Chinese medicine dietary advice – Autumn foods

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Chinese medicine dietary advice – Autumn foods

Autumn traditionally is the season of harvest. Our bodies begin to harvest and gather energy for the colder months and moving it down. Yang which is dominant in summer starts giving way to yin which is dominant in winter. Autumn is the season for clearing any excess heat from the body, and then start warming it from the inside in preparation for the colder months. This may sound contradictory, but summer heat saps strength, whereas internal warmth supports strength. Autumn is also the season of wind. We feel the effect of wind on our skin by the dryness, and we feel its internal effects through the lungs by a dry cough.

Signs and symptoms of Autumn dryness

A dry body is most commonly seen in autumn. External signs of dryness include dry lips, dry skin, itchiness, wrinkles, a dry throat, dry cough, and constipation. Although dryness can show up any time of year depending on body type and diet, it can be exacerbated or present itself in the autumn.

To treat dryness we need to eat moistening foods such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, dairy, eggs, crab, pork and some nuts.

Dryness often effects mainly the lung and its partner organ the large intestine. You will tend to see dry harsh coughs that may hang around for a while accompanied by constipation. To relieve the cough eat cooling foods such as cooked apples and pears, non fatty duck, persimmon or celery. If the cough is hanging around then add lung yin supporting foods such as mutton, tangerines, pine nuts, chicken broth, yams or eggs. If there is no sputum with the cough then try some honey in hot water to sooth the throat.

Lungs and immunity

Our lungs are important for our immunity. They control the wei qi or protective qi which moves just under the surface of the skin, opening and closing the pores. It also protects the nose and mouth (and therefore the lungs) from viruses and germs. To facilitate the wei qi, the lungs must have a healthy dispersing function, therefore pushing the goodness brought by way of the spleen out to the surface where it will be needed. It also pushes moisture out to the skin which is why if the dispersing function is compromised we see dry skin. Foods that aid in this include bay leaves, garlic, horseradish, leek, ginger, capers.

During autumn we need to eat foods that will moisten and clear the lungs, rid our bodies of wind as well as support the digestive system. We need to eat less salads and more soups. Rather than a quick stirfry foods should start to be cooked for longer. Salt helps against dryness, and sends foods down, so start adding a little bit to your food. Steaming foods helps support the yin, so include that in some of your cooking processes. Don’t over do the cooling foods though, as you may end up with diarrhea and wind. If you do, change to a diet of cooked vegetables until symptoms pass. As with all other seasons, the most important part of food is to enjoy it!


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