Dr. Melissa Carr BSc (Kines), DrTCM, RAcTraditional Chinese Medicine

For some of us, the arrival of fall weather bring feelings of sadness for the end of summer. No more sandals and sunglasses. For others, fall is welcomed with open arms and cozy sweaters. Either way, the autumn season is here, so what can you do to make a healthy transition into fall this year?

Warm Up Your Food

Sure, a big raw salad for dinner can be a healthy choice. But, if you’re sensitive to the cold, you tend to feel bloated after too much raw food, and you have loose bowel movements, then you may benefit from switching to foods that are cooked. Yes, raw food contains a lot of enzymes and vitamins that can be partially lost through cooking. However, cooking our food can also make it easier to digest and assimilate nutrients.

Keep in mind that not all cooking methods are the same. For example, steaming will cook your food without too much loss of nutrition. Soups, stews, and slow cooked meals also retains most of the vitamins and minerals. Roasted vegetables are one of my favourite ways to prepare veggies like carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, and beets.

Include some warming spices and herbs. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom all fit the bill. You may recognize these as herbs found in chai. Just thinking about a nice chai tea warms me up!

Wear a Scarf

How can you identify a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner? Check to see if they wear scarves a lot. I read a blog once that listed that as one of five things that acupuncturists do obsessively, and it’s true, we wear scarves a lot, especially as the weather shifts from warm to cool to cold. I consider scarves a health tool, not just a fashion accessory—though my accountant doesn’t agree with how I would like to categorize my spending for that!

What happens when a cold breeze touches your bare neck? You are likely to tense up your muscles, bringing your shoulders closer to your ears in protection. I liken the ears and shoulders to two kids in a classroom that you don’t want to sit together. When they sit close to each other, there’s trouble. But keep them apart and they are well-behaved.

We wear scarves to avoid muscle tension, pain, and headaches, and to avoid catching colds and flus as our immune system defenses are poorer at fending off viruses when the cells are cold. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/scientists-finally-prove-cold-weather-makes-sick/).

Get Your ZZZZZs

Yes, this is important all year. But think about what happens in nature as the weather shifts to cold. Nature rests and rebuilds so it will be ready to flourish again in the spring. Restorative sleep is especially important this time of year. See if you can turn off your backlit screen devices—tv, computer, smart phone, tablet—at least 60 minutes before bedtime. See if you can build in a wind down routine before you hit the hay. See if you can get to bed just a bit earlier.

Get Outside

Just because fall brings colder and rainier weather doesn’t mean you need to batten down the hatches and stay indoors. Dress appropriately, but get outside. While you might be less inclined to spend much time in the elements during the fall and winter months, vitamin N (nature) is still valuable.

Plus, you might even manage to sneak in some actual vitamin D from bits of sunrays peeking out from in between the clouds.

Let Go

Traditional Chinese Medicine addresses the whole self, including the emotions and their effects on our physical organs and vice versa. During the fall season, one aspect we pay special attention to is the significance of letting go. Letting go of thoughts, grudges, ideas, people, habits, and stuff that no longer serves us is freeing. It’s a time to recognize, experience, and release sadness and grief. Difficult, but liberating, as it frees up time and energy for those things we love and/or need.

Nature knows that fall is the time of harvest. It’s the time that trees let go of their leaves. We can take from nature’s cues and let go a little ourselves.

Get Help

We all need a little help for both treating conditions and symptoms and optimizing our health and wellness. Even healthcare providers seek assessment from others because we know that it’s tough for us to objectively treat ourselves.

Seasonal transitions are times when treatment is particularly helpful in preventing health issues. This time of year in particular, support your immune system so you can avoid getting sick. It’s also a great time to work on allergies, even if they are to spring pollens, as well as digestive issues, sleep problems, and depression and anxiety.

If you have health questions or want to know more about TCM, feel free to contact me at mcarr@connecthealthcare.ca or book your appointment through Connect Health.

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