Happy New Year!

Keeping Well Through the Change of Seasons

Autumn is upon us, and along with brilliant skies, cooler nights, drier air, and the creative energies of the season, comes the invitation to roll with these changes and make the adjustments to self-care that allow for a healthful transition into the cooler months.

The shift from summer to fall climate is significant, and as the environment becomes cooler, drier, and windier, our bodies have to recalibrate. The open, expansive summer body has to adapt to new conditions by contracting, adjusting the moisture balance, and bolstering immune function.

In Chinese medicine, the autumn season is associated with the function of the lungs, nose, sinuses, skin, and colon, and their relationship with the immune system. If the health of these organs is compromised, then the immune system is weakened. Strong immunity begins with digestive health in the colon. Colds and stuffy sinuses are often the body’s cleansing reaction to an overburdened digestive system.

In the spirit of Living Wellness, here are some suggestions for a healthful transition into fall:

1. Proper Seasonal Diet

The fall diet takes advantage of summer’s harvest – you can center your diet around the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available now, and begin to add more warming and building foods, like root vegetables, hard squashes, soups and sprouted grains. Plant proteins (beans, lentils, nuts, seeds) and animal proteins (including eggs and dairy) are building as well, just be mindful that these foods can be more congesting, especially dairy.

Foods that benefit and nourish the lungs and colon include apple, avocado, peach, pear, asparagus, bok choy, burdock root, cabbage, endive, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, mushroom, radish, spinach, sprouts, squash, sweet potato and watercress. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and miso help boost healthy flora in the intestines. Seaweeds like nori, dulse, wakame, kelp and hiziki are mineral-rich and help structure the body so it can keep fluids moistening the tissues. Better hydration equals better immunity.

Avoid refined sugars and flours, which deplete vital nutrients and undermine the immune system.

Featured recipe: Shiitake, Seaweed and Squash Soup

6 cups vegetable broth
1 inch ginger root, grated
6 cloves garlic
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
¼ kabocha squash with skin, cubed
1 cup chopped kale, stems removed
¼ cup dried seaweed (wakame, arame, or seaweed salad mix)
2 oz. dried mung bean or rice noodles
1 fillet of tilapia or other white fish (optional)

Preparation: Heat the broth, adding ingredients in the order listed, with the exception of the fish. Simmer until the squash is cooked through. If using fish, add the filet whole (frozen is fine), cover and turn heat to low. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve immediately.
Store any leftover soup in glass jars. It makes a great breakfast soup!

2. Gentle Seasonal Cleansing

Prevention is the best medicine. A great way to support the immune system is to support the digestive system, by giving it a little break. Consider eating a little lighter for a few days, avoiding sugar, dairy, flour, heavy proteins and alcohol. Plan your cleansing menu around hydrating foods like fruits, (green) smoothies, vegetable, miso and lentil soups, salads, steamed or roasted vegetables, vegetable juices, herb teas and plenty of water.

Dry skin brushing (lymph brushing) before bathing stimulates cleansing of the tissues. Brush with circular strokes up the arm toward the axillary lymph nodes and heart, and up the legs with circular strokes toward the inguinal lymph nodes and torso. Start closer to the nodes, and work your way toward the extremities, always brushing toward the center of the body (you want to clear the lymph channels closest to the nodes first).

A trip to the sauna or steam room is great for eliminating toxins through the skin, stimulating circulation, and relaxing, all of which improve immune function.

Enemas or colonics help tone the bowel, eliminate waste from the colon, and systemically reduce the toxic burden of the tissues. Fewer toxins, better immunity!

3. Exercise and Sleep

Make your lungs happy and strong with regular cardiovascular exercise for improved oxygenation of your blood and resistance to illness. Stretching and yoga keep the energy flowing smoothly through the channels, and give the organs a gentle massage for better functioning. Daily physical activity improves the quality of sleep. Your organs are busy detoxifying your body during rest, so make sure to hit the sack and log some hours. The fall is great sleeping weather!

4. Teas and Supplements

There are many wonderful herbs to enjoy that also boost immune function. As the weather gets cooler, brew up some astragalus, lemon balm, elder flower, dandelion, red clover, echinacea and St. Johnswort teas. Be lavish with garlic and ginger in your food preparation. Get your Vitamin D levels checked – many people are quite low in D, and adequate supplementation can significantly reduce the incidence of colds and flus. Also consider a multi-vitamin, probiotics, CoQ10, quercitin with bromelain, Vitamin C, zinc (balanced with copper), chlorella and kelp.

5. Chinese Herb Formulas

The Chinese medicine cabinet holds a host of formulas crafted to address the whole spectrum of common autumn ailments, and even better, to strengthen immunity to avoid illness altogether. For example, the “Jade Windscreen” can be taken before the onset of any cold, to bolster the strength of the protective Wei qi. Other formulas are designed for the first signs of a cold, for dry sinus conditions, wet sinus conditions, dry lung conditions, phlegmy lung conditions, cough, etc. Using Chinese herb formulas in conjunction with acupuncture is a great way to support the body’s cleansing and healing process, especially if you are trying to avoid the use of over-the-counter and pharmaceutical drugs.

Best wishes for a healthy and vibrant fall!