The issue we face this time of year in California are the devastating wildfires. Our govenor has called it the "new abnormal." At this time particularly people with chronic lung issues, chronic immune issues, the elderly, children and pregnant women are at high risk with an air quality that is so poor. Even if you are not part of the previous category of people, the impact of poor air quality with the levels as such are a risk for everyone.
Autumn in Chinese medicine has all to do with the lungs. The pair of organs that are affected the most at this time of year just happen to be the lungs and large intestine in the system of Chinese medicine.
Physical symptoms of lung dryness include hoarse voice, dry cough, and dry throat and dry skin. Lung qi deficiency signs and symptoms include: fatigue, shallow or difficult breathing, weak voice and weak dry cough, skin issues, and sweating.
Emotionally we may feel hopeless, anxious, and withdrawn, a lack of energy or enthusiasm for the typical things we do. Do you feel affected by the smoke? If so here are some solutions and self-care actions to keep you healthy and to take you through these difficult times.
1. Get an air purifier or HEPA air filter for your home or office and check air quality reports often before venturing outside to exercise or for general outings. Stay inside when the air quality is unhealthy or when designated a high risk for sensitive people. Wear a mask for small particulate matter such as the N95 Respirator if you do have to go out. Remember to wear it correctly and once you see it dirty on the outside it is time to use a new mask.
2. Eat foods that support the Lungs. It is important to keep a low inflammatory diet at this time. Foods such as dairy, alcohol, wheat, refined sugars and greasy foods are difficult for your system and can cause inflammatory responses with the immune system. Choose a lighter healthy diet and include particularly fruits that moisten the lungs, such as persimmons, pears, apricots and dates. Other fruits that help with cough and inflammation are pineapple or pineapple juice. Pungent foods can be drying to the lungs so if it is particularly dryness that you are suffering from, limit your onions, garlic and ginger. However, overall onions, garlic and ginger are helpful in lung congestion where a wet cough is the issue.
3. Get Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown in studies to help support breathing and lung function in people with more serious lung diseases like COPD, Asthma and Viral Pneumonia. There are many points and protocol treatments that support the lung meridian as well as treating the mind and spirit. Go get acupuncture that is individually tailored to your unique body and emotional state. Prevention is key, so don't wait until you are already suffering.
4. Take Herbal formulas particularly for the Lungs. With the help of an acupuncturist there are many formulas and teas to treat your specific symptoms. There are formulas to help with stuffy noses and dry throats and dry coughs. Some that can help with this are found at your local natural food stores. I particularly like, Rootology Breathe Free or Wish Garden, Deep Lung formula. Chinese herbs that support the lung such as Apricot Seed, Lily Bulb, Tricosanthes root, Frittilaria Bulb, Schizandra fruit, Ginseng, Licorice root and Astragalus all help with the lung function of breathing and clearing the lungs. It is best to seek the attention of an acupuncturist and herbalist when selecting herbs or formulas. Herbal teas you can make on your own are important to help during wildfire season such as: Throat Coat by Traditional Medicines is a favorite of mine to help the scratchy throat and dry cough, and other herbs that are helpful are: lemongrass, chamomile, rooibos, ginger, tumeric, raw organic honey and even boiling very ripe pears will soothe the lung.
5. Express your emotions. The emotion connected with the lung in Chinese medicine is Grief. It is very hard not to be affected by all this devastation and bad news. Every day we are hearing about and seeing people lose their lives and homes to fires. Losing their communities, jobs, friends, families,etc.. Seeing our beloved forests and animals being affected by the fires is heartbreaking. Share your stories with friends and practitioners is very important now. Cry, scream or shout and do whatever it takes to express the sadness you may be feeling. Take action and volunteer if you can and donate your time, services and material things to help those that are suffering.
Above all, don't be afraid to ask for help.