Most of you know that I have been a leading proponent of a seasonal approach to health since I wrote my first book Staying Healthy with the Seasons in 1981. One of the key health concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which my book explored, is not just the role of the Seasons themselves and their corresponding Elements, but also the importance of the transition periods between them, which are referred to by the term “Doyo.” Therefore the Equinoxes and Solstices are times of special focus and early Autumn so clearly embodies this principle of transition that in the TCM system it qualifies as it’s own season, a fifth season, which we call Indian Summer. I hope that my 10 Tips for a Healthy Autumn, which you’ll find at the end of this post, will help you attune to the changes ahead.
I am always on the look out for news stories that refer to the topic of Seasonal Health, so this recent New York Times headline caught my eye – Gut Bacteria Can Fluctuate with the Seasons. This fascinating article talks about a research project that studied the Hazda people in Tanzania who still live as hunter-gatherers as our ancestors did, surviving solely on the animals they hunt, along with other wild foods they forage like berries, roots and honey.
The researchers discovered that the Hazda’s gut microbiome — the bacteria that live in their intestines — changes through a predictable annual cycle reflecting the changes in their diet. The Hazda also hosted a much greater diversity of gut microbial species than people who consume a more typical modern, Western diet where seasonal variety is less common. Research increasingly shows that the health of the gut biome is crucial to our overall health and especially that of our immune system —another reason to consider the seasons in our lifestyle and dietary choices. We might wonder what’s happening to our gut biome over the course of our year and years. This exciting area of research into gut health is expanding rapidly.
“Pay attention to the seasons of the year and what affects they have on our health.” These words are attributed to Hippocrates, often called the “Father of Western Medicine,” and ideally we do pay attention to the times of seasonal change and look ahead to adapt to this ongoing cycle that has been around since the beginnings of life as we know it.
Connecting to Nature and our own true nature is a key to good health, learning and evolving, as we become more self aware and also sensitive to all life on this planet, and our future wellbeing. Eating from the Earth’s bounty with simple foods from our gardens, farms and farmer’s markets, and our local stores is principle number one of healthy nutrition. A quote from my Seasons book suggests “Eat close to Nature; every step away from the garden and orchards is a loss of vitality and nutrition.”
Autumn began with the Equinox on September 22 so it’s time to look at what we can do to make the shift to the new season in the five key areas of our hopefully healthy lives – Nutrition, Exercise, Stress, Sleep and Attitude. We have been enjoying the most playful of seasons this Summer, except for these huge damaging hurricanes and rains in the south and wildfires out west. The waters and the fires are clearly out of balance right now. Is this a unique and isolated problem, or one of the many signs of a changing planet in a bit of trouble? Please give it some thought and see if your behaviors can shift to support your best health and then extend that to your family and friends and the entire planet.
My Seasons book and other writings involve multiple aspects of our overall wellbeing—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—also incorporating many disciplines of health, such as Natural and Eastern medicines, foods, herbs, and lifestyle care combined into a Western medicine framework and mindset. I call this NEW Medicine.
My 10 Tips for a Healthy Autumn can be found here and include ideas in many of these areas.