient Chinese doctors noted that a key element to keeping healthy (in any season) is to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature, to adjust lifestyle according to the energies of the seasons.  Here are some simple tips for harmonious living in fall:

Food Choices: Climatic changes in autumn may lead to dryness affecting the body, especially the lungs and skin, resulting in dry skin, dry 5380062168_e6877f30cd_zcough, and constipation. Eating more moistening, juicy fruits like pears, pomegranate, persimmon, and apples can reduce these effects. To help boost the immune system,
add some vitamin packed seasonal vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squash. If you do come down with a cold or allergies, try
adding some pungent flavored foods to your diet such as green onion, fresh ginger, or sweet onions.

Food Preparation: As the weather becomes colder, prepare more warm cooked foods and reduce the amount of cold raw foods in your diet. Try using cooking techniques like baking, braising, roasting, and stewing to improve nutrient absorption in the cold weather months.

Exercise: Try to avoid heavy aerobic exercise outdoors in the cooler autumn months, as it may reduce qi, and weaken your system.  Instead focus on gentle or moderate exercise like brisk walking, qigong, tai chi, or yoga.  Light exercise boosts your immune system by enhancing the activity of neutrophils, a white blood cell instrumental in protecting the body against viral and bacterial infections.

Sleep: According to ancient Chinese philosophy, one’s sleeping habits should adjust with the changing length of days through the seasons. In autumn, as the days become shorter, one should go to sleep earlier to avoid the chilly nights and wake with the sun to enjoy the crisp morning air.

6583636391_929828d65e_oClothing: A Chinese folk saying states that one ought to “muffle the body in spring and freeze the body in autumn.”  That is to say, people should avoid switching their wardrobe too early in transitional seasons.  In autumn, bundling up too early may prevent the body from adjusting to the cooling temperatures.  As the weather cools more, gradually add more layers of clothing.   Layering with a cozy scarf, light jacket, or warm sweater will allow you to easily adjust your body temperature throughout the day, as mornings and evenings tend to be cooler than the warm afternoons.