Optimize Your Health in Autumn

Optimizing Health

I am readying myself both physically and mentally for the oncoming autumn and winter season during this pandemic in order to not only survive but thrive. We have all been through a very tough 6 months and it is not over yet. So, how will we optimize our physical and mental and emotional health and well being?

I want to take some time to talk about how to care for yourself and optimize your health and well being during the autumn season in this month’s post.


The autumn season is the time of year our energy begins to shift and we begin to move in from the outdoors. Our energy constricts, from the overflowing abundance of summer. The light wanes, the days are cooler and wetter but the indoor air is drier and warmer. Our activities shift  and

Acknowledge the difficulty

It is important to acknowledge how challenging this time has been in whatever way it has. Many of us have been unable to be with family, have limited social interactions, have been in some way impacted by COVID personally, may be dealing with financial and work challenges, may have kids at home while trying to work, lived through the fires in Oregon not to mention the uncertainty of these times.

Take that in……… acknowledging the stress of these times is important to understanding ourselves a bit better and seeking out help and learning how to care for ourselves and our loved ones.

What to do:

acupuncture, PDX, Portland acupuncture,

Breathing calms the nervous system.

Breathing! Have you ever noticed when you are stressed or emotionally tense your breathing becomes shallow? Shallow breathing constrains the diaphragm limiting the movement of muscles in the upper body and contributes to more physical tension in the body.

Breathing deeply into our diaphragm so that our belly expands, releases stress, expands the muscles in our upper chest and rib cage and as we breathe out slowly through the mouth built up lactic acid is released encouraging increased circulation. Click on this link for more ideas and directions on breathing exercises.








hese are challenging times for all of us in different ways and the theme since the beginning of 2020 has been – “I can’t breathe.” Our breathing is challenged. Our lungs are now taking a beating: from the uncontrolled spread of COVID, to masks, to the death of George Floyd, to tear gas and to these wildfires. In addition, the mental and emotional toll of months indoors, isolation, multi-tasking work and remote learning, unemployment has taken its toll on even the most resilient of us.

I am not sure how or what you are feeling but I do know there are things we can do to protect our lungs, our physical and mental/emotional health and well being.  Today I want to share them with you.

Protect Yourself from Hazardous Air

It is vital to do the following:

  • Stay indoors.
  • If you need to go out, limit it and wear a K95, N95 mask or double mask over a surgical mask.
  • Take a break from outdoor strenuous work or exercise which puts an undue burden on your lungs.
  • Seal leaky windows and doors by taping or placing a damp towel at borders.
  • Use an air purifier or purchase one that has a HEPA filter.
  • Drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated protects mucous membranes and makes it easier to breathe.
  • A clean humidifier can help make breathing easier
  • If you have an HVAC system that does not pull air in from the outside, use it.
  • Create your own homemade air purifier with a box fan. See this link: DIY Fan Air Purifier
  • Run a wet cloth over surfaces to reduce particulates in the house.
  • Take your shoes off at the front door, your shoes drag in particles from outside.
Do Not:
  • Do not: fry foods, use the fireplace, burn candles, incense or use a fireplace, even minimize running your vacuum.
Now what can help:

Stay connected to your loved ones and extended community. Emotional support makes a big difference when you are dealing with long term stress. Do what you can; call, zoom, email, text. Do anything that helps to express love and support. If you have time and energy volunteer. There are many people in need and helping others helps us to feel useful and brings purpose into these amorphous days.

acupuncture, PDX, Portland acupuncture,

Breathing calms the nervous system.

Breathing! What a contradiction, it is hard to breathe in good, clean air but breathe we must and deeply. Breathing deeply into our diaphragm so that our belly expands, releases stress, expands the muscles in our upper chest and rib cage and encourages circulation. Click on this link for more ideas and directions on breathing exercises.




Include foods that benefit the lungs. Now that autumn is almost upon us, the air naturally dries, the leaves dry and in normal times we need to naturally counter this dryness. We can do this by eating  foods that are nourishing and moistening. Here are some examples:

  • Soups that are brothy are hydrating and nourishing. Choose vegetable soups, broths, fish soups, meat soups with lots of vegetables.
  • Vegetables that are moistening to counter the dryness of the air such as spinach, okra and mushrooms that benefit the immune system as well as all dark leafy greens.
  • Nuts and seeds are also moistening, good for elimination function and filled with essential fatty acids.
  • Fruits such as pears, persimmons, grapes apples, plums and pomegranates are all moistening. Pears have an affinity for the lung in Chinese medicine and are delicious poached with some ginger and cinnamon.
  • Teas such as green tea ( rich in anti-oxidants), hibiscus and rose hips are rich in Vitamin C. Peppermint is good for lifting the spirit and counters dryness and heat. Morus leaf (mulberry leaf) is also useful for the lungs.
  • Honey is lubricating for the throat.
  • Herbs and spices bring flavor and therapeutic value to your food. Try thyme tea, add in rosemary, use cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg. These herbs and spices warm the body and promote good digestion.
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Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith is a licensed and nationally board certified acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has been in the field of Asian medicine for the past 30 years, teaching, speaking and working with thousands of people to give them the resources, skills and tools they seek to improve the quality of their health and lives. Ellen is the author of the well respected book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health. She is on faculty at the National University of Natural Medicine’s College of Classical Chinese Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

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