We are well on our way into March, and Autumn is here (if you’re in the southern hemisphere. If you’re in the northern than this is still great info to keep close for when Autumn does come to visit you, or you can share it with a loved one down under.) There are many interesting aspects about this seasonal change. My background as a Dr. of Chinese Medicine (acupuncture and herbal medicine) encourages me to always go back to the basics. The foundations of how we humans fit into this world and how we are interacting with everything around us, most importantly our environment. Below I explain the link between the metal element and our skin, immunity, digestion and particular emotions, as well as give my 6 top tips to ensure you get the most out of this season to feel and look your best!
Sooo, a little background info to set the scene …….
There are 5 elements in Chinese Medicine theory (fire, earth, metal, water, wood). Each element pertains to 2 organs (with one exception) and also relates to a season and type of body tissue. The metal element pertains to the lungs and large intestine. Autumn is the season for these organs and they control the skin.
In relation to our skin
Our skin is a major barrier between our interior world and our exterior world. The skin is ruled by the metal element, primarily the lungs, so ensuring the lungs and lung energy is healthy and flowing well will naturally strengthen our immunity. The lungs also rule the opening and closing of our pores, mirroring their health in our complexion and skins radiance !
In relation to our immunity
You’ll find people are much more susceptible to allergies, asthma and sickness around this time of year. In Chinese Medicine the lungs circulate a special energy we call ‘wei qi’ (pronounced way chee) which is a protective energy moving between the muscles and skin, acting as a barrier to strengthen our immunity.
The lungs play a huge role in immunity both in western medicine and even more so in Chinese Medicine. The lungs like a healthy amount of moisture, and the branches, bronchioles and air sacs have a very fine mucus lining ensuring they stay moist. This fine mucus also helps with immunity by trapping foreign particles trying to enter the body. As a result the lungs naturally suffer when they become dry, hence during Autumn lung conditions tend to flare. (more about this in future posts…. so stay tuned or subscribe here https://www.ilaandava.com/). Excess mucus, getting sick regularly and allergies are a sign the immunity, and especially the lungs energy is compromised.
In relation to sleep
You may notice this time of year is encouraging us to naturally move inwards, rather than the expansive nature of summer and spring of being very social and active. The daylight hours are getting shorter and this is a great time to start resting a little more and ensuring our sleep is of good quality. You can even consider adding a half hour or hour to your sleeping pattern.
In relation to emotions
In the theory of Chinese Medicine every organ also pertains to a type of emotion. This is very interesting and will start to make more and more sense as you become aware of the links between the organs, their feelings and how it relates to your own life (I also aim to write much more about this in future posts as I think it is very important). The lungs are a ‘yin’ organ. A yin organ means it is a solid organ, and is related to taking in the new. The lungs emotions are attachment, grief and sadness. Although feeling every emotion is a natural human experience, allowing any type of emotion to build up stagnates the particular organ and its energy related to that emotion. When the lung energy is strong we have clarity and clear thought, we hold a positive image of ourselves and we are open to whatever may cross our path, living with an inner peace and comfort.
Its partner the large intestine is a ‘yang’ organ. This means it is an empty organ, fills up and then releases its contents. Its emotional aspects are related to an inability to let go, being stubborn and having a negative view of things, like cup half empty opposed to cup half full scenario. Physically we can also see this as constipation (or even incomplete bowel movements – see the digestion tip below). When our large intestine energy is balanced and flowing with ease we feel relaxed, can let go of things that don’t serve us anymore and live in a sense of flow. Yay!
6 tips to keep you balanced throughout autumn …….
1. p r o t e c t y o u r s k i n
A simple routine of dry brushing (or exfoliating) can bring wonders for the skin this time of year. I’ll be sharing a full blog post on dry brushing (and fingers crossed my own line of brushes specific for the ILA + AVA skincare range soon) as there’s actually a bit to cover on this topic. And as always I believe it is vital to understand ‘why’ we do things and in particular how the lymphatic system actually works and interacts with the rest of the body to get the most benefits of the physical technique.
Oils are a great way to boost our skin ! Choose a good quality blend of plant carrier and essential oils to nourish your skin from the outside. I created the ‘glow body oil’ (https://www.ilaandava.com/product-page/enrich-lip-balm) as part of the ILA + AVA range to help us keep that summer glow all year round. Its important the oils you choose are actually restorative and help hydrate and penetrate the skin while encouraging repair and protection from the elements.
Stay covered! Ensure you are covered as the temperatures start to drop and it gets windy to protect your body from what we call ‘external invasion’ in Chinese Medicine. Dressing for the season – add a scarf or higher neck tops to protect your exterior, and avoid drafts (pretty much all year round but particularly during Autumn).
If starting to use heating add a humidifier or a bowl of water somewhere near by to replenish moisture in the air.
Excessive sweating should always be avoided (more on this too) but especially during this time of year as it’s a sure way to quickly deplete body fluids and very important electrolytes.
2. k e e p h y d r a t e d
As autumn naturally tends to ‘dryness’ (watch what happens to leaves on trees) it is important to keep our bodies hydrated and nourished by good fluids. Clean filtered water, room temperature, spaced throughout the day is key. There is no perfect amount of fluid, and if you have ever read a set volume to drink, then realistically its not taking into account several factors like what part of the world you live in, your age, body weight/height, your physical activity and exertion, health conditions and diet. A good guide though is at least 2 litres. I like to start with 1-2 glasses of water first thing in the morning as a nice system flush, but away from then I aim to drink more regularly rather than downing a large amount in one go, which can be a bit intense for the body to process. 1-2 herbal teas per day is great too, avoiding caffeinated ones (caffeine tends to be drying and has an affect on the kidneys, which filter blood and body water).
3. a u t u m n f o o d s
Funnily, nature always knows best. Certain foods that come into season are specific for what our bodies need to thrive during the seasonal changes. Foods great for the metal element and its organs the lungs and large intestine include:
pears (great for poaching, baking, or just on their own - cinnamon, pecans or walnuts and a vegan version of goats cheese is their friend)
apples, lemons and limes
garlic, onions, horseradish, olives, vinegar
spices : bay leaves, cardamom, turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon, black pepper
dark leafy greens : kale, mustard greens, chard, spinach etc
hearty warming soups, stews (dry legume soup mixes are available from bulk food stores (the source etc) and the supermarkets, very cheap and so easy to use)
orange foods : sweet potato (baking a whole sweet potato in the skin is ahhmazing!!), pumpkin, squash etc
fermented foods : tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso
navy beans, adzuki beans
4. e m o t i o n s l i n k e d t o t h e m e t a l o r g a n s
As mentioned above the emotions related to the metal element are pretty powerful! Understanding how these may be affecting our life is a real game changer. To allow the energy of the lungs and large intestine to flow and be beautifully balanced you may like to consider the following :
Have a good cry…. sometimes we don’t think we are holding emotions, especially sadness. But you’d be surprised! If you find it difficult to have a cry it might be good to watch a film, nothing too intense, a happy tear jerker will do the job. One of my mentors taught me that ‘tears are the sea of change’. And it is so true!!
Write it down…. writing is extremely powerful, more than we give it credit. Writing down things which may be upsetting you or that you feel you are holding onto is a great way to allow them to move from your body, mind and heart onto the paper. You may be quite surprised how refreshing a simple exercise like this can be. For a full effect rip the paper and then burn it (ofcourse be safe and ensure its in a contained space like a pot, sink or outside).
You may also like to write down some things you would like to bring into your life, keep it simple and focused. These things can be kept (not burnt or ripped) and displayed in a safe space or somewhere you can see it regularly. I often like to use a whiteboard marker and write a few words on my mirror in the bathroom!!
5. d i g e s t i o n
Watch your bowel movements….. it sounds gross, but thankfully I came to the revelation many years ago that knowing whats happening on the inside is vital, plus without bowel movements we wouldn’t be here! haha Although its important to watch our digestion all year round, its especially important around this season as the partner of the lungs is the large intestine. The large intestine is the final stage of the digestive process. Bowel movements are literally ‘letting go’ of waste that no longer serves us. Our digestion is responsible for metabolizing food but also information and emotions. We take what we need, and then ideally, we let go of what we don’t need. Bowel movements other than complete, fully formed, at regular times, easy to pass and not sticky or excessively smelly are usually a sign that there’s room for improvement! To get your digestion on track, seek a little help from a qualified Acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist or Dr. of Chinese Medicine (includes both aspects). We focus on digestion a lot and I am happy to point you in the direction of a great practitioner in your area if you are out of the sunshine coast region. Alternatively I also assist clients with this area of their health via phone/online consults.
6. b r e a t h e
Focusing on our breath is great all the time, but, as the lungs are the main organ of respiration and relate to autumn its only natural to focus even more on our breath during this season. As adults we mostly breathe in our upper chest, instead of taking nice deep belly breaths, which we focus on in yoga. This lesser form of respiration is also an aspect of asthma or being prone to shortness of breath. By strengthening our breathing and lung energy we can improve our immunity, encourage better circulation and oxygen supply to all body cells, relieve stress and encourage built up emotions to move. Deep breathing benefits the lungs but also their metal partner the large intestine to improve and regulate bowel movements.
So, 6 tips and a some links to this current season and how we can work with it !! If you have any questions or comments please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. Also if you feel someone you know could benefit from this please share the love and the link.
Hope you all enjoy this beautiful season.