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Protect Your Lungs: Health Tips for Autumn 2020

Lungs, respiration, and immune health are a top concern for Autumn 2020.  COVID-19, wildfire smoke, and now the flu season will soon be upon us.   Cooler weather means spending more time indoors with windows shut.  Less ventilation and the challenges of social distancing indoors may leave us more exposed to illness.  In Five Element acupuncture, Autumn is the season of the Metal Element, and governs the Lungs and respiration.  Here are a few tips from the Five Elements and Chinese medicine for keeping your body’s defenses in good shape.

Autumn and the Metal Element

Autumn marks the beginning of the end in the seasonal cycle.  At the heart of the season is decline and loss, both beautiful and sad.  Plants wither and die back, trees lose their leaves.  Living things return to their roots, conserving energy, and preparing for the cold months of Winter.  

This is the season of the Metal Element, representing the breakdown and recovery of what is valuable and precious.  Whatever no longer serves life in its present form is let go, composted so that the precious nutrients can be recovered when new life emerges again.  (For more about Autumn and the Metal Element in nature, watch the video or read this article.)

Our Bodies’ Defenses:  the Metal Element Within Us

Like the rest of nature, the human body also prepares for the seasonal challenge.  Autumn and the Metal Element govern our bodies’ defenses.  The boundaries between outside and inside are what keep us safe from pathogens and toxins, yet allow us to take in what we need to live. 

Lungs, skin, and Colon in Chinese medicine represent the systems that regulate our defenses and boundaries.  The Lungs and respiratory tract, starting with the nose, bring in vital air and breath, but also filter out airborne pathogens and pollutants along the way.  The skin in Chinese medicine is regarded as a “third lung,” forming a permeable boundary that covers the entire body and regulates aspects of immunity.  The Colon’s function in regulating boundaries is elimination,  expelling toxins, and waste.  For more about the Lungs, skin, and Colon, read this article.

Six Simple Steps for Lung and Immune Health

Prevention of illness rests on two things:  (1) limiting exposure to pathogens and (2) keeping your body and mind in balance so that your immune system is ready to respond.  Here are some simple steps to support your health:

  1.  Follow public health guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic, to also reduce your exposure to cold and flu pathogens.  This includes, among other things:  wearing a mask when appropriate, social distancing, washing hands, cleaning surfaces, and avoiding large gatherings.
  2. If you feel “under the weather” for any reason, please stay home and rest.  Chinese medicine teaches that we need more rest as the nights grow longer and the days shorter. Resting at home will not only help you recover, it will avoid exposing others to illness.  This is not the year to show up in public with a runny nose!
  3. Continue to exercise outdoors, properly dressed.  This helps the body adapt to the colder season, and you receive all the benefits of outdoor exercise.  Keep the neck and back covered and warm.  In Chinese medicine, it is said that pathogens “enter through the back” where the lungs are close to the surface of the body.
  4. Avoid sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, and excessive dairy.  These foods tend to be mucus-forming.  Eat a nutrient-dense whole foods diet with plenty of vegetables and high-quality animal protein, to give your body the nutrients it needs for immune support.
  5. Use a neti pot or other form of nasal saline wash to help your nose and sinuses by removing dead tissue, pathogens and mucus.
  6. Be kind and respectful to yourself and others.  The spirit of Autumn and the Metal Element is value, respect and esteem.  We are living in stressful times, and our immune systems are weakened by stress.  Break away from anger and fear by responding with kindness and respect.

If you are prone to frequent illness, or are frequently exposed, consider using Five Element acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and nutritional therapy to give you an extra boost.  Call Inner Works Acupuncture in northwest Portland, Oregon at 503-227-2127 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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