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Autumn Health - Seasonal living with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Updated: Dec 6, 2022


“The trees are about to show us how beautiful it is to let go”

One of the wonderful things about Traditional Chinese Medicine is how it weaves nature and the changing seasons into the way we navigate our health. Chinese Medicine theory teaches us not to see imbalance and dis-ease as limited to our body but to understand the role our surrounding environment plays in our health. The more we understand our intrinsic connection with nature the better we find ourselves prepared to move through the changing seasons with ease and in a way that most benefits our body and mind.

It's the start of sock and scarf season! You want to protect exposed skin and keep your Wei Qi strong.

With the approach of Autumn, the weather shifts. We notice this most in the mornings and evenings that bookend our day. The heavy blanket of summer that has maintained a steady warmth starts to move aside inviting in the crisper chill of Autumn’s mornings and evenings. It is also not uncommon in Autumn to see some instability in the weather and for the wind to kick up. So, make sure that neck of yours is covered and well protected from wind chill!

As we move deeper into the cooler months the days will shorten and we begin to see more glimpses of the winters days ahead signifying our need to ensure we have established a robust Wei Qi or Protective Qi. Your Wei Qi can be considered your suit of armour against illness. The Wei Qi is pushed to the surface of the skin by the dispersing action of the Lung and as it circulates on the skin it serves to protect the body from external pathogens, bacteria, and viruses.

The Yellow Emperors Inner Cannon (Huang Di Nei Jing) is is an ancient Chinese medical text and it speaks of Autumn in the following paragraph:

“In autumn, the wind is vigorous and rapid, the environment on earth is clear and bright, so during this period, one should go to bed early to stay away from the chilliness, get up early to appreciate the crisp air of autumn, keep the spirit tranquil and stable to separate oneself from the sough of autumn by means of restraining the spirit and energy internally, and guard the mind against anxiety and impetuosity. In this way, one’s tranquillity can still be maintained even in the sough of autumn atmosphere, and the breath of the lung can be kept even as well”


Five Elements Theory Autumn AND TCM:

One of the governing theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine practice is Five Element Theory. Five Element Theory suggests that our Qi, you can consider this our life force or energy, is arranged into five different elements. The elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood, and they are also represented in nature. Five Element Theory also sees the seasons to pair with a specific element along with two organ systems. Being aware of these pairings helps us to identify which seasons hold particular significance to us and certain areas of our physical and emotional health.

This link between our health and nature is often played out in us experiencing periods of excess or deficiency that correlate with the corresponding season. By identifying which organ systems may require more support in any given season can help us to achieve optimal physical and mental health balance at any given time of the year. Where there is imbalance or disease Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies can be used to resolve these disharmonies.

If you are interested in seasonal living, then learning more about Five Element Theory is a really useful bases for discovery.


The Element of Autumn – Metal

The element of Autumn is Metal

The element that is matched with Autumn is Metal. Where our Metal element is strong, we will notice the following signs:

  • Easily developed and consistent routines.

  • A love of ritual.

  • Healthy boundary setting.

  • A sense of strength.

  • The ability to be precise.

  • Enjoyment of structure and boundaries.

  • Metal loves a good routine.

These all sound great, and useful in day-to-day life however like everything this Metal element needs to be kept in balance. Our Metal element loves structure and routine, we also need to ensure we have enough flexibility to open ourselves up to outside support and that we have the ability to communicate our needs and desires, enjoy social activities, and indulge our passions.

When our Metal element is out of kilter it can lead to the following problems:

  • Trouble communicating our feelings.

  • Becoming to ridged in our processes.

  • Taking routine and the need for structure too far.

  • Inability to let go.

  • Tendency to shy away from spontaneous action.


The Organ Meridians of Autumn – The Lung and The Large Intestine:

The Five Element Theory pairs each season with two organ systems. One Yin in nature and one Yang in nature.

The Yin organ of Autumn is the Lung

The organ systems paired with Autumn are the Lung and Large Intestine. When we consider the energy of Autumn it is one of release or letting go. It is the elimination of all we no longer need and the retaining of only what is essential.

The Yin organ system of the Autumn pair is the Lungs. Our Lungs draw in our life energy (Qi) from the air and combines it with the Qi that we obtain from our food. This Qi is then circulated around our body. Robust Lung Qi is associated with an ability to be able to hold on to what is needed and let go of anything that does not serve us. Someone with healthy Lung Qi exhibits the ability to accept change, a positive outlook and clarity in their thinking. If someone has a deficiency of Lung Qi they may struggle with the challenges of life. They may tend towards being negative and find it difficult to process and move through situations as they arise. Challenges with ‘letting go’ in relation to grief are common.

It is not surprising that the sensory organ related to the Lung is the nose. We may see signs of poor Lung health demonstrated with nasal symptoms such as sneezing, congestion, a runny nose, loss of sense of smell and congestion in the nasal passages.

The tissue related to the Lung is the skin. When the Qi made from the air we breathe and the food we eat is distributed around the body this includes organ surfaces and the skin. The health of the Wei Qi or defensive Qi works to protect us from pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. The skin also gives an excellent snapshot to our inner health. A patient presenting with well nourished, radiant skin has a high likelihood of optimal Lung Qi.

The Yang organ of the Autumn pair is the Large Intestine. The Lung is linked to drawing in, holding on and nourishing but the Large Intestine plays the opposite role, associated with elimination. This makes sense, pairing the colon with the release of matter that is no longer needed. Like the Lungs and the Skin, our Large Intestine is an essential component of our body’s detoxification process. The Large Intestine really is the final stop of the nutrients that we nourish ourselves with. It withdraws the final liquid nutrients and then, when everything is working as it should, eliminates the waste that is of no value. The function of the Large Intestine can be marred by the emotion of grief. When the Large Intestine is deficient a person may experience exacerbated feelings of worry, depression, unease, and irritability. Imbalance of Large Intestine Qi can also result in stubborn behaviour and negativity along with an inability to let go. When our Large Intestine Qi is strong and well balanced, it becomes easy to flow through life as we can easily release what no longer serves us and enjoy a sense of calm and contentment.

This emotional connection makes a lot of sense when you consider how your stomach behaves if you are worried, anxious, or stressed. Physical manifestations of Large Intestine imbalances are often expressed in a variety of bowel and gut conditions and changes in bowel habits. These can include conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, colitis, and diverticulitis.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the most common causes of imbalances of our Lung and Large Intestine health include:

  • Unresolved Grief

  • Lack of movement – sedentary lifestyle

  • Unsupportive dietary and lifestyle choices


The Emotion of Autumn – Grief

Grief is the emotion that Five Element Theory pairs with Autumn, the Lung, and the Large Intestine.

How do you physically experience grief? Breathlessness and a sense of weight on the chest are the most commonly reported sensations. If you have experienced intense sadness or loss, you will recognize the symptoms I have just described.

Grief is the emotion that Five Element Theory pairs with Autumn, the Lung, and the Large Intestine. When grief is repressed or unresolved it interferes with the Lung Function by weakening the Qi and affecting our ability to let go. It compromises the Lungs ability to extract and distribute the Qi which has a flow on effect of weakening our Wei Qi and exposes us to external pathogens, bacteria, and viruses.

Strong Lung Qi is demonstrated in a person’s ability to both hold on effectively and let go willingly. When there is a deficiency of Lung Qi the person is more likely to be scattered and disorganized, experiencing sadness and confusion and unable to identify what information, feelings and experiences are best to ‘hold on’ to and what they should ‘let go’ of.

Breathing issues and Lung problems such as asthma and chronic cough are common physical manifestations of Grief. Other patients may find the flow on effect of a damaged Wei Qi leaves them open to frequent infection and poor health. Bowel disturbances such as constipation can be a sign of grief impacting on the Large Intestine an impacting the ability to ‘let go’.

It is not easy to work through Grief. By simply identifying areas that you may have unresolved Grief and being mindful of how that Grief is interacting with your health can be a meaningful step towards resolution. Emotions have purpose. It is important that we experience emotion and that they help shape our experience, what is important is finding balance and ensuring we can support our systems to cope while emotions are processed. As we draw connections with our emotions and health imbalances, we must be kind to ourselves. Mindfulness, breath work, meditation and finding a health professional that can help support us through the process of Grief is incredibly important.


THE TASTE OF Autumn – Eating Pungent and Spicy foods

Autumn is the perfect time to spice up your food.

If you want to adjust to the changing weather and support your health then seasonal eating can take you a long way towards that goal. You will notice as Autumn progresses and we head towards the cooler months that you will begin to crave warmer hearty meals. As a general rule in TCM we are not fans of cold food (energetically and in temperature) damp food, chilled drinks, raw foods, sugar, and bread.

Try to set your sights on easily digestible and nourishing meals. When cooking we want to sauté, bake, roast and slow cook our meals. Nourishing the blood is essential. Include root veggies and this is soup weather, in fact a variety of delicious warming soups should make up a significant percentage of your weekly meals.

When we look at the flavours that are most supportive during Autumn, we want foods that are spicy and pungent. These foods have a cleansing nature, they help move mucus, release waste and toxins and invigorate blocked Qi, supporting the body to ‘let go.’ Chilli and hot peppers are fitting examples of supportive Autumn foods. White is the colour of the Metal element so if you take that into consideration you could count in foods such as horseradish, garlic, ginger, daikon radish and white pepper.

Here are some other supportive Autumn options:

  • Cooked vegetables including sweet potatoes, other orange vegetables like winter squashes and dark, leafy winter greens such as kale, chard, mustard greens, etc.

  • Fermented foods (including miso, sauerkraut, tempeh)

  • Walnuts and Chestnuts

  • Lemons and Limes

  • Apples and Pears

  • Spices: bay leaves, black pepper, chili, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, rosemary


Building a robust Wei Qi

Your Wei Qi can be considered your suit of armour against illness.

All of the information contained in this blog should help you take some steps towards arming your body with a robust Wei Qi as we enter Autumn. Your Wei Qi is your body’s ‘front line defence’ and now more than ever you want to make sure that front line defence is strong!

A healthy immune system relies on strong and vital Wei Qi. In a perfect world, health care would be about staying healthy not treating illness. The benefits of being proactive about your health cannot be overstated. Whilst we talk a lot about preventative health being important to protect us from virus, cold and flu it is also about ensuring our system is strong and well supported. So should we become unwell, experience an injury, or have a period of unexpected stress we have plentiful resources to arm us for a quick recovery and return to balance.


If you would like to learn more about Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine to support your health, please contact us at Red Bridge family Acupuncture.

Stay healthy this Autumn with Red Bridge Family Acupuncture Healesville

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