Embracing the Change in Seasons

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Well, it’s daylight savings time this weekend, and that can only mean one thing: spring is here.  Although Seattle’s version might disguise itself as a slightly less chilly version of winter, many people still experience one of the main tenants of the season here – springtime allergies. Why does this change of seasons wreak such havoc on our eyes respiratory passages?  Well airborne pollens may be part of the answer, but Chinese medicine also points out to the way in which our bodies prepare for the change in seasons.

Every season brings with it new temperature, weather patterns, and energy.  While winter is the most “yin” of seasons – cold, dormant, and summer the most “yang” – hot, vibrant and energetic – spring is a pivot: a time when hibernating bodies start to feel the urge to move, stretch and rejoin the world.  Shoots start to grow, animals are born, and we start to feel the urge to get back outside. 

In Chinese medicine, is it believed that illness can come from disharmony between the internal body state and the external environment.  That is, if we do not adapt to the energetic and climatic changes of the environment, we are more likely to experience illness.  To help our bodies adapt to spring, therefore, we can take our cues from the environment itself. 

Spring is a time of growth and new movement, and thus a perfect time to start moving more. Stretching regularly helps nourish the tendons and prepares the body for new movement.  Taking walks every day or returning to an exercise class help circulate energy, blood and fluids, helping to open our airways, reduce inflammation in our bodies and generally help improve our ability to cope with change.

Spring is also a time of new growth, so our diets can include fresh green vegetables as a means of staying in harmony with the season.  Sprouts, baby greens, fresh spinach, and lightly steamed chard and kale are all great additions to our diet, as are celery, dandelion, and fennel.   While starchy and heavy foods like potatoes and red meats were staples that warmed us up throughout the winter, switching to lighter, clearer foods like lightly steamed vegetables and fish is more appropriate for the spring season. Cutting back on refined and processed flours, fats and sugars will also help reduce inflammation in your body, while eating more leafy greens, fish and sticking to organic, grass-fed meats will provide you with Vitamin A, C and Omega-3 fatty acids.  Essential for reducing histamine reactions to airborne allergens!

In Chinese medicine the springtime is associated with the liver, an organ that both stores and filters our blood, and is said to help promote smooth movement of qi, or energy, throughout the body.  When liver qi is stagnant, that is, when the energy is pent-up and unable to move smoothly, it can compress and turn into heat, flaring up and creating symptoms such as red, itchy eyes. Stagnant liver qi can also overact on the lungs.  Because liver qi is strongest in the spring, those with weak lung qi may find that they may experience the worst of their symptoms at this time, including sneezing, coughing and sinus congestion. For those with digestive weakness, springtime liver qi stasis can lead to loss of appetite, fatigue and foggy-headedness.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help – both to resolve the symptoms and to address the underlying conditions that may predispose you to seasonal allergies. While treatment can help the worst of your itchy eyes and runny nose, for best results, is generally recommended to begin treatment before your symptoms arise: so it is a great time to make an appointment with your acupuncturist today!

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