Fight Colds and Viruses in the Fall by Balancing your Chi
By Christine Schlenker, DC
I have had many patients inquire about how to stay healthy this season, dreading the thought of having a cold or flu. There are some deeper energetic ways to fight off colds and flu viruses this fall, that are based on a medicine used for thousands of years.
Fall season is the beginning of the yin cycle in acupuncture or eastern medicine where the daylight lasts for less than 12 hours. Pumpkins and squash are symbols of bounty, so gather away! Fall is also associated with the element of Metal, which governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. That means this is a great time of the year to wrap up summer projects and to begin thinking about indoor winter projects, both physically and mentally. Fall, in other words, is a time to organize your life for the cold winter season, and come inside your body and mind to reflect on your life.
The lung and large intestine are the internal organs that are related to the Fall season and the Metal element. The lung is associated with the emotion of “letting go.” This process is difficult for those that prefer the summer season, and may also notice that their symptoms may increase in the fall due to this. The lung is considered to be a “tender organ” because it is the uppermost organ of the body and thus most susceptible to wind and cold. Be sure to dress warm even if it may still feel like summer some days! Dressing too cool in the fall will leave you open to coughs, sore throats, and the common cold. The lungs also control the circulation of your immune or defense system called the Wei Qi (pronounce way chee). This energetic system circulates on the surface of your body between your skin and muscles and works to warm the body and protect it from the wind and cold. This is why you tend to feel cold when you are sick. Weak lungs can lead to a weak immune system and more frequent colds. To keep your lungs strong, you can practice Belly Breathing which is breathing solely with your stomach/diaphragm while your chest is at rest or not moving. This is most easily done in your sleep naturally, but during the day you may need to train your body to always breath in this correct form. Many people that are stressed breath with their chest and do not get a full breath in all day, thus leading to weak lungs. Sleeping an adequate amount of time per day in a mildly cooled room (away from cold open windows– cold or fans running–wind) would also aide in keeping your lungs strong by allowing your body to naturally keep your lungs full of fresh air.
The nose is the opening to the lungs so you can protect them by keeping your nose and sinuses clear. The easiest way to do this is to use a netti pot with saline solution to cleanse the nose of excess mucus. Also, refrain from eating too many cold or raw foods which can increase the amount of dampness or phlegm, which is produced by the spleen and stored by the lungs. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, cream and butter also produce phlegm. This time of year would be best to transition to foods that are warmed or cooked to keep your stomach and spleen warmer to keep extra phlegm at bay. Foods that are beneficial to the lungs are moderate amounts of garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish, and mustard.
Now is the time to strengthen your Qi (pronounced chee), the energy running through your body, so you can feel energetic and have a strong immune system in preparation for the winter season. By utilizing the above lifestyle suggestions, you can keep your body stronger from the inside-out!