Fall is already upon us: pumpkin lattes are available again, smells of cinnamon-baked apples float by on cooler breezes. Fall is a time when susceptibility to illness rises–temperatures begin to drop, kids in school pass germs more easily, stress increases as the holidays get closer, and cooler air dries out the skin and throat.
This is when the wisdom of Chinese Medicine and a little proactive self-care can be very helpful in making seasonal adjustments to ensure good health with the changing seasons.
1. Dress in layers
As fall starts to bring cooler temperatures, it is important to dress in layers. Too much exposure to cold can leave the immune system weakened and increase the risk of getting sick.
But wearing a heavy coat too early, according to Chinese Medicine, makes the body less adaptable to temperature swings and equally susceptible to getting sick. So now’s the time to pull out all those scarves you’ve stored away all summer and to test out combinations of sweaters, jackets, leggings, and tights to find the perfect fall outfit.
2. Spend time outdoors
With the sun no longer high overhead, it’s possible to get sun exposure–thereby increasing Vitamin D production–with less risk of a sunburn. Considering how important Vitamin D is to the health of the immune system and how little we get during the winter, it’s best to build up your reserves now. If you don’t have a history of skin cancer, 1-2 outdoor sessions of 20 minutes each, exposing arms and face or legs should be enough to up production of Vitamin D.
You can also use this as an opportunity to take your workout outside, whether that’s switching spin class for a bike ride, doing HIIT training on a grassy area, or playing with your kids at the playground, now’s the time to enjoy the fall weather and boost your health.
3. Drink lots of liquids
Autumn air can be very drying, especially for the skin, nose, throat, and lungs. When these areas get too dry, they offer less of a defense against invading pathogens. Drinking a lot of water and tea can help these mucous membrane stay lubricated.
Chinese Medicine recommends moving away from ice cold water and opting for room temperature or warmer water (or even hot tea), which is thought to better hydrate because it’s closer to body temperature. Plus, warmer liquids feel a lot better on a dry, scratchy throat.
4. Eat nourishing and seasonal foods
To further counteract the dryness of the season, Chinese Medicine recommends seasonal fruits and vegetables to nourish “Yin.” (Yin is the feminine side of Yin-Yang and includes qualities of moist, sour, and bitter, plus soft, cool, dark). Some seasonal Yin-nourishing foods include pear, winter melon, cabbage, apples, pomegranate, grapes, almonds, and vinegar.
This is also the time to start moving away from salads and thinking about warming, easily digestible soups, grains such rice and quinoa, and other well-cooked options. Both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda teach that cold and raw foods can be hard for the body to digest in colder weather, because of diminishing digestive fire.
Enjoy the bounty of the season, pumpkin, yams, chestnuts, and more, but cook them thoroughly, and consider warming spices such as ginger, pepper, garlic, and cayenne for an added digestive (and immune) boost.
Fall can be a magical season–sampling pumpkin everything, taking advantage of the mild weather, showing off cute layers. And it’s definitely a lot more fun and enjoyable when you’re healthy and well-prepared.
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