It’s mid September and I’d like to give you some tips on how to prepare for the Summer/Fall transition. This is probably the most difficult transition for our bodies, and minds, to make. During the hot Summer months we have the constant agenda of staying cool. Our dress is light with lots of exposure, flip flops with no socks. We eat lighter too leaning more toward salads, cooling soups and fresh fruits. We keep the air conditioning on if inside and migrate to shady areas if we’re out. Our body is also doing its part by lowering core body temperature and this is key to my point. It does this by increasing skin blood flow and keeping the pores of the skin open so that heat can escape via sweat and radiation. This makes us very vulnerable to the cooler sharper weather that can arrive, sometimes very quickly, and penetrate our superficial defenses which haven’t had the time to adapt yet.
In Chinese Five Element Theory, Summer is governed by the fire element whose nature is open and expansive. One way our body demonstrates this is by opening the pores of the body to let off the heat. Our blood gets a little thinner, even our posture tends to be more open and relaxed. In contrast the Fall is governed by the metal element whose nature is more contractive, sharp and penetrating. The sharp and penetrating Fall wind can come in rather quickly and bring it’s cold deep into our body. We leave our home in the morning and it’s still summer-like and we’ve dressed accordingly then mid afternoon comes and the wind picks up, the temperature sharply drops 10 – 15 degrees. Maybe it rains and you get stuck running to your car with no umbrella. You get wet and a little cold. It’s been a long day and you’re a little run down anyway. To make things worse you go to the grocery store and spend some time in the frozen food section. If your immune system is strong you may be able to handle it, however I can tell you that in my 20 plus years of experience I’ve heard the above story hundreds of times from patients who actually came down with the flu. If your immune system isn’t strong you might start to develop a scratchy throat, body aches, runny nose, chills, fever, and headache. I’ll give some recommendations below if this has already happened but let’s start with some preventative measures.
Preparing for the seasonal transition:
Sept./Oct. is a great time to do a little mini cleanse. You can do this very simply by:
Eliminating sugar, sweets, soda etc. from your diet.
Refraining from excess carbohydrates especially gluten.
Decreasing or eliminating dairy.
Eliminate coffee and alcoholic beverages.
Make a pot of chicken or turkey soup.
Get more rest.
If you’ve been doing intense exercise during the summer months then scale it back quite a bit. The Fall and Winter season should include more stillness and meditation.
Ok, ok – that’s a lot to ask. Just be mindful and do the best you can. Intention, some effort and consistency get you in the habit.
I’ve had great results using a protocol of 3 acupuncture treatments combined with herbs that detoxify as well as strengthens the “wei qi”, protective energy of the body. This protocol works just as well for prevention of seasonal allergies.
At home you can also try doing a course of Vit. C. which would require one to take large doses of pure ascorbic acid for a few days. This would need to done under supervision of a practitioner that has experience with this as it can cause problems for some individuals.
Store some warmer clothes in your car. Socks, sweater, umbrella perhaps a rain hat. I remember getting caught out in a downpour on an evening when the temps dropped 15 degrees. I thought I’d see the wicked witch of the west at any minute. I could have used some warmer clothes instead of the shorts and T-shirt I was wearing.
Observe the weather and try to anticipate some cooler weather coming in and prepare for it.
Stay out of the wind. I referred above to the metal energy being sharp and penetrating and this can be seen on a windy Fall day.
A client keeps cotton balls in her pockets during the cold season and puts one in each ear whenever the cold and wind show up.
Steps to take at the first signs of a cold or even if you feel that you’ve been exposed:
If possible, cancel all of your plans and go home.
Follow my “Homemade cold and flu beater.”
Follow steps 1 and 3 in the Preparing list.
I think that most people who come down with a cold or flu resume normal activities much too early and wind up fighting the same cold all winter long. If it’s not possible to stay home from work long enough to properly recover then be firm about the things you do have control over. Parties, lunch and dinner dates, weekend visits to family and friends are out. Stay home and rest. I’ll give you a “Note from your Acupuncturist.”
In a perfect world there would be support from friends, family, bosses and coworkers for someone who is healing. Sickness is the body’s way of pleading with you to take it easy. But these days there is very little tolerance and patience to heal. Instead we force ourselves to get back on track, further weakening ourselves and spreading it to others. In the long run our society would more healthy and productive if we just took a little care.