If you are like a lot of people I know, being faced with the crisp air this morning got you a little excited for all that Fall in New England has to offer. Apple picking, football games, sweaters with gloves, foliage and state Fairs are all part of the fond experience of living here. While you are enjoying all that the season has to offer, please make sure you are protecting yourself against illness. According to Chinese Medical Theory (TCM), the change in season can often leave us very vulnerable to illness. The temperature variations can really confuse the wei qi (think, immune system). Here are a few simple things you can do to keep yourself safe:
1. Wear a scarf, even if it's not too cold. In Chinese medicine, "evil influences" can enter through the back of the neck. Have you ever noticed that when you start to feel a cold or flu coming on, you get a dull neck ache? The same can be said for your low back. This is another area that is very vulnerable. Keep these areas covered and it will be more difficult for these influences to get in.
2. Get enough sleep. I know, easier said than done. But, go to bed just 10 minutes earlier. You'll notice a difference.
3. Eat fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and in-season. At this time of year, it is best to snack on veggies that have been cooked- not raw! Raw foods are cold and the Fall is the time of year when you want to warm your insides in preparation for winter. Asparagus, broccoli, onions, radish, mustard greens, apricots and pears are all great choices! Grains are also important- "pungent" flavors are recommended for this time of year. Try to incorporate rice, navy beans and almonds into your diet. Avoid too much heavy, fatty or fried foods. (I know, tough if you are like me and plan to head to the Topsfield Fair this weekend!)
4. Exercise. But, not too vigorously. I love to run outdoors in the Fall. But producing lots of sweat when it's cold outside can also confuse the body. If possible, walk outside and try to run indoors or when it is not too briskly cold out.
5. Give yourself an outlet- whether it's singing out loud in the car, writing in a journal or a weekly phone call to an old friend. You need to decompress your mind, too.
6. Take the time to enjoy the season. Like always, it's New England- so you never know how long this beautiful weather will last!
dietary information extracted from Paul Pitchford's, Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition