As we enter autumn, we reap the benefits of the harvest from the spring and summer months. But at the same time, the fall is a powerful time of letting go. The outer world mimics our internal climate and just as the trees freely let go of their leaves, we too need to shed old ways of being and cleanse our bodies, to make space so something new can be cultivated and be harvested next year.
In Chinese medicine there is an element associated with each time of year. The metal element is at its peak during late autumn. Metal is characterized by communication, strength, focus, intesity and righteousness. The emotion related to metal is grief. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) metal and autumn are connected to our physical bodies through the lungs and large intestine.
We can often see a metal imbalance through the emotions or the physical body. The lungs are considered an extension of the skin and are paired with the large intestine. Often, when metal is out of balance skin problems will result. Just as the lungs draw in oxygen, they must express the carbon dioxide that becomes their waste material. Similarly, the large intestine draws out minerals and water before excreting its waste through the colon. The process of taking in and letting go often gets interrupted when the body has not been nurtured and nurished. The fall is the perfect time to address these issues, since its natural energy is letting go. And after expelling residual toxins from the body through a mini detox, eating with the season is important step to maintaing health. Gourds, steamed or roasted seasonal vegetables, nuts and seeds, honey, white fungus, onions and appropriate amounts of meat and dairy will help our body stay strong through the autumn.
Since the lungs and large intestine are the focus of this time of year, doing things to support their functions will help with total body wellness. This is often the time of year that people who are prone to sinus infections and head colds start feeling affected. Ways to support the lungs and sinuses are to steam your face regularly, use a neti pot and drink plenty of water to keep mucus from thickening. Another way to support the lungs is through the regular emptying the bowels. As waste material backs up in our system our skin can reflect the toxins present. Doing a gentle detox or an elimination diet for 2 weeks can be an easy way to regain balance.
There is so much we can do to promote our health by living in harmony with the seasons. In the fall it is a time to gather the fruits of our labor from the seasons before, but the energetics of this time of year is to begin to create openness for something new. There are many ways to support the mind, body and spirit in gently making space for growth in the coming year. Along with the above mentioned suggestions, visiting your local traditional chinese medicine practitioner and requesting a treatment to support your body through the autumn is another way to help the health of your lungs and large intestine and build immunity as we enter the cold season.