My first formal education around nutrition was "Food as Medicine", which I did out of interest and was so fascinated with the wholistic nutrition and lifestyle including Yin Yoga that I started studying Shiatsu massage.
It is based on Eastern Meridian theory and I experienced for myself the massive changes in my physical and emotional health. I still use much of the seasonal and meridian theory in my nutritional practice.
We see contraction in nature as the leaves start to lose their leaves and the sap contracts downwards into the roots. In ourselves it is a time to ask "what do I really need?", and getting rid of some of the stuff we don't need. Everyone talks about detoxing in Spring, which is great - but it's also important to lighten the load in Autumn too and hold on to only that which serves us as we head towards winter. Just like in nature, the process of discarding what we don't need allows for new growth when Spring returns.
Anatomically the large intestine depends on the lungs for movement via the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm, which works like a pump to give impetus to peristalsis by regulating abdominal pressure. Thus sluggish bowels may be stimulated and constipation cured by deep breathing into the diaphragm and by tonifying lung energy. Conversely, congested lungs and clogged bronchial passages may be cleared by purging the bowels.
The emotions linked to the lungs are: Vitality, hope and optimism, and the Large Intestine: Expression, choice & judgement. Both organs are about cleansing/letting go. When in balance you will feel these positive attributes, but when these meridians are out of balance you might feel lack of vitality & optimism, find it hard to express yourself and make poor choices.
Physically, when out of balance it is common at this time of year to get congestion in the nose, in the lungs and sometimes be constipated. You might also find you are waking from 3-5am (lung) or 5-7am (large intestine) these are all signs that there is something you need to let go of - and that might be emotional physical (constipation/diarrhoea), relationships, feelings etc.
Food is a vitally important part of supporting these meridians - as in all seasons it is about eating food that is in season - root vegetables - carrot, parsnip, daikon, radish, ginger, arrowroot, kuzu root*, brown rice
Ginger tea is fabulous at this time of year to support lung function (I make ginger, lemon, cinnamon and mint).
Foods to avoid: breads, pasta and baked flour products (a little sourdough is ok), sugar and processed foods, go easy on the dairy and lean more towards fish than red meats.
It is a great time for a little fast until midday - try just having some miso soup or bone broth and then eating at lunchtime - this gives our digestive system a break and allows our body time to regenerate and detoxify (because it is not busy digesting food)
Eat mindfully and chew your food well with focus. Avoid eating food late at night. Rest and get enough sleep so that your body has the vital time to regenerate and revive. Quality sleep is important all year to manage stress and cortisol levels, but in the colder months it becomes even more important.
Enjoy letting go of that which no longer serves you, breathe out fully and breathe in fully and allow the space for new breath, new ideas and positivity.
* Kuzu - Japanese arrowroot. You can use it to thicken soups and casseroles (a teaspoon of kuzu in a tablespoon of cold water to dissolve, then about 2/3 cup boiling water to thicken is a fabulous intestinal tonic and an awesome way to get rid of colds)