Updated: Nov 13, 2020
While we're all still enjoying these last summer days, we must turn our thoughts a bit towards Autumn. There's so much to love! Football and tailgating, crisp air, Halloween, pumpkin pie, pumpkin carving, pumpkin spice lattes......pumpkin anything! However, even though Fall is a component of our natural cycle, there are a couple of things about it that make us more prone to illness. We need to prepare now in order to fall into Fall gracefully! Using Chinese medicine traditions to prepare and adapt can be a huge benefit.
The approach to boosting your immunity must be two-pronged: things we avoid doing and things we do. Your immunity in Chinese medicine is considered your Wei Qi. This is the Qi that circulates just below the skin. It's our first line of defense. Picture the Queen's Guard or perhaps an army of little terriers, on constant alert for intruders. One thing that we do to compromise our army of soldiers has to do with what we eat. When we eat dairy, for instance, our immune system is thrown into overdrive due to the fact that cow's milk contains antibodies and pus from the cow. Instead of the entire force patrolling the perimeter, some of the Wei Qi must go deal with the intruder that made it all the way inside. The body tries to contain it by forming mucus.....and here comes our runny nose, earache, sinus blockage, and digestive upset. Many people experience these same symptoms from eating wheat or gluten. Experiment with yourself to see what you may need to cut out of your diet. Making sure the body has enough supplies to make the Wei Qi is crucial. Eating almost nothing raw (unless recommended by your TCM practitioner) greatly helps the body pull the nutrients out of the food.
Even lightly steamed foods help digestibility.
Since Autumn is dry, we must also give our bodies enough moisture to form Wei Qi and protect us. Wei Qi is also responsible for warming and moistening our outermost layers (skin). While drinking extra water can help, Fall is the season for soups and stews! The beauty of making big batches of soups and stews is that you can freeze portions to eat later. This form of batch-cooking greatly helps achieve better nutrition, money savings, and time savings. We all get very busy in Fall. What better thing is there to eat than pulling out some soup and changing it up a bit with leftover vegetables and meats you have in the fridge? The parts of veggies that you cut off (carrot tops, tips of zucchini, etc.) can be collected in the freezer and later boiled to flavor broth for soup. No wasted food or money.
BONUS: See your licensed Chinese Medicine practitioner/acupuncturist for herbs that can be added to soups and stews to strengthen your immunity naturally!
In Chinese medicine, different flavors and spices help at different times of the year. For Autumn, as the air gets drier we will be looking to foods that moisten: pears (both regular and Asian pears), lemon, daikon, cauliflower, Chinese yam, and yes, pumpkin! We avoid pungent, spicy, and dry foods.
When the weather gets dry and you're feeling it, there is a wonderful soup that is made from Asian pears, a little honey, and white fungus. Yes, the name is terrible enough to make me avoid it for the first 3 years of Chinese Medicine school, but once I tried it I couldn't believe I'd avoided it. It has essentially no taste and the texture of thin noodles. It can be purchased dry at most Asian markets. Just simmer some water, diced pears, and white fungus until softened. Add a touch of honey. Disclaimer: Honey is not appropriate for babies and if you have blood sugar problems you should follow the advice of your doctor in regards to sugar consumption. The soup will still work beautifully without honey ;)
Tune in next time for how to care for your skin to boost your immunity! Thanks!