Essential Takeaways
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views fall as a time to slow down and embrace the nourishing and restful Yin energy of the season. 

  • Fall is associated with the Lung organ system, which is in charge of respiration and plays a large role in our immunity, our defensive energy (or Wei Qi)

  • As with every season, Elix’s individualized Cycle Balance formulas can help you thrive during the fall season by supporting your unique underlying root causes of imbalance that are contributing to your menstrual symptoms

Observation of the innate cycles of nature guides much of the theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Each season has its own personality and characteristics that influence our bodies and can clue us in on what activities we should emphasize. TCM teaches us how to live in harmony with each season and ourselves, based on these seasonal associations.

Fall, or autumn, is the beginning of the Yin part of the year moving away from the active Yang energy of spring and summer into the Yin restful energy of fall and winter. It starts on the fall equinox on September 22nd, and lasts until the winter solstice on December 21st. This is a time to slow down and focus inward mentally and physically, concentrating on rest and nourishment. It’s a time to reflect on the past actions of summer and let go of what isn’t serving us. Just like trees shed their leaves, readying themselves for winter’s dormancy when deep restorative work takes place, autumn is a great time to shed whatever isn’t helping us stay true to our inner values. Autumn is known as harvest time when we gather and store the energy, emotionally and physically, that we reaped from the spring and summer months. Physically during the harvest time we are meant to gather and store the food that will sustain us through the harsh winter months. Emotionally it is the time to reflect on our values, holding on to what is important and releasing what isn’t serving us.      

Fall Associations

Organ System

Lung

Element

Metal

Menstrual Cycle Phase

Luteal phase 

Climate Factor

Dryness 

Emotion

Grief - Sadness 

Color

White

Taste

Pungent (spicy) 

 

Fall and the Lung Organ System

TCM sees the body as a dynamic energy system, based on a theory that all of the body’s organ systems mutually support each other, so a dysfunction in one organ system has an impact on the functioning of other organ systems. Each organ system is more than its physical function, it has its own personality having an influence over specific emotions, activities, tissues, and environmental factors.

One of the most important functions of the Lung organ system is how it governs Qi (our vital energetic lifeforce) and respiration by controlling the inhalation of “pure Qi” and exhalation of “dirty Qi”. The Lung organ system filters the air inhaled to make clean Qi that combines with the Qi extracted from our food to produce the Qi our body uses as its vital energetic lifeforce. After this Qi is produced, the Lung organ system disperses the Qi throughout our body, thus helping to regulate all physiological processes, all of which require Qi to happen.  

Acting as the intermediary between our body and the environment, the Lung organ system is one of the first lines of defense of the body, it correlates closely to the idea of immunity, what we call our defensive Qi, or Wei Qi in TCM. Autumn is a time when the Lungs become more susceptible to illness with the increase in colder weather, making it especially important to support our defensive or Wei Qi. Elix’s immunity support duo are two great herbal blends that do just that - Stay Well keeps our Lung organ system strong throughout cold and flu season, while Get Well helps our body fight off respiratory bugs we might have caught. Both of these blends contain Astragalus (Huang Qi), which research has shown has immune-boosting properties (1).  Stay Well includes Reishi (Ling Zhi) a powerful and widely used medicinal mushroom, shown to have wide ranging positive effects on our immune system (2). Chinese Skullcap (Huang Qin), part of the Get Well formulation, has antibacterial and antiviral properties (3).

Element

Fall is the time of the Metal element. This element represents our inner values, our self-worth so it’s a great time to reflect inwards, making sure our actions and activities match our values, letting go of old habits and thought processes that are not beneficial.

People with a balanced Metal element show a healthy openness and attachment to ideas, things, and other people, allowing themselves the space to let go of anything that no longer aligns with their values. This is akin to the Lung organ system's physical job of inhaling the potential (oxygen), and exhaling the toxic (carbon dioxide). They are able to stay organized, inspired, and committed. Physically these people have vibrant skin, a strong immune system, and are active. 

On the other hand, a person with an imbalanced Metal element will form unhealthy attachments, not being able to let go of things that are not serving them. They can have issues with authority, be disorganized, or bad at keeping commitments. Physical symptoms can include shortness of breath, allergies, rashes, dry skin, dry sinuses, or frequent or lingering respiratory illnesses. Symptoms will tend to be worse during autumn.

Menstrual Cycle Phase

Fall is associated with the luteal phase of our menstrual cycle, a phase with a wide range of activity. The high energy of post-ovulation comes to a halt in the later luteal phase due to the sharp decline in hormones leading to PMS symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, cramps, breast tenderness, cravings, and digestive upset. From a TCM perspective these PMS symptoms are a result of Qi stagnation, our Qi or vital energy, becomes stuck causing a physiological traffic jam that affects movement (and physiological and emotional functioning) throughout the body. PMS symptoms are signals that something is out of balance in the body and needs attention. 

In order to have a smooth menstrual cycle, Qi needs to circulate freely throughout the body, this is where Elix’s customized Cycle Balance blends come to the rescue. Elix’s online health assessment determines the root patterns of imbalance present that are contributing to your PMS and menstrual symptoms. Based on your unique imbalances you are recommended a tailored blend of medical herbs that support your body where it needs it most, helping your body function better overall. The result? Qi circulates freely and PMS symptoms become a thing of the past! 

Climate Factor

TCM recognizes that the external climate can affect our internal balance. Fall is dominated by dryness. This largely affects our Lungs and respiratory system, irritating our sinuses and respiratory tract, think dry coughs, respiratory illnesses, and allergies. Balancing out the dryness with moisture can be helpful during this time, pears with a touch of raw honey is a classic combination to support a sore throat or dry cough. 

Emotion

The emotion associated with the Lung organ system is grief or sadness. Many people report a sort of melancholy during this time. It’s only natural for us to feel a bit of, sometimes unexplainable, sadness or grief during fall, after the abundant, expansive activity of the summer months. It is important to find ways to recognize, name, and then release any sadness that comes up in our lives, instead of stuffing it inside to rot and decay. Unresolved grief or sadness can have a downstream effect on our overall health, including our menstrual health. Repressed emotions, such as sadness, can impact the circulation of our Qi (energy), which we need flowing freely to have a smooth menstrual cycle.  

Color

White is the color associated with the Lung organ system, so any (whole) food that is white  (white bread and donuts not included, sorry) will support this organ system.  

Taste

Pungent (think spicy) flavors support the Lung organ system by supporting our defensive “Wei” Qi and helping to disperse any accumulated mucus or phlegm in the Lung organ system. Foods from the onion family are great examples of the pungent flavor - onions, spring onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, and chives.  

TCM Dietary Wisdom: Foods that support us through the fall season

Autumn is a time of comfort, think cozy sweaters and the plethora of pumpkin spice beverages warming up our souls. We’re moving from the salads and raw foods of summer to the crock pot meals of fall. Cooking low and slow, in addition to baking and sauteeing are the preferred cooking methods of autumn. Adding a touch of salt is also helpful. As the days get shorter and colder the meals are getting heartier, the use of warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, and clove more frequent. It’s no wonder foods like pumpkin, winter squash, and sweet potatoes (which are rich in immune boosting beta-carotene) make their appearance this season. Since dryness dominates this season, we need to balance that out with moistening foods. Apples and pears are great for this job, as are healthy fats like olive oil and avocados. 

If you are someone who tends towards a build-up of mucus in the sinuses or respiratory tract it might be wise to consider revisiting some of your dietary routines that promote the production of more mucus. This includes overeating, not eating enough fiber (aka vegetables), or eating too much meat, dairy, or processed foods. Below is a list of foods that support the Lung organ system. 

Category

Foods

Grains

Jobs Tears (aka Pearled Barley) - Glutinous Rice - Buckwheat - Amaranth - Sorghum - Rice Bran

Vegetables

Turnip - Radish - Onion - Peas - Cabbage - Spinach - Bamboo Shoots - Chinese Cabbage - Dandelion Greens - Mushrooms - Water Chestnut - Eggplant - Sweet Potato - Mustard Greens - Green Onion - Parsnip - Hot Peppers - Carrots

Fruits

Apple - Pear - Figs - Peaches - Pomegranate - Tangerine - Apricot - Loquat - Olives - Plums - Kumquat - Persimmon - Strawberries - Grapefruit - Banana 

Protein

Duck - Goose - Duck Egg - Red Beans - Pine Nuts - Walnuts - Sweet Almonds 

Culinary Herbs/Spices

Garlic - Ginger - Horseradish - Basil - Cilantro - Cinnamon - Clove - Mustard Seeds - Peppermint - White Peppercorn - Chili 

 

Fall  and Our Period

We might notice our menstrual symptoms worsen during this season with an increase in PMS symptoms, cramps, or a change in blood flow. Our emotions, stress level, and the external environment can all cause an increase of Qi Stagnation, which does no favors for our period. 

Since this season is associated with sadness, some may notice an increase in depression-like feelings. Since emotions impact our physical health any repressed sadness or grief can keep our Qi from flowing freely, causing a physiological traffic jam, having a negative ripple effect on all our organ systems, especially on our menstrual cycle. In TCM we call this internal traffic jam Liver Qi Stagnation, and it is a core pattern of imbalance at the heart of menstrual issues. The more Liver Qi Stagnation present, the more severe our PMS and period symptoms.

The stress of the holiday season and the upheaval it brings to our healthy rituals also plays a role in the increase of menstrual symptoms during fall. When we move less and eat more freely (often inflammatory foods like processed sugar and industrial seeds oils) we promote more Liver Qi Stagnation, a bigger traffic jam, internally. The bigger the traffic jam the more symptoms rear their ugly head. In order to have a symptom free cycle, we need our Liver Qi flowing smoothly and efficiently.

With fall brings colder weather, and cold from a TCM perspective creates more Qi stagnation. Beginning to see a theme here? More stagnation equals a bigger internal traffic jam, a bigger traffic jam equals more menstrual symptoms! 

 

Tips for Living in Balance with Fall

We can use the wisdom of TCM to help us adjust our lifestyle to live in harmony with Fall, helping our Lung organ system stay strong, keeping our protective (Wei) Qi strong, as well as our Liver Qi freely flowing. 

  • Connection: Consider journaling to reflect inward upon yourself, helping to better understand what is truly important in your life and what you can release 
  • Recovery: Enjoy a hot cup of ginger tea, the pungent flavor benefiting the Lungs (or add Elix’s Ginger Aide to give a boost to the herbal tea of your choice)
  • Stress Response: One minute of deep breathing daily can not only help us metabolize stress more effectively, but it strengthens our Lung organ system (inhale deeply into belly through the nose, and exhale longer than inhale) 
  • Movement: Get moving everyday, we need to “exercise” our Lung organ system through heavy breathing (this is also essential to keep our Liver Qi circulating happily)
  • Nourishment: Use more low and slow cooking methods, in addition to baking and sauteing 
  • Environment: Keep warm - especially the feet, neck, and head

As with every season, Elix’s individualized Cycle Balance formulas can help you thrive during the Fall and all year long by supporting your underlying root causes of imbalance, helping your body function better at the foundational level. Get started with Elix today by filling-out the online health assessment to receive your own customized hormone supporting herbal formula!

 

Sources

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28830214/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31777013/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031759/
  4. Giovanni Maciocia - The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists   
  5. Paul Pitchford - Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition 
This article was reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Fine.
Dr. Elizabeth Fine, DAOM, LAcDr. Fine is currently the Dean of Clinical Education at Emperor’s College and has been practicing Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for over 25 years, with a specialization in Women’s Reproductive Health.

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