After a long, hot summer, we have finally reached the cool months of autumn, my favorite time of year.
In Chinese medicine, fall is associated with the respiratory system. As the days grow colder and the air turns dry, the lungs must work harder to defend the body against airborne pathogenic influences. Although ancient Chinese medical doctors had no concept of germ theory, acupuncturists and herbalists have long understood the importance of protecting the lungs during this vulnerable time of year.
Let’s look at a few simple ways to support your respiratory health during the autumn season.
In Chinese medicine environmental cold can enter the body through the pores in the skin, weakening the lungs and creating opportunities for illness to take root. The best way to prevent cold damage is to bundle up against the elements. Scarves, gloves, warm socks, hats, and extra layers go a long way in preventing illness during cold weather. Be especially conscious of covering your neck and the backs of your shoulders. Also, don’t forget to be careful around drafts from air ducts or fans, which mimic the forced quality of a cold wind.
Immunity is directly linked to digestive health. In fact, in acupuncture, the lung is closely connected with the large intestine, stomach, and spleen organs. If you feel you’re catching a bug, avoid refined sugar completely. Sugar taxes your immune system, feeds bacteria and viruses, and compromises your ability to fight infection should you catch something. During the autumn months, stick with warm, cooked foods, and avoid ice-cold beverages. Don’t skimp on water though; staying hydrated with room-temperature drinks will keep you healthy year-round.
Sleep is essential for fighting infection, repairing achy joints and muscles, and calming the mind. In fact, most healing is conducted while we are asleep. Now that the weather is turning cold, many people find sleeping is easier than during the summer. Adequate rest will boost your immune system much more than taking supplements. Take advantage of the longer, cooler nights and allow your body the simple medicine of sleep.
When it comes to immunity, there are no true substitutes for proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep. That being said, if your respiratory system is habitually prone to catching colds and flus, now is the time to boost your system with herbs and acupuncture.