Fall is the Season of Letting Go

By Barbara Poczyniak, R.Ac

min read

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, everything on earth is divided into categories that mirror the natural world – including the seasons.

The Five Seasons in TCM

The seasonal categories are linked to different natural elements, movements, emotions, flavours, organ systems, maladies and even sounds. Of the 5 seasons (TCM recognizes Spring, Summer, Late-Summer, Fall and Winter), the one I find most interesting is fall.

Fall is the season of harvest, and in TCM it is related to the Lung and Large Intestine organ systems. It’s element in nature is Metal, and the pathogen we worry about the most in fall is dryness.  But poetic as this may sound – what does it really mean in our daily life?

Staying healthy in the fall with TCM

The Lung Organ System 

The lungs are the closest internal organ that has contact with the exterior world, they are considered to be a “delicate” organ and easily affected by external pathogens.  Fall is often the time we’ll see an increase in respiratory issues, including coughs, colds, and asthma attacks.  Many patients will also notice drier skin and scratchy throats starting in the fall months. 

TCM firmly believes in protecting your lungs and respiratory systems in the fall – by covering up, staying away from drafts, and not exposing your neck, shoulders or back to the elements. In fact, most Acupuncturists (including me) are sporting a scarf by mid-September! Even on those warmer fall days, I’ll make sure to protect my throat, chest and neck to avoid being caught in a draft.

Eating moistening, nourishing foods that support the lungs is important at this time of year. Tremella or “Cloud Mushroom” is a food traditionally eaten in the fall – for its moistening effects that nourish the lungs and the skin. It is also a natural source of vegan collagen.  

The lungs are also the organ related to grief, and their “sound” is said to be crying.  Many find fall is a time for old sadness to resurface more easily, especially memories of losses long ago.  Others may simply not wish to let summer go, and may grieve this process and deny or postpone the changes a new season brings. 

The Large Intestine Organ System

In TCM, the large intestine organ system is linked to the lungs.  Both are responsible for excretion and both relate to skin health.  In treatments, both Lung and Large Intestine acupuncture points are used to treat skin issues such as rashes or acne.  Just like in Western Medicine, if bowels are not regular, we consider that the body’s toxic build up eventually shows up on the skin.

The large intestine is also about boundaries and about letting things go. If you notice yourself wanting to clear out or purge more in your life in the fall – this may be why. Perhaps you feel the need to organize or clear out some junk?  If it is no longer serving you, the fall is a perfect time to rid yourself of poor habits,  unnecessary things and old emotions. 

Acupuncture during times of seasonal transition

For instance, if a patient asks for help with quitting smoking – it often works best if they start this resolution in the fall.  Changes may stick better, as this is a natural time of letting things go, especially if they are really feeling “done with it”. Much like the large intestine, we may find it easier to let something go if we no longer have use for it. 

Acupuncture treatments can support and relieve many issues that come up during this particular season.  When combined with self care and lifestyle shifts, it makes it much easier to stay healthy in preparation for the coming colder weather. 

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