Chinese Medicine Lifestyle Tips to Beat “the Common Cold” this Fall Season

In Chinese Medicine, the fall season corresponds to the element of Metal, which rules the health of our lungs and large intestines - and their respective meridian systems. Fall is also the time that our Protective Qi, or energy, takes center stage.

You can think of Protective Qi as a ‘bodyguard’, working hard to prevent the invasion of external pathogens. If your Protective Qi is healthy, you can glide through fall enjoying all the beauty it has to offer. Crisp, clean air to fill our lungs, beautiful colors in the trees and a changing world around us. You’ll feel the sense of shift and change and have inspiration for a new cycle ahead.

If on the other hand, your Protective Qi is weak, you’re more likely to ‘fall sick’ with seasonal head and upper respiratory colds - and the body aches that come along with them.

With this very sudden shift from summer to fall in Vancouver, I’ve been seeing a lot of people already struggling with seasonal cold and flu! If you’re one of them, here are some useful tips to help you get back on track and enjoying the fall season.

Sick with a Cold? Use Your Energy Wisely

The first sign of feeling sick is the best time to take action. At this stage the bug is only in the surface, or exterior level, of the body. We still have a golden opportunity to quickly kick it out before it sinks in on a deeper level and takes hold.

Slow Down and Bundle Up  - We all have a limited amount of energy. When our body is busy trying to fight a bug, you can help by conserving and redirecting your energy. Slow down, rest, bundle up with extra clothing and blankets – and be sure to take in lots of extra fluid to help your body flush it out.

Food as Medicine – You may be craving sugars for a quick energy boost, but it’s important to stick to healthy sweets such as honey or maple syrup. Processed sugars and the processed flours that accompany them are very sticky and phlegm producing. Sticky phlegm will lodge pathogens in the body for a longer time and cause a lot of problems, like sluggishness, foggy head and increased pain symptoms - especially where arthritis is involved.

Your Fall Food MVPs: Pears, Apples, Almonds, Carrots, Squashes, Soups and Broths

The key foods for preventing and beating fall season cold and flus are clean, hydrating, pungent and aromatic. Food cure is admittedly a bit of a ‘rabbit hole’. It can quickly get confusing because we also need to consider our own constitution and the bug involved. Such as whether you run hot or cold. But in general, think fresh ginger, garlic, onions, radishes and herbs and spices such as cinnamon, peppermint and basil. They work in concert with your immune system to help push out the bug.

Or try this home remedy ginger tea with simple modifications to suit your own personal needs:

Ginger, Honey and Lemon – Oh my!  

This homemade tea will help to build Qi and restore health. Better yet, drink it during the entire season as a preventative measure. It’s actually delicious! Simply boil slices of fresh ginger root for 10 to 15 minutes, squeeze in fresh lemon juice and honey to taste. Repeat as necessary.

  • Body Aches & Cold Hands and Feet? Add Cinnamon – If you have body aches it may be a sign that the cold has penetrated deeper into your body. The cinnamon will help to warm and nurture your tissues and relieve aches. Boil a cinnamon stick along with the ginger.

  • Phlegm? Orange Peels Can Help – Orange peels, especially when combined with ginger, area a great way to break down phlegm. Be sure to wash the peels and boil with the ginger (and cinnamon if appropriate).

  • Sore Throat? Mint, Please – Mint, with its wonderful aroma, helps to push out the bug. It also has a cooling effect on the heat pathogen that is causing your sore throat. (Add mint in the last few minutes of the boil, or pour hot tea over a mint tea bag to steep. This gentle aromatic loses its dispersing and cooling properties if boiled too long)

May the Qi be with you this fall season as you harvest your vibrant summer energy!

Stay tuned for tips about the important Metal nurturing activity of letting go and purging this fall - a key aspect of staying healthy this season and to prepare for the seasons to follow.