Tree of Health Integrative Medicine, PLLC


AUTUMN : A CHINESE MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE

By Kristen Mattisson, LAc, EAMP, LAc

Fall is upon us.  The long days of summer are behind us.  Autumn is a time of transition.  This is the time of year where change is very apparent all around us.  The bright leaves changing color remind us that it is time to start preparing for winter.  After presenting us with the beautiful warm colors of season, the leaves begin to fall and further prepare and conserve the energy for the tree for the upcoming months.

According to Chinese Medicine, Autumn/Fall is the season of the Metal Element, purging, setting boundaries and nurturing.   The climate factor associated with Autumn is dryness.  The Lung and Large Intestine are the yin/yang meridians associated with the Metal Element.  The lung is responsible for taking in the new. This manifests physically breathing in the crisp clean fall air and filling out lungs for oxygen.  The large intestine being a digestive organ is responsible for physically letting go of waste.

Grief and Sadness are the emotions that arise when there is dis-ease in these organs. When there is an imbalance or you experience an emotional grief you may have difficulty coping with the loss or change, may experience alienation and prolonged sadness.  With this weakness in the lung qi, you may experience a hard time “letting go of people, objects, and spend time in the past.  With prolonged and unresolved lung qi deficiency you may have weakened immune and experience frequent colds/illness.  The paired organ to the lung is the large intestine along with the grief one can experience constipation or dry stools (remember having a hard time of letting go).  On the contrary, when you are in a balanced state, the lungs are associated with clear thinking, communication, openness to new ideas and positive self-image.

In conclusion, just as nature is transitioning, it is a good time to tend to our internal environment; it is also a beneficial time to move through grief and let go of any resentment holding us back.  As we prepare for the slowness and stillness of the upcoming winter months, Fall is our time to nurture our internal health.

 

DIETARY and Lifestyle GUIDELINES FOR Fall

  • BREATHE DEEPLY
  • Take a walk in the cool crisp air.
  • Wear a scarf and protect your neck- in Chinese medicine- we call the neck the “wind gate” and as the weather cools, this area can be vulnerable to external wind invasion resulting in the common cold.
  • Avoid excessive raw foods and relish in the warming foods that are in season:  root vegetables, hearty stews, pears, apples.
  • Incorporate good Autumn foods:  Garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, squash, vinegar, pickles, pumpkin, asparagus, cinnamon, cardamom, pear, pumpkin, walnuts and almonds
  • Fall cleaning is a good time to organize and physically let go of things that we no longer need. De-clutter your home, car and mind. Let go of things that no longer serve you.
  • Let go of negative thoughts: again this is the season of letting go, move through grief rather than being stuck.
  • Daily Dry Brushing:  to help detox the body, remove dry skin, improve circulation and engage the lymphatic system. Using a firm natural bristle use short gentle strokes towards the heart along the entire body starting by the feet. The skin should be dry and will turn pink, this is ok.

Kristen Mattisson is an East Asian Practitioner and an Acupuncturist practicing at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine. To schedule an appointment with her, call (425) 408-0040

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Separating Yourself From SAD

By Dr. Elizabeth Orth

Rain, showers and/or snow… With these weather predictions, it is apparent that it is wintertime in Washington. In Northern states such as Washington, it can be beneficial during this time of the year to know what SAD is, what the symptoms of are, and what can be done to help with SAD.

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, referred to as SAD, is a type of recurrent depression that is influenced by the seasons. Symptoms are present during the same season(s), typically Fall and Winter, and absent for the remainder of the year for a least 2 years. The decrease in light, which is associated with the Fall and Winter months, is thought to affect circadian rhythm, melatonin level, serotonin level, and Vitamin D level. One or more of these changes in the body may lead to the symptoms of SAD.

What does SAD feel like?

SAD can present with a variety of symptoms. Symptoms can include: sad feelings/ low mood, fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems (trouble waking-up or falling asleep), irritability, appetite changes (such as sweet cravings), etc.

What can be done to help with SAD?

The American Family Physician Guidelines recommends [one or a combination of] the following:

  1. Light Therapy (LT): For many individuals with more mild symptoms, this is a good first option. From around 12-18 inches away, shine a 10,000 LUX fluorescent white light (no UV) on yourself for at least 30 minutes daily in the early morning. I also recommend starting the light treatment before you normally start getting symptoms. Possible side effects can include eye strain, headache or skin irritation but if you are at the proper distance away from the light, use a filter and do not look directly at the light for an extended period of time, the risk of side effects goes down.

  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A type of counseling that focuses on how thoughts, feelings and behaviors affect each other.

  3. Antidepressant Medication: If symptoms are severe, taking a SSRI medication may be beneficial short or long term depending on the individual. If this is an option you are considering, talk with a Healthcare Professional regarding the pros and cons of being on this type of medication.

Other options that can help with SAD include:

  1. Dawn Simulation: In this treatment, the light starts increasing while you are asleep and gradually increases until it gets to full brightness and it is time to wake-up. Some research showed it more effective or similar in effectiveness to Light Therapy.

  2. Exercise: Both exercising 1 hour daily as well as 1 hour twice a week has been found helpful. One article showed significantly greater benefit when exercising in bright light than exercising alone. 

  3. St. John’s Wort: This herbal treatment can be helpful for mild to moderate depression. You do have to be aware that this herb may interact with other medications, so it is not an option for everyone. Do not take this herb if you are pregnant. Possible side effects can include skin reaction, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or rapid heart beat. 

Resources:

Kurlansik S and Ibay A. Seasonal Affective Disorder. American Family Physician 2012;86(11):1037-1041.

Avery D, Elder D, Bolte M, Hellekson C, Dunner D, Michael V and Prinz P. Dawn Simulation and Bright Light in the Treatment of SAD: A Controlled Study. Biological Psychiatry 2001;50:205-216.

Terman M and Terman J. Controlled Trial of Naturalistic Dawn Simulation and Negative Air Ionization for Seasonal Affective Disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 2006;163:2126-2133.

Pinchasov B, Shurgaja A, Grischin O and Putilov A. Mood and energy regulation in seasonal and non-seasonal depression before and after midday treatment with physical exercise or bright light. Psychiatry Research 2000;94:29-42.

Leppamaki S, Partonen T and Lonnqvist J. Bright-light exposure combined with physical exercise elevated mood. Journal of Affective Disorders 2002;72:139-144.

Sarris J and Kavanagh D. Kava and St. John’s Wort: Current Evidence for Use in Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2009;15(8):827-236.