Autumn is here, and what a relief from the heat and smoke of summer. Many of us coughed and rubbed our eyes and felt just plain logy from the dry, dirty, smoky air. And so we find ourselves needing to strengthen our lungs, mediators of our immune system, as we prepare for winter. This year we need to pay particular attention to cooling and moistening the lungs, to help them heal from this summer’s assaults.
1. Air purifiers rock! Put one in the bedroom, so that for a third of each day, the air you breathe is clean. The best air purifiers use HEPA filters; we like our Winix Plasmawave purifier, which we found online.
2. Don’t smoke. It goes without saying that smoking damages the lungs, so give it up. Smoking cessation is arduous for most folks, and support is essential to success. Call your local acupuncturist and request the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol for helping the nervous system overcome addiction; and check out the smoking cessation program offered at Gritman Hospital, by following this link: http://www.gritman.org/services-respiratory.html. The Latah Recovery Center in Moscow also has resources for smoking cessation.
3. To help clear out the heat that smoky air brought into your lungs, cut down on spicy, fried, chemical-laden foods and substances, which add excess heat to the body. These include deep-fried foods, chilies, garlic, ginger, onions, shallots, leeks, basil, cloves, wasabi, coffee, vinegar, pickles, black tea, lamb, shrimp, prawns, veal, citrus fruits, alcohol, and recreational stimulants.
4. Do eat foods that nourish the Yin or moist aspect of the lungs: Eat lots of pears! The Co-op has some beauties now in the produce section; for those of us who love to preserve, try picking up a case of pears at the Farmers Market and cooking up some pear butter and canning it to eat throughout the winter. Poached pears are also delicious. In Chinese medicine, many other foods are also considered nourishing to lung yin: think white in color, and moist – foods such as mushrooms, mung beans, oats, tahini, honey, pine nuts, duck eggs, bananas, coconut, flaxseed oil and almond oil, among others. Whatever you choose to eat or drink, keep it room temperature or warmer, for easier digestibility.
5. Practice deep, long, slow breathing to help clear heat from the lungs and restore their proper function. Breathing in through your nose, expand your low belly as you fill your lungs with clean air. Then slowly and gently contract your low belly as you exhale through your mouth. Repeat this cycle for five breaths. This is a lovely practice to do in your garden or in the forest. You can practice this cleansing breathing any time, any place, so try making a habit of it throughout your days.
This harvest season, give your lungs a little help clearing out the summer’s excess heat and help them gear up to protect you as the weather turns cooler, the nights lengthen, and our half of the planet comes around again toward winter.