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Food As Medicine: Treating Fall Dryness from the Inside Out

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“The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”  – Thomas Edison

The earth is our most abundant pharmacy, providing us exactly what we need in any given time of year to stay healthy and strong. When we eat seasonally and locally, the foods we are ingesting contain the properties we need to stay well all year long. Fall is the season of dryness and the more abruptly it comes on, the quicker our bodies need to adapt. If you’re feeling a bit parched, try these simple dietary solutions to reconcile these common fall imbalances:

Allergies, Sore Throat, Cough
As the leaves begin to change color and fall from the trees, they become brittle and crumble to dust. When we inhale this particle dust it can cause allergies, cough, sore throat, and inflammation. In TCM theory, our lung channel regulates the qi for the entire body. Foods that are more acrid or pungent aid the lungs in keeping the qi circulating and dispersing. If you’re feeling a tickle in your throat, try apples, pears, miso soup with scallion, cabbage, leeks, onion, garlic and ginger. If the qi is rebelling in the form of a cough, root vegetables help to pull energy downward. If the throat feels raw, tea with ginger or ginseng and honey is not only soothing, but can give you a powerful immune boost. If allergies persist, herbal formulas are a great solution to get them under control.

Dry, Itchy Skin
The moisture from the summer has left the air leaving it cool, crisp and static. To protect our skin from drying out while it works to protect us from the elements, we need to do more to nourish it from the inside out. In addition to the lung-qi boosting suggestions above, the simplest way to keep your skin healthy and glowing is to stay hydrated. Water, water, water, is great in any season. Also, don’t skimp on the Omega 3’s (healthy fats) such as those found in avocados, egg yolks, and olive oil. Oily seeds such as flax and sesame also help to keep the skin and entire body moistened (grind them to maximize the benefits) and sesame and coconut oil are widely used topically to protect the skin and keep it supple.

Constipation
In the seasonal transition when the weather is erratic and windy, the body becomes more vulnerable as it works to adjust to the change. Fall dryness can reach beyond the skin and lungs, moving deeper into the body and causing sluggish digestion or constipation. In addition to staying hydrated, oily nuts and seeds (in reasonable quantities) such as almonds or walnuts can help to lubricate the intestines and keep things flowing smoothly. Mineral rich vegetables from the earth also help to support metal – the element of fall. Things like pumpkin, yams, squash, bananas, walnuts, and beets help to keep our digestion regular and keep our belly’s happy and nourished. Also, chew slowly so you know when you’re full, and eat while relaxed to aid digestion and promote nutrient absorption.

A Deliciously Simple Fall Recipe
Try this seasonal recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen to keep the lungs strong, the throat relaxed, the fluids ample, and the tummy happy:

Ginger-Honey Pear

Ingredients
2 medium-size pears, peeled
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons water

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Cut off the top third of each pear and reserve. Cut out the core of the bottom part of the pear, making a hole but leaving the bottom and outside intact. Place the pears and the tops on a glass or ceramic dish.
3. In a small bowl, combine the honey, ginger, and water. (Heat the mixture to encourage the honey to dissolve, if necessary.)
4. Place the ginger mixture inside the pears. Now replace the top on each pear, restoring its original shape, and brush the sauce on the outside of the pear as well. Save 2 teaspoons or so of the sauce for later.
5. Bake the pears for 10 to 12 minutes, until they have begun to soften.
6. Take the pears out of the oven for a moment and drizzle with the remaining sauce, then return the pears to the oven and broil at a high setting for 3 to 5 minutes, until the glaze has caramelized. Serve warm.

You can find this recipe and much more in Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing, and Long Life. Yuan Wang, Warren Sheir, and Mika Ono. Da Capo Press, 2010.

For a more in-depth discussion of eating for the fall season from a Chinese medicine perspective, re-visit this post: https://thriveacupunctureny.com/?p=82

What is Cupping Therapy?

As more people seek natural healthcare alternatives, ancient therapies are making their way into the mainstream. Cupping, used frequently by acupuncturists to enhance their treatments, is one such therapy.  You might notice circular bruises peaking out of people’s tank tops or on display in a backless dress, raising the question of what exactly is cupping therapy and what does it treat?

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Cupping is a method of treatment where de-oxygenated cups are applied to the skin, creating a vacuum, so that suction can be applied to strategic areas of the body. This suction helps to break up congestion or stagnation in the body, helping muscles to relax, fascia to release, phlegm to disperse, pain and swelling to diminish, and qi and blood to flow more freely through the channels.

Some common uses for cupping include:

Colds and Flu: Cupping is used to, break up mucus, ease coughs, address neck stiffness and chills, and disperse any lingering pathogens in the body allowing faster recovery and decreasing the risk of relapse.

Allergies, Asthma and Bronchitis: Cupping is used to address many disorders involving the lungs by unblocking the chest, decreasing accumulation of phlegm, and removing blockages that inhibit smooth breathing.

Musculoskeletal and Arthritic Pain:  Cupping helps to warm stiff muscles, address pain from traumatic injury and promote healing, reduce swelling and inflammation, and relieve pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Menstrual Irregularities and Discomfort: Irregular menstruation, painful periods, PMDD, and PMS can range from temporarily debilitating to downright disruptive. Cupping is used frequently to address common menstrual disorders such as amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and symptoms of cramping, pain and headaches that frequently accompany a women’s monthly cycle.

GI Disorders: Healthy digestion is fundamental to the overall health of our bodies. Cupping can be used in conjunction with your acupuncture treatments to address a range of gastro-intestinal disorders including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachaches, and indigestion.

Skin Disorders:  More and more people are turning to Chinese medicine to address skin disorders that are complicated to treat. Cupping therapy, often in combination with herbal therapy, can be used in the treatment of challenging skin disorders including acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Short of some temporary bruising, the risks from cupping therapy are minimal and the rewards can be great. With such a versatile range of benefits, cupping is a valuable adjunct therapy to your acupuncture treatments.