5 Tips for a Healthy Transition into Autumn
By Susan Monaco
As the long hot days of summer give way to cool
crisp autumn weather, simple lifestyle modifications can help us adjust to the
change in seasons.
Ancient Chinese sages developed simple guidelines
for living in harmony with seasonal changes based upon the principles of yin and
yang. Autumn is a transitional season, moving from the hot bright yang nature of
summer toward the cold dark yin nature of winter.
The cooling weather ushers in the harvest and
signals the start of the dying cycle in nature - leaves and fruits wither and
fall, seeds dry, tree sap descend to the roots. The seasonal change also affects
our bodies - especially the respiratory system, leading to an increase in colds,
coughs and allergies.
The following five lifestyle tips for autumn help
your body to make this transition gracefully, ensuring health this fall and the
- Food choices: eat juicy fruits and vitamin-filled veggies.
Climatic changes in autumn may lead to dryness affecting the body,
especially the lungs and skin, resulting in dry skin, dry cough and
constipation. Eating more moistening, juicy fruits like pears, pomegranates,
persimmons and apples can reduce these effects. To help boost the immune
system, add some vitamin-packed seasonal vegetables like yams, sweet
potatoes, carrots and winter squash. If you do come down with a cold or
allergies, try adding some pungent flavored foods to your diet such as green
onions, fresh ginger or sweet onions.
- Food preparation: warm it up. As the weather becomes colder, prepare
more warm cooked foods and reduce the amount of cold raw foods in your diet.
Try using cooking techniques like baking, braising, roasting and stewing to
improve nutrient absorption in the cold weather months.
- Exercise: be gentle. Try to avoid heavily aerobic exercise outdoors in
the cooler autumn months, as it may reduce vital energy or qi, and weaken
your system. Instead focus on gentle or moderate exercise like brisk
walking, tai chi or yoga. Light exercise boosts your immune system by
enhancing the activity of neutrophils (a common white blood cell), which are
instrumental in protecting the body against viral and bacterial infections.
- Sleep: early to bed and early to rise. According to ancient Chinese
philosophy, one's sleeping habits should adjust with the changing length of
days through the seasons. In autumn, as the days become shorter, try going
to sleep earlier to avoid the chilly nights and waking early to enjoy the
crisp morning air.
- Clothing: layer, layer, layer. A Chinese folk saying states that one
ought to "muffle the body in spring and freeze the body in autumn." That is
to say, people should avoid wearing heavy winter coats and adding thick
quilts too early in the autumn season. Especially in the beginning of
autumn, the body needs some time to cool down from the summer heat. Adding
too much clothing may prevent the body from adjusting to the cooling
As the weather cools more, gradually add more
clothing and blankets to your bedding to give your body time to adjust. Layering
is very important in autumn, as mornings and evenings tend to be cooler than the
warm afternoons. Carry a sweater and scarf to layer on when spending time
outside in the wind or shade.
Susan Monaco is a licensed acupuncturist,
Chinese herbalist and qigong practitioner. She maintains a busy practice in
Olympia specializing in family wellness, women's health and allergies. Visit
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