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Transitioning to Autumn
With autumn approaching and the beginning of the yin cycle, the energy of plants is moving down into their roots, helping the body become aware of the energy of the season. This season is a time for the body to begin gathering energy for the colder months to come. The lungs and large intestine are the organs associated with fall. The lungs are responsible for the circulation of Qi (the body’s natural flow and circulation), and are also very susceptible to cold and illness. For this reason, it is important to stay healthy and warm during the season. If the Qi circulation is weakened, muscles will not be able to warm the body properly.
Vegetables of autumn like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale can help purify and protect your body against free radicals. These color-rich vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, which then turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for our immune system, especially as the cold and flu season rolls in. These vegetables can also strengthen your lungs and large intestine to fight illness.
Vegetables to cook with:
● winter squash
● turnip greens
Autumn weather becomes more yin, calling for warming dishes. Foods to cook that are in harmony with the season include more sour foods, as well as foods rich in protein and fats.
Sour/pungent foods to cook with:
● sourdough bread
● adzuki beans
● rosehip tea
Some find it hard to let go of summer, with the longer days and warm air transitioning into the crisp and shorter days of fall. Acupuncture not only helps the body physically, but mentally as well. Fall is a great time to see an acupuncturist as your body and mind adapt to the changing of the season. Give your acupuncturist a visit to prepare for the new season ahead and to stay in good health!
“Practical Chinese Medicine” Penelope Ody
Late Summer is a time of transition, when we move from the most Yang time of the year to the beginning of Yin time. The earth is preparing for its next season. The 2-3 weeks between each season is the time associated with the Earth element, and a time to ‘return to center’ to prepare for the shift. In Chinese Medicine, the Earth element correlates with the Spleen and Stomach, which are considered primarily digestive organs. Digestion, as a functional concept, represents the central axis around which everything else revolves.
We should strive for optimal digestion all year round, but these transitional times between seasons are fantastic opportunities to strengthen this ‘central axis’ by slowing down and simplifying our diet while making sure it’s as nutritious as possible. The spleen has some requests regarding what we eat. First, keep things simple. It is important to shed complexity and avoid extremes. Find your goldilocks zone when it comes to taste and temperature and quantity of food. Not too hot, not too cold, not too sweet, not too spicy, etc. and not too much food at once. Stop eating before you’re full.
In that goldilocks zone we find that warm foods are preferable. This helps to maintain that simple balance of temperature but also assists the spleen qi in maintaining the digestive fire. Excessively cold food (like ice-cold drinks or ice cream) can extinguish that essential fire and must be avoided especially during the season change. Start to transition to cooked foods if you’ve been doing more raw fruits and veggies in the summer. Warm ginger tea, bone broth and mild spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can help gently fan the flames of dying embers.
The other threat to our digestive fire are foods that are considered ‘damp’ in nature. Greasy/fried foods, refined sugars, and excess dairy and gluten can slow down metabolism, weigh down the body energetically, and eventually physically. We can see the down-river result of too many damp foods manifest in the body as weight gain, sore joints, a foggy-head, loose stools, and issues like candida and edema. Keep the spleen happy and the digestive fire burning with warm, ‘dry’ foods.
The spleen also likes sweet flavors, but again, we keep balance in mind. Think slightly sweet and naturally sweet. Foods that fit the bill are fruits like figs, plums, and apples, vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnips, and squash. Rice, potatoes, and mushrooms are considered slightly sweet as well (along with whole grains which are okay for those without gluten sensitivities). Lentils and legumes can be added in for their protein and fiber which help to regulate blood sugar. Avoid fruit juices, as they lack the fiber to balance the sugar.
To round out your meals, feel free to add some (free-range organic when possible) meat, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens for balance. Soups and stews are a great way to bring together a few simple ingredients in a spleen-friendly way. Just don’t forget: slow, simple, balanced, warm, dry, and slightly sweet.
How we eat is often just as important as what we eat. In our fast-paced society, everything feels rushed. Yet it is so important to take the time to generate better awareness around mealtime. In simple terms: CHEW your food. Take a moment before eating to look at your food, appreciate it, and then ..enjoy the taste...slowly. Ask your body to receive it with love, while minimizing potentially stressful distractions. Make it a meditation. Or at least a moment of gratitude.
Follow these basic principles of nourishment during times of seasonal change and you’ll find yourself transitioning with ease.
Come in for a late summer tune-up with acupuncture to better harmonize with the transitional season, strengthen digestion and support your body through seasonal changes. We’re here for you!
Natural Ways to Alleviate Headaches from an Eastern Medicine PerspectiveWhen you get a headache what does it feel like? Is it dull, nagging, aching and lasts all day? Is it sharp, stabbing, throbbing and short-lived? Where is your pain located? Does it feel like a tight headband going from your forehead to the back of your head? Maybe into your neck? Is it on one side? Behind your eyes? Do you feel it at your temples or near your jawline? Do you feel better when you lie down in a dark room and recuperate? Does eating a snack or a meal help? Conversely, do you feel better when you get out and take a walk or does eating a greasy meal make your headache worse or even bring it on? In Eastern Medicine, the answers to these questions help to define and diagnose the type of headache you experience based on pain, location and whether your headache is a manifestation of a deficient or excess state.
Excess vs Deficiency
Excess conditions tend to be more intense and acute while deficient conditions tend to be more dull, nagging, and chronic. If your symptoms are better with rest, your headache is likely due to deficiency because you are easily depleted. If your symptoms are better with exercise or movement, your headaches are likely due to an excess state and you need to burn off energy.
In Eastern Medicine, when we diagnose a deficient state we tonify or nourish the imbalance, in an excess state we quell or calm the overactivity. We have several tools we use to bring the body back to balance. The main tools are acupuncture, nutrition, and botanicals.Acupuncture
One of the best ways to get immediate relief from a headache is to find a qualified, licensed acupuncturist in your area and get acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is when tiny needles are inserted at specific locations that correspond to your pain. Many acupuncturists specialize in headaches and love treating them because acupuncture often provides on-the-spot relief and people leave the acupuncturist’s office headache-free. Regular acupuncture can also prevent headaches from occurring in the first place and many people end up getting regular treatments once or twice a month to keep their headaches completely away.
Eastern medicine has been treating headaches with nutritional recommendations for thousands of years. First, it is good to identify if you are more prone to a stress or tension headache if you have missed meals or are feeling hungry. This type of headache means there is a deficiency occurring and the body needs energy in order to nourish itself and prevent a headache.Many people are busy at work or on their computer focusing for hours and they are not paying attention to their hunger. This is a sign of a deficient-type headache. It is also possible to experience a headache after eating foods that do not agree with your constitution. For example, if your headache pain comes with brain fog or muzzy feeling in the head, it is best to avoid sugary or fried foods and aim for healthy options. Acupuncturists are also trained in what foods are best for what type of headache you are experiencing and can counsel you on how to change your meals to prevent headaches.
Chinese Medicinals (Botanicals)
There are many formulas in the vast Chinese Medicinal Pharmacy that are used for headaches. A licensed acupuncturist has undergone many years of training in this pharmacopeia and can prescribe a formula that will bring homeostasis to an excess or deficient constitution. These formulas are often individualized to each person’s constitution with great precision or there are common formulas used that are also very effective.