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Autumn dryness brings need for different diet
By Zhang Qian

THE gradually cooling weather announces the arrival of autumn which is bringing not only big temperature differences and energy changes, but also pathogenic dryness that is a threat to health.

Traditional Chinese medicine suggests that washing the face with cold water, eating more “moistening” foods and adjusting schedules may help improve immunity against the threats.

Though the sun still helps warm the city in the daytime, cool winds sweep away much of the heat at night. This sharp difference in temperature between day and night, while pleasant, can easily cause respiratory ailments, as the human body cannot adjust quickly to the changes.

Dr Zhang Zhenxian, director of the Special Medical Care Department of Yueyang Hospital affiliated to Shanghai University of TCM, says “we can enhance the body’s ability to adapt to climate changes.”


TCM recommends that in this season people wash their face and especially rub their nose with cold water; bathing in cold water is highly recommended, as it’s a jolt to the system.

Seasonal change means a drop not only in temperature but also in energy.

“Within the three months of autumn, yang (“warm”) energy decreases while yin (“cold”) energy grows in the universe,” says Dr Zhang. “To coordinate the human body to the universe, we should suppress the yang energy that became extremely active in summer, and nourish the yin energy within our body. We do this by getting up and going to bed early, controlling our mood and eating moistening foods like lily roots.”

Dr Zhang says getting up at 6am and going to bed before 9pm is the best way to suppress yang energy. Further, avoid getting too excited or depressed: Keep calm and take it easy whether you are at work or at home — this will help you adapt to the weather more easily.

“Dryness” is the main “toxin” in autumn, just as “heat” is the main problem in summer. Excessive dryness needs to be balanced with more moisture in the system.

Lung heat syndromes, a cluster of respiratory ailments, frequently occur in this season as the lungs are the first organ to encounter the dry air entering from outside through the nose and trachea.

A dry nasal cavity, sore throat and coughing with little phlegm are the most common symptoms. Yet, serious problems like chronic bronchitis and chronic pharyngitis can also occur if you fail to relieve the common symptoms in the first place. Foods including pears, white fungus and lotus seeds can help moisten the lungs and increase fluids.

“TCM believes that imbalanced energy in one organ can lead to problems in another,” says Dr Zhang. “The active lung heat caused by dryness will not only cause respiratory ailments, but also hurt the liver as well.”

To avoid this, Dr Zhang suggests that people nourish the liver in advance by avoiding spicy foods like chili, garlic and ginger, and eating more acid foods like meat and fish.

Ancient Chinese people described autumn as clear and crisp, a good season to get close to nature and absorb the essence of the universe. Having physical exercises can help you build a good figure and excellent constitution, which can help

you resist the invading dryness in the first place.


Herbal congee

• Huangjing (polygonatum sibiricum Red) congee

Ingredients: Dry huangjing (30g), rice (100g), sugar


1. Wash the huangjing, and soak it for 20 minutes.

2. Put it into a saucepan, bring quickly to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Filter the huangjing soup, put it into another saucepan with rice to make congee.

4. Add sugar.

Benefits: Moistens lungs and heart, nourishes stomach and spleen.

• Sesame spinach

Ingredients: Spinach (500g), cooked sesame (15g), salt, sesame oil


1. Wash spinach, place it briefly in boiling water (blanching).

2. Pull it out, drain and cool.

3. Add salt, sesame and sesame oil.

Benefits: Aids liver and kidneys, moistens organs.

• Green pepper and bean curd

Ingredients: green peppers (10g), salt, sesame oil


1. Blanch bean curd, drain it and cut it into cubes.

2. Blanch green peppers, drain, chop.

3. Combine ingredients with sesame oil and salt.

Benefits: Reinforces energy, promotes fluids, nourishes organs and dispels pathogenic heat. Also treats loss of appetite.

• Lily and lotus seed soup

Ingredients: Dried lily (100g), dried lotus seeds (75g), rock sugar to sweeten (75g)


1. Wash ingredients, soak lily in water overnight, soak lotus seeds in water for four hours.

2. Combine in a saucepan with water, bring to a boil, add sugar and simmer for 40 minutes.

Benefits: Nourishes heart, spleen and stomach; soothes nerves.

Recommended foods to fight autumn dryness

Pear, lily root, maidong (lilyturf root), biqi (water chestnut), yam, hog’s lung, lotus root, white fungus, lotus seeds, honey, kelp, celery, spinach, sticky rice, sesame, beans, dairy products, yellow croaker, scallops and jellyfish

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