Wednesday marked the first day of autumn. While our ancestors (and some people still today) are busy storing excess food and fuel for winter, we can use this time to prepare for the colder months ahead by boosting our health.
Seasonal transitions can be difficult – isn’t this usually the time people catch colds?
As the days get shorter and without the energy of the sun, we tend to have less energy. But in today’s society, despite feeling like we need more rest, most people maintain their hectic schedules and responsibilities.
Change is an inherent process in our lives and possibly the only “truth” in the universe. If you adapt yourself to the changes that come with the seasons, you will maintain health. You must gain control of your internal climates (emotions) and stay protected from the external climates. Maintaining a healthy state depends especially on a balance of outward activities and regular, inward-directed activities.
Through a daily discipline of inner attention and physical exercise, you can create a more open, resilient, and supple body; a mentally and physically relaxed state; and a stronger resistance to disease. Using your body in dancing, yoga, tai chi, jump rope, or other solo-exercises, and learning quiet breathing and relaxation will start your days in a more balanced, open state. And physical activity and exertion will help you relax more deeply and sleep more soundly.
Editor’s Note: I’ve blogged several times about this book before but to recap, Dr. Haas combines Eastern and Western healing traditions to form Integrated Medicine. His basic philosophy is that humans and nature are inextricably linked. His seasonal health guide focuses on education and prevention, and “explains the Chinese Law of the Five Elements – Fire, Earth, Metal (or Air), Water, and Wood – and how this system relates to specific seasons of the year, organs in the body, and experiences of activity, emotions, color, and flavor.”
Autumn corresponds to the Metal element which represents the mineral ores and salts of the Earth. These function in creating structure and communication – just think of how metal wires establish connections and conduct electricity. Just as our brains and nervous systems communicate via electrical impulses!
Haas explains the link between autumn and Metal (as well as their many outer and inner aspects) in an entire, fascinating chapter. Until you read it for yourself and for the purposes of today’s post, it’s important to note Metal is associated with:
- Lungs and large intestine (organs)
- Nose (sense organ)
- Mucus (body fluid)
- Worry, grief and sorrow (feelings)
Lung & Large Intestine Health
Dr. Haas explains in laymen’s terms how these organs function and what leads to their impairment. For instance, did you know that normal food transit time (from mouth to anus) is 24-36 hours? And that children have a bowel movement after every meal but as we age, it’s delayed because of conditioning, stress and congesting diets?
Haas says the lungs and large intestines are two areas of the body that must stay clean for their best function, and often have difficulty when they are contaminated by environmental pollutants of cities, by smoking habits, and by the dietary excesses common to the American culture.
Autumn, like the other temperate season of spring, is the perfect time to work at keeping these organs strong and healthy. First, by removing the harmful agents (as much as we can), and then cleansing. An autumn cleanse helps prepare our bodies for a fuller, richer, and more heat-producing diet suited for the colder months.
For lung health, Dr. Haas suggests deep breathing of the purest air possible, and since lungs do not like a cold, damp climate any more than smoke and polluted air, to keep warm and dry, especially your chest, neck, head and feet, to help prevent colds.
Pressure in the head and sinuses, headaches, sore throats, as well as crankiness, lack of energy, and even lack of enthusiasm for life can come from a back up in the large intestine. Also, an overburdened liver and gallbladder will not only slow intestinal functioning and thus allow a buildup of even more toxins, but also may lead to awakening congested in the morning with sinus mucus or with back stiffness, abdominal discomfort or cramps, and it may be hard to get going for the day.
To keep things running appropriately here, Dr. Haas suggests to limit congesting foods, such as meat, dairy and refined foods, as well as improve eating habits, like sitting down to eat rather than eating on the run. An overburdened liver and gallbladder results from dietary over-indulgences as well as the ingestion of poorly digestible substances such as alcohol, fatty foods, fried oils, sweets and chemicals/preservatives.
Therefore, a diet high in natural foods – fresh fruits, raw or lightly steamed veggies, roughage (greens) and whole grains – will assist good elimination and keep the intestines well-toned.
The common cold is often expressed from the sinuses and lungs but Dr. Haas says it’s actually related to the large intestine and to poor elimination of wastes from the body. If your ability to handle and eliminate waste is weak, or if you take in more than you need, garbage may pile up inside the large intestine.
Mucus in the intestines (created by mucus-forming foods such as meats, dairy products, sweets and starches) not only leads to poor assimilation, but provides a site for bacteria and viruses to grow. Excess toxins and mucus may begin pouring out through the sinuses. This is your body’s way of cleansing itself.
Haas says we can stimulate this cleansing process by drinking lots of fluids – water, juices, teas and soups – and by getting proper rest and staying warm, rather than blocking elimination by taking cold tablets and eating congesting foods. The body treatment for colds is rest, fluids and sweats.
In addition, feelings and blocked creative energies also contribute to head congestion and weakened physical resistance. Getting in touch with feelings and expressing them, or taking care of what we’ve been putting off, will also help the body cleanse itself and gather new strength.
We’ve covered only about half of Dr. Haas’ chapter on staying healthy in autumn. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss Dr. Haas’ autumn cleanse designed to strengthen the lungs and large intestine.
Since I’ve been off the wagon for awhile and feeling yuck, I plan to take Dr. Haas’ advice and do an early autumn cleanse starting October 1st! Based on what we’ve covered so far, what would YOUR autumn cleanse look like?