Every organ in traditional Chinese Medicine has a partner – one is yin, the other yang. The lungs are yin, and the large intestine is yang, and they work together to keep balance in the body. The lungs are responsible for taking in the new. This manifests physically as breathing in the clean, crisp fall air, filling us with the oxygen we need to think clearly, and for our bodies to function optimally.
The large intestine is responsible for letting go of the waste. It is the last stage in digestion and takes everything the body doesn’t need and releases it, only keeping what is vital and important for us to function. Emotionally, this is why fall is a good time to look at things we might be hanging on to, and working through them so that we can let them go for good. Like the trees, we need to let go of our leaves and be ready for new growth to come.
I think of the trees and how simply they let go. – May Sarton
The principal function of the lungs is to transport oxygen from the air into the bloodstream and release carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the air. Air passes through the nose and/or mouth, through the trachea and then on through multiple divisions of bronchi and bronchioles until it reaches the alveoli. Once the air gets here, the transfer is made.
In addition to their function in respiration, the lungs also alter the pH of blood, filter out small blood clots formed in veins, and play a role in the regulation of blood pressure. The lungs are located within the rib cage, filling most of the chest cavity. The lungs are surrounded by a lining of tissue called the pleura.
The lungs are an extremely delicate tissue. They can be damaged easily by cigarette smoke or other pollutants and by breathing in dust or fine particles. In Chinese medicine, every organ is associated with emotion, and the emotion of the lungs is sadness and grief. The lungs serve as an important channel of elimination and are often the area where sadness and grief accumulate when we are not yet ready to “let go” of situations or emotions that no longer serve.
The lungs have the job of ridding the body of all the pollutants that we inhale every time we take a breath. Here are some things that you can do to keep your lungs healthier this fall and for the year to come.
- Reduce Indoor Air Pollutants – And reduce your family’s toxic load. Buy and use an air purifier. While you might not be able to control the air outside of your home, you can turn your home into a clean-air safe haven with an air purifier. A high-quality air purifier will remove many of the air pollutants that may enter the home and help increase the oxygen content of the air, which will reduce the work the lungs have to do. Having houseplants can also help improve the air.
- Walk Outside – One of the best things we can do to strengthen the lungs is to walk outside, soak up the beautiful fall colors and breathe in the clean, cool air. Whenever possible, move and exercise in the clean air outside, such as in a forest or a park full of trees. When we exercise, we’re often taking in big breaths of air (and toxins) that we hold inside. Changing your exercise spot to a place with cleaner air will minimize the toxins you breathe. Connecting with nature is important, and autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year to do it.
- Breathe Deeply – One of the best ways to strengthen the lungs is to breathe deeply. Most people don’t breathe deeply at all, and this affects things like your memory, energy level, and immune system. When you breathe deeply and with intention, you are flooding your cells and brain with much-needed oxygen that is vital to all the body’s Deep Breathing exercises help reduce the buildup of carbon dioxide in the body and helps eliminate other toxins as well.
- Support Your Lungs With Essential Oils – Here are a few oils that I Iike to use to support the lungs: R.C. and Breathe Again both support the respiratory system, Acceptance can support “letting go” and overcoming procrastination and denial. Essential oils can be inhaled, diffused and/or applied topically to support the lungs and other body systems. Autumn is a good time to be mindful of letting go of anything we may be holding on to so we can make room for new experiences that will help us to heal and grow.
Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. – Herman Hesse
The large intestine (also called the colon,) is part of the final stages of digestion. It is a large tube, approximately 6 feet in length that escorts waste from the body. This dense muscle is divided into four parts: the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon and the sigmoid colon. Each part represents a location in the broken rectangle shape that the colon makes in the body. The major function of the large intestine is to absorb water from the remaining indigestible food matter after the nutrients are removed from it and to remove bacteria and other waste from the body. This process is called peristalsis and can take around 36 hours.
In addition to absorbing water, the large intestine also absorbs vitamins that are created by the bacteria residing within it. These bacteria also keep in check the yeast that inhabits the colon. This is important in preventing various yeast-caused ailments including chronic fatigue. Since the colon includes smooth muscle tissue it needs magnesium, calcium, and potassium to work properly. Imbalances of the minerals and nutrients needed can cause constipation, which is one of the most common physical manifestations of “holding on” to something. That thing you are holding on to could be anger, rebellion, fear, resentment or any number of things.
If our digestive system is not working properly, toxins are often recirculated back into the body. Here are some things you can do to support your large intestine and help it function better:
- Healthy Colons Need Fiber-Rich Foods – Fiber keeps food waste moving along your digestive tract, which helps your intestines stay squeaky clean. Make sure to eat more fiber rich foods like root vegetables and gluten-free grains (if tolerated) which offer mechanical ways of cleaning toxins from the body. The sturdy material of the fiber “scrapes” toxins out of the gut and through the colon for elimination.
- Maintain Healthy Function – Supplements like GB-3, probiotics, and magnesium can help keep things moving.
- Reduce Stress – If you want better bowel action, reduce all stress as much as possible. Stress can interfere with the ability to clean your colon due to its effect on your nervous system.
- Coffee Enemas – Yes, you read that right! These can mechanically wash out the colon, removing toxic substances and lots more.
- Drink Water – Inadequate hydration can lead to a buildup of toxins in the body. As those toxins accumulate, the risk of constipation, bloating, gas, IBS, and fatigue increases. If you’re trying to keep your colon healthy, try to drink 3 quarts of spring water or carbon filtered water each day to cleanse your body.
- Get Moving – Movement and exercise encourage healthy elimination, yet another great reason for walking outside or rebounding.
- Support Your Large Intestine With Essential Oil – Two oils I use are DiGize, which supports healthy digestion, and Into the Future blend, which promotes letting go and leaving the past behind in order to progress and heal.
What Will You Let Go Of?
Fall is a time when nature slows down, preparing to rest and recharge to be ready when spring comes around again. It is good for us to do the same. Let’s sleep a little longer and eat warmer nourishing foods of the season, and move inward – paying extra attention to our internal lives. Let this be the season to give your lungs and large intestine a little extra attention and love.
It is the season to remember that we must learn to “let go” so that we can have new growth. So try it…ask yourself, “What is it time for me to let go of?” And when the answer appears, let it go just like the trees are letting go of their leaves. Let go of whatever you are holding onto that no longer serves a purpose in your life; I think you’ll be pleased with what happens in the spring.
We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell
Ultimate Balance by LeAnne Deardeuff, DC