Even as the pandemic feels to be taking more of a backseat, we are still living in a period of heightened awareness of viral illness. This article is a repost from a couple years ago but is still relevant this now. I hope you find it helpful as we navigate how to protect and nourish ourselves in the coming busy months.
In Chinese medicine, each season correlates with an element, and a paired set of organs. Fall is the Metal element, and its organ systems belong to the Lung and Large Intestine. These organ systems are thought to be especially vulnerable during this season, and in Chinese medicine special attention is made to strengthening and protecting these organs during this time. Blend that with the year we’ve had so far, and I would advise everyone to place an emphasis on loving our Lungs (and Large Intestine--see below) this fall.
Now, some of you may think that this is pure Chinese medical gibberish. Yet it is always fascinating to me to note that these systems do often get stressed for many this time of year--including myself. For me, it is my sensitive digestion that always seems to go south in the fall. For many others this is the time of year we start to see escalating respiratory illnesses and viral infections. From a purely Western medical standpoint, Vitamin D levels start to drop in the fall (unless you are supplementing correctly), leading to lowered immunity, increasing inflammation, and speeding up of bone loss (a prelude to the Kidney system in winter, which governs bone).
So what can we do to “love our Lungs and Large Intestine” this fall? How can we use the energies of fall from a Chinese medical standpoint to support us in moving towards a healthier and happier year? Here are a few suggestions:
Metal: A Metaphysical Viewpoint
Autumn or fall is the season when things are cooling off, winding down, and Nature is preparing for hibernation. Emotions connected with the Metal element are grief, and letting go. You might find yourself during this time naturally revisiting old wounds that never healed, family members that have passed, or relationships that are no longer in your life. Make sure to give yourself time and space to do this. If you have a regular meditation practice, invite shelved or buried energies of grief and loss into your conscious awareness, with love and in a safe space, so they can be processed and released and you can move into winter with a lighter heart. You might be surprised at what surfaces to be cleaned out.
The Lung in Chinese medicine correlates with both respiratory and immune system functions. As I stated before, in a year of increased viral infection, and in a state where we are currently suffering from smoke inhalation, it becomes even more critical to take extra measures in supporting the Lung. How can we do this? Here are some suggestions:
Invest in a good quality HEPA filter. Ideally your HEPA air filters should be placed in any space you are spending an extended amount of time, such as your bedroom or office.
Try steam therapy with essential oils. This is easy to do the old fashioned way, by hanging your head over a pot of steaming hot water and placing a towel over your head! Some of the top essential oils for lung detox include eucalyptus, tea tree oil, rosemary, and thyme, and ravensare
Daily practice of deep belly breathing. Deep breathing maintains and restores reduced lung function by using the diaphragm. Breathing through the nose strengthens the diaphragm and encourages the nervous system to relax and restore itself. Check out this link on the John's Hopkins website for different breathing exercises.
Consider adding omega -3 fish oils to your daily regimen. Omega 3 fatty acids play a big role in supporting healthy inflammation and immunity. It is an important building block of the an immune cell's membrane and are key to helping the body eliminate pathogens.
Add in N-acetyl-cysteine (or NAC) as a daily supplement. NAC is an antioxidant that thins mucus secretions, aids in expectoration, and reduces cough (if cough is present). NAC is also a precursor to our main detoxifying molecule in the liver--glutathione. So it assists detoxification at the level of both the lung AND liver.
Especially if you have a weakened immune function, or higher than normal stress levels, consider trying a few adaptogenic herbs. Astragalus, Rhodiola, and Osha Root are three wonderful herbs for lung and immune support. Medical mushrooms are also effective: Reishi, Cordyceps and Chaga all strengthen the lung/immune system. ImmunoBerry by Designs for Health supports normal immune functions and contains ingredients, such as elderberry, shiitake, and wild cherry bark known for their beneficial effects for maintaining a healthy immune system. It is sweetened with glycerine, tastes great, and is ideal for both children and adults.
In Chinese medicine “white” vegetables and fruits are believed to support Lung function. Spicier varieties will help to expectorate and clear phlegm, while sweeter varieties will nourish Lung Yin, helping to moisturize dry lung tissue, which is very helpful in our dry Colorado climate. Spicy examples include radishes of any kind, Daikon radish, and turnips; in fact, colors aside, you should be generous in using your kitchen spices in the fall, such as thyme, oregano and basil, as they will also help to move the lung qi and clear phlegm. Sweeter examples include pear and jicama. Apples and persimmons also nourish Lung Yin, and appropriately are also fruits that are harvested in the fall.
If you do find yourself traveling a lot or you are in close proximity to someone who is ill with one of the many circulating viruses that are prevalent in fall and winter, we recommend Viracon or Viracid to boost your immune system and prevent infection. Viracid contains the synergistic nutrient blend of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, L-lysine and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), which each play a major role in maintaining a healthy, functioning immune system. ViraCon is a powerful combination of immune enhancing herbal extracts including skullcap, astragalus, isatis, and berberine.
The Large Intestine is our main elimination organ, and one of our primary “detox” organs. Therefore, fall is an ideal time to “clean out the closet” and work on clearing oneself of both physical and mental toxicities. Anyone who struggles with constipation can tell you how “toxic” they start to feel after only a few days without pooping!
Consider attempting a good 4-6 week detox diet this fall. Or simply remove the top inflammatory foods for a while, and give your body (and gut) a rest! These include removal of gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar and fruit juices, and conventionally grown produce and meats.
Most detoxing herbal formulas target the Large Intestine; consider adding Triphala in during your fall cleanse, an ancient three herb Ayurvedic formula targeted at optimizing intestinal function.
Microguard and Microguard Plus: These Imperial grade formulas dissolve phlegm and mucus, regulate fluid metabolism, breakdown biofilm, and inhibit adverse fungal growth to promote a healthy and diverse microbiome. It helps you break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for easy digestion and assimilation of nutrients. It helps your body naturally produce more enzymes and gently assists with intestinal peristalsis to reduce bloating, fatigue, or cramping following a meal. It reduces intestinal lesions to eliminate food sensitivities and bring joy to communal meals or visits to restaurants with friends and family. Microguard supports the 'yang' or warm body type while Microguard plus supports the 'yin' cold body type. If you're not sure, check in with your practitioner.
Tibetan Herbal Foot Soaks are also excellent gentle detox.
And if all else fails, don’t forget: regular acupuncture throughout the fall will support ALL of these important functions! Acupuncture will strengthen the Lung Qi, help to eliminate congestion and boost expectoration of phlegm, regulate bowel function and promote healthy elimination, reduce stress, and boost immunity.
We look forward to seeing you soon!