Los Angelenos’ favorite season is here: Fall!
In Southern California, this can be confusing. The temperature drops and rises again, winds pick up, and believe it or not, plants do change here, releasing pollen at differing ratios as part of their reproductive cycle.
The cooler weather also brings us indoors more, and increases proximity with others’ pathogens. We can also have hot dry wind, and sudden rainfall. With all this environmental change, our bodies react, constantly adjusting our levels of immune response to protect ourselves amidst what we see as our daily routine.
Acupuncture is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective (and Chinese philosophy in general) builds its foundation in visualizing and accepting that everything is connected.
As the plants change and are affected by elements, so are we.
In fact, Traditional Chinese Medicine interprets most things through a lens of interconnectivity, and applies the world’s elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood) to aspects of our lives as well.
What we ingest impacts our body’s balance. Different food has different elemental associations, and so do our body parts and organs, depending on their functions and relationships to the rest of our body and environment. All to say, we humans do not operate separately from the world. We are part of it, and are run by the same forces the world is run by.
A Different Perspective on Allergies
The Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective on allergies is that allergies are part of the pathogenic factor of Wind, which, combined with dampness, enters our bodies with a negative effect. The natural world of changing seasons is also linked with the perpetually changing climate of our bodies, and just as particular changes in the world are emphasized at different times of year, so too are particular organs.
There are a lot of systems in TCM that overlap with one another, and much more than can be broken down in a single article, but as a general concept, Autumn is the season when our lungs come heavily into play.
Our lungs take the onslaught of pathogens in some of the heaviest ways this season. Sinuses are affected most from allergies because those are the orifices exposed the most. Orifices are open passageways to our body, which our immune system fights to protect. While our immune system works to stabilize amidst the changing environment, keeping passageways free and clear of invasion, it’s met with pathogens entering through our eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Our eyes can become itchy, watery, red, swollen… Our mouth, nose, and ears are all connected internally so something entering through our ears can suddenly lead to a sinus infection. If we swallow bacteria that drains down from our sinuses, it can enter the rest of the body. We fight these battles yearly.
What can we do?
- Keep dryness in our environment down. Avoid running the AC and heat as much as possible, because this reuses the same air and dries out your body. Bring in a humidifier (or dehumidifier depending on your building’s insulation) and aerate your rooms, purifying the air.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Keep dryness down on your hands to prevent splitting cuticles and breaking skin opening your body further to infection.
Foods and drinks that help:
Garlic, onions, and ginger are all great immune-boosters. Green tea and chamomile have natural antihistamines. Honey from your local farmers market (organic raw and unfiltered) helps against allergies as well.
Supplements that help:
Echinacea, Astragalus, nettles, probiotics, vitamin C, selenium, mint, and licorice are just a few examples of the many immune boosting supplements available.
Foods and drinks to avoid:
Gluten (this can inflame your intestines more), excess dairy and sugar increase phlegm and dampness in your body, and alcohol (definitely decreases your immune system). It’s an important time of year to switch from raw summer foods to more of a cooked diet. Eating seasonally is very important in terms of Chinese Medicine.
- Acupuncture is also a great way to help boost your body’s immune system. The practice boosts blood circulation and clears energetic passageways, which also breaks down the build up of phlegm and mucous, a huge carrier of bacteria.
Enjoy your fall season, pay attention to your body, try to keep the stress down, and if you feel off balance, use some of these steps to take care of yourself. Your body is just trying to keep up! Don't hesitate to give us a call or shoot us an email if you have any questions.
And if you live in LA, don't be shy.
Monica Kim, L. Ac is one of the acupuncturists at City Acupuncture Silver Lake, in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. If you would like to book an appointment with Monica, please click here!