By Brenda Harris LAc – Licensed Acupuncturist in Decorah Iowa
Autumn is the transition between summer and winter that marks the end of the growing season. Outer-directed energy turns inward. Leaves drop and plants begin to draw energy down toward their roots for winter storage.
Why does this transition between seasons seem to be a common time for colds/flu/allergies?
In nature, the weather changes from hot to cool during autumn. Energetically, yang – exuberant, outward energy, begins to transition to yin – calm, inward energy. The organ system that shares the power of this season is the Lung. Corresponding to the temperament of autumn, the Lung pulls in and refines energy (air/Qi) sending it downward to nourish our roots, the kidneys. The Lung also provides a layer of surface immunity known as “Wei Qi” (pronounced Way-Chee) or “Protective Qi”. If one’s “Wei Qi” or “immune system” is weak, that person will not be able to adequately sustain the energetic change from yang to yin, or weather changes from hot to cool. Weakness in this protective layer can also cause sensitivity to pollens and other environmental debris that does not occur when this layer is non-compromised.
The exuberant heat of summer creates dryness in the autumn which can injure the lungs if not properly protected by the Wei Qi. This will lead to the Lung’s inability to carry out normal functions of moistening tissues and moving Qi and fluids downward. Instead dryness prevails and Qi reverses upward creating sore throat, dry cough, sneezing, itchy eyes, nasal discharge and lethargy. These are the first signs of imbalance and the possible start of cold, flu or allergy.
If not properly treated at this stage, the condition worsens; dryness turns to heat causing fever, coughing with yellow phlegm, body pain, headache, and constipation. The Lung works in concert with the large intestine to regulate breathing and coordinate the inward flow of air and nutrients and the outward elimination of waste and toxins. A weakness in the lungs will lead to a weakness in the large intestine creating bowel disturbances or skin eruptions.
If the cold/flu/allergy continues to go on improperly treated, it may develop into pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, or even urinary tract infection. As the lung continues to weaken, the large intestine continues to weaken. Other internal organs begin to be affected as they try to maintain a proper balance in body function further decreasing immunity, draining vitality, and creating long-term illness or serious disease.
What is the secret to avoiding colds/flu/allergies?
Strengthen your “Wei Qi” and do it before you get sick! If your “protective function,” “Wei Qi,” “immune system” is strong you will not over react to pollen, catch the cold from your neighbor, or come down with a debilitating flu. Start to strengthen your system in summer to avoid problems in the fall. How you live today will affect how you function tomorrow. Treating these conditions after they occur is like digging the well once you are already thirsty.
It is important to be well in the fall to properly prepare for the storage of vital energy required for the winter. Wellness in winter allows for the regeneration of stored energy required to produce new life energy in the spring. Remember the fallen leaves? They are stored in the soil all winter to steep the richest nutrients for new spring growth. Chinese Medicine highlights self-care during the transition between summer and winter because, as seen in nature, this transition allows for the proper cycling of life energy. Proper daily living, acupuncture and moxibustion treatments, and herbal elixirs are utilized to strengthen one’s protective layer to sustain seasonal change.
If the protective layer “Wei Qi” is weak, then one cannot endure the transition and will become ill.
Why is my Wei Qi weak?
Many situations can reduce Wei Qi including, but not limited to, life style, stress, and genetic weakness.
How can I strengthen my Wei Qi:
• Increase sleep.
• Breathe in crisp autumn air.
• Dress appropriately to keep your body warm.
• Let go of mental rubbish.
• Do not overindulge in food. Such stagnation can back up & damage the lung, creating
• Eat to ensure daily bowel movement. Toxins from the lung get discarded through the large
intestine. Improper elimination from the large intestine allows toxic build up in the lung which
can create allergy/cold/flu symptoms.
• Eat foods that moisten: oats, millet, sweet potatoes, yams, white beans, seaweeds, eggs,
turnips, parsnips, persimmon.
• Decrease cold & raw foods.
• Increase warm foods like soups.
• Massage your nose & face.
• Hydrate with warm water.
• Slow down. Allow more time to get where you need to go.
• Do Qi Gong, Taiji, Yoga to strengthen Wei Qi directly.
• Seek out acupuncture, herbal medicine.
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