As the seasons change, so do your health needs. With just a few small adjustments to your activity levels and food habits you can keep in tune with the seasonal changes and stay healthy and awesome through autumn.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) summer is the most ‘Yang’ season represented by warm weather, movement and activity. With all that heat and activity it’s easy to drain our ‘Qi’ (energy) or constitutional health and become quite depleted. Just like the land and soil needs to rest after harvest and prepare for re-planting, we also need to recover from summer and prepare our bodies for cooler, drier conditions and for winter. So as our bodies convert from the Yang (hot & active) energy of summer to the upcoming Yin (cool & replenishing) energy of winter, autumn is the time to up the focus on self-nurturing and nourishing.
During autumn in Melbourne the air can become quite dry and chilled and it’s often rather windy. This cool dry wind has an impact on your health, especially on your lungs. It can create symptoms like a dry cough, a tight chest or breathing difficulties. If you already have a predisposition to lung conditions, suffer from asthma or catch colds easily, you might find your symptoms worsen or become more difficult to manage during autumn. The dryness of the climate can also contribute to the development or exacerbation of other symptoms or complaints such as dry skin or constipation.
So how to avoid autumn turning awful?
To protect your lungs and your health from the cold winds and to prevent catching coughs and colds it is important you dress appropriately. It’s particularly important to cover up your neck and shoulders, as these areas are vulnerable when the temperature drops and you’re exposed to the elements.
As the days are getting shorter and colder, our bodies will require less activity and more rest. Try getting to bed a little earlier and perhaps consider replacing a pump or spin class with a yin yoga session.
Adjusting what you eat in accordance with the seasons is a simple way to maintain health according to Chinese medicine (and general Worldwide nutritional knowledge!). Luckily a good variety of delicious fruits and vegetables are in season in autumn. The trick is to get a balance between cooling, warming, pungent and moistening foods. After summer our digestive systems are often weakened due to over-eating (during the festive season) and too many cooling foods such as melons, stone fruits, salads and smoothies. Dark green and orange vegetables are great for strengthening our digestive systems, and cooked vegetables are generally better than raw. In early autumn, steaming and lightly baking our food is recommended. As the winter approaches we need to cook our food for longer to aid digestion. Soups and casseroles are ideal (check out our autumn soup recipe).
It’s important to include more pungent foods to your diet, as these are especially good for your lungs this time of year. Although we still get some lovely warm days during autumn we need to increase our intake of warming foods to accommodate for the weather generally becoming colder.
Here are some examples of suitable seasonal foods categorised according to their nature and health properties:
- Pungent foods: bay leaves, capers, cardamom, chives, cloves, dill, fennel, leek, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, tumeric, cabbage, turnip, ginger, pepper, onions, garlic and chillies.
- Cooling pungents: peppermint, chamomile, watercress, radish, daikon and seaweed.
- Warming pungents: fennel, garlic, onions, mustard greens, horseradish and ginger.
- Foods to moisten and nourish Yin: Seaweed, pears, peaches, green beans, eggs, oysters and clams.
If you’re ever stuck for meal ideas…get inspired by our growing collection of recipes.
We wish you all an awesome autumn!
Chinese Medicine Practitioner