3 TCM Nutrition Tips to Help Students Stay Healthy this Fall

The autumnal equinox falls on September 22 this year, marking the official end of summer and beginning of fall. This is the time when the maximum yang energy of summer transitions into the ultimate yin energy of winter – our outward energy starts to contract and turn inward as we wind down and prepare for the approaching winter. While long summer days were spent socializing and playing outside, you might now find yourself seeking a quiet afternoon at home as you begin to bring your body and mind back to a state of restful calm. “Back-To-School” season is when we start to organize and plan for the coming year again. 

According to Chinese Medicine, autumn is associated with the Metal element and Lung system, which dominates the skin, respiratory system, immunity, and the emotion of sadness. The cooler temperatures and dry winds of autumn most directly attack the Lung, often resulting in common symptoms such as a scratchy throat, a dry nose, chapped lips, dry cough, or dry stools. To protect the body from these external factors, we focus our healing during this season around warming and strengthening the body.

Fall seasonal changes play a big role in guiding our food choices to prioritize nourishing the organs, blood and fluids. Check out our top eating tips to help you feel your best this fall.

Enjoy More Warming and Cooked Foods
It’s time to retire your favorite summer salad for now. In the summer, the warm yang nature of the season helps us digest raw foods. But as temperatures begin to drop in the fall, you should eat more cooked and warming foods. This prevents further strain on your digestion and Spleen, and helps your body conserve energy to protect itself from illness. Soups, porridge, and stews are easier on the digestive system. Try to also steam or cook your food at low temperatures for longer periods of time – this cooking method helps support and nourish the yin.

Nourish Your Lungs
With dryness and wind dominating the fall season, try to eat foods that generate fluid and moisten the lungs such as pears, apples, snow ear fungus, persimmons, figs, pumpkins, nuts and seeds. One of our favorite (and easy to make) Fall soups combines pears, snow ear fungus, and Bai He (Lily Bulb). Great for when your throat is feeling dry and itchy!

Preserve with Sour Flavors, Defend with Acrid Flavors
Sour foods help the body preserve fluids/yin and moisten. Eating foods like grapefruit, lemons, pickles, and apples that have astringent properties help support yin and fluid retention. If you start to get chills or feel like you’re beginning to catch a cold, foods such as garlic, cinnamon, chili, ginger and onions help bring your defensive qi to the surface of the body to fight off external pathogens.

One last tip! In addition to eating the right foods for fall, remember to wear a scarf as the winds pick up this season. The nape of the neck is where wind can most easily enter the body and cause illness. Stay bundled!

Kastener, Joerg. Chinese Nutrition Therapy: Dietetics in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Stuttgart: Thieme, 2004.
Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. (Second Edition) Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2005.

Writing and Research by Rachele Lam
Rachele is a second year DACM student at ACTCM with experience in marketing and design. Outside of school, she loves creating herbal tinctures and topicals in her kitchen, trying new recipes, and dancing.

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About American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) has provided affordable, quality health care to the public and trained professionals in acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicine since 1980. In addition to its graduate curriculum, ACTCM offers continuing education, public education, community outreach and clinical services in acupuncture and herbal medicine. ACTCM has been the recipient of many awards for its curriculum, faculty and clinic, and has been voted “Best of the Bay” by both the San Francisco Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. ACTCM is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization