d

Find the silence
   which contains thought.
       --Hakuin       

    

Your Immune System, the Fall
and the Element Metal

This is the second in a series of articles exploring the relationship between the seasons, the Five Elements in Chinese Medicine and the ever-changing state of your health.

Fall is the time of year when we reap what we have sown, when the fruits of our spring and summer labor are pulled from the ground or off the tree and we begin to store up for winter. It is the time of year, when the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer. And it is the time of year when we adjust to Nature’s rhythms and begin to consolidate our energies, quiet down Summer’s exuberance, and shed that which we do not need while focusing on that which we do.

Fall and the Metal Element

In Chinese medicine, the fall season corresponds to the element of Metal. We saw in the previous article (Earth: Our Source for Daily Health) that as Earth represents the transition between seasons and late summer in particular, and therefore precedes fall, we say that “Earth is the Mother of Metal.” From the earth comes iron, copper, zinc, etc. A healthy and vital Earth gives rise to a bounty of rich metals that not nourish the soil but are also vital to our own internal health. Metal, much like the fall’s diminishing daylight, has a contractile, inward quality. We tend to see Metal show up in people who are precise and exact like accountants and engineers; in people who are discerning and respect rules, justice and discipline. While some of us may be constitutionally Metal, we all have varying degrees of it present at different times of our lives.

The Lung and Large Intestine

Internally, Metal corresponds to the Lung and Large Intestine systems. In addition to the physiologic functions of the lungs (respiration, the oxygenation of blood with the expelling of carbon dioxide, pH balancing, etc), the Lung system also governs overall Qi, or energy, circulation in the body, opens and closes the pores, helps transport fluids to moisten the skin and intestines, opens into the nose, governs the strength and tone of the voice, loathes cold weather, and as the most external organ (it opens to the outside through the trachea in the throat into the nose and mouth), it is a vulnerable organ to attack by external pathogens. When we catch a cold or get sick it usually affects some aspect of the Lung first. We also see that one of the closest relationships the Lung has is with the Large Intestine. In addition to its physiologic functions of excreting stool and re-absorbing water, we recognize that it gets its fluids and some of its Qi descended from the Lung to help with bowel movements. Emotionally, the Lung stores grief, while it is the Large Intestine that “lets it go.” In fact, we commonly use the pejorative term “anal retentive” for people that have a hard time letting things go. While emotions themselves do not cause disease, it is unresolved, unexpressed and repressed emotions that set the stage. It is not uncommon for someone to tell me they have had asthma since they were 10 years old, the same time they experienced a sudden loss in their family. Their buried grief further depleted their Lung Qi making it susceptible to imbalance in the form of asthma. To resolve this, you certainly must treat the asthma itself, but resolving the grief is essential too for long-term recovery.

Your Over-Worked Immune System

The most common imbalance with Metal is a weakened or compromised immune system. Signs and symptoms include: frequent colds and the flu, lingering coughs, dry skin, chest or sinus congestion, recurring sinus infections, insomnia and night sweats, spontaneous sweating, fatigue and a low voice. There is no way around the fact that living in a major metropolitan city like LA is a daily challenge to our immune systems. From air pollution and allergens to exposure to mold through water damage in our homes and offices, we are always under attack. And unfortunately, our lifestyles do not support less stress, better sleep and healthy food choices; all of which profoundly help our ability to remain healthy through cold and flu season.

The other most common Metal imbalance is constipation. You’d be surprised to hear how many of my patients have felt that having a bowel movement every other day was “normal.” I assure you, it is not.

What Can You Do?

The first step is always to identify and eliminate the things in your life that are taxing your health the most.

• Have you just not been “right” since you last cold or flu? Maybe you merely suppressed the symptoms with over-the-counter medications and continued working. And perhaps that infection was never allowed to clear up completely and is still causing you problems.
• Are you eating as well as you can? Can you make better food choices? For a list of the basic food guidelines I tell all my patients, take a look at last month’s article.
• If you are considering getting the flu shot this year, don’t overlook some basic cold prevention ideas like washing your hands thoroughly.
• Having a hard time getting to sleep at a reasonable hour or staying asleep? Perhaps you wake up feeling exhausted and fatigued. Or maybe you wake every morning with a stuffed noise and sinus headache. Take a look around your house and in your bedroom for any water damage and mold. Or if you find that every time the AC goes on in your office, everyone around you gets sick, then there may be mold in the AC system. This can certainly upset your sleep and in turn severely compromise your overall health and well-being.
• Is your digestion off? Are you backed up and constipated? All the toxins that are not being regularly eliminated through 2 to 3 easy bowel movements a day can certainly re-circulate in your body and further upset your immune system.

My Role in Your Health

When I evaluate a patient who comes to me with any of the above conditions, we spend a great deal of time searching for all the factors that are impairing their immune system. And we work together to make the necessary changes. In addition to acupuncture and its ability to directly and effectively stimulate the body’s defenses and restore balance, I also prescribe Chinese herbs. I do so in a unique fashion that enables me to precisely detect what pathology is present and prescribe exactly the right herbs to treat it. In the end, you have a customized granulated Chinese herbal formula that will address all your health concerns. Even if you are not sure what the cause of your sickness is, we can play detective and discover that missing piece of information. You can now take that knowledge home with you and begin shifting your life toward a healthier way of being.

~~~~

As the Fall has clearly arrived, stop for a moment, look at the angle of the sun, notice how the light has changed; notice that it is getting darker earlier. Now look at the pace of your daily life. Find opportunities to begin to slow down, to consolidate your energies, and to live more in accordance with Nature’s rhythms. Also take a moment to reflect on your current state of health. How might your Lung and Large Intestine Systems be out of balance? How is a Metal imbalance showing up for you right now?

Health can be defined as the ability to adapt to change. As the seasons change, so must we to live in greater harmony with all that nourishes us and keeps us healthy.


 

 

© Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, 2010. All Rights Reserved.

The information presented here is not medical advice, is not intended as medical advice, and is intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture and is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of this information.

 
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This site and any articles on this site are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice and are intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of the information on this site and any articles.