An East-West Approach to a Fall Cleanse


This post blends a traditional Chinese medicine approach with a contemporary Functional medicine approach to embarking on a gentle fall cleanse. The main purposes of a fall cleanse are to:

  • Reduce chronic inflammation
  • Nurture your lungs and immune system
  • Set you up for optimal immune health in the winter season

Why do a cleanse, and why do it in the fall?

Cleansing and detoxing rituals have been part of traditional cultures for millennia. There are many different approaches out there, with different purposes. Generally speaking, a cleanse is a time to minimize stressful or toxic inputs, while adding nurturing and detoxifying agents. This not only pertains to what you ingest but also to how you move, sleep, think, and behave. A cleanse is a time to slow down, simplify, and nourish your body’s inherent ability to detox and heal.

Fall is a great time to do a cleanse to prepare your body for the winter season challenges ahead – viruses, inactivity, cold weather, and potential holiday overindulgences. However, it’s not the time for cold raw food, juice fasts, or aggressive liver detox programs. Rather, it’s the time to eat and drink warm and nourishing food and beverages, and gently cleanse and support your lungs and immune system.

Cleanses don’t have to be long. Even a one-day cleanse goes a long way, especially when done on a regular basis. However, a more sustained cleanse between 7 to 21 days is ideal.

The East part: A Chinese medicine fall cleanse

In Chinese medicine, in late October we move into the season of the lung organ and merdian system. This includes the lungs, nose, skin, and large intestine. The lung system is vulnerable to dryness, as well as cold and wind – all prevalent during the fall season. You may experience this dryness in your skin, nose, and even in your stool with increased constipation. Symptoms like eczema, dry coughs, allergies, and asthma may show up. This is an excellent time to nurture the lung system with warm, moisturizing “yin” foods, herbs, and beverages.

Each organ system is governed by a natural element. The lung system is governed by metal, the element of structure, order, and sharp discernment. The metal element is both clear and cutting, allowing you to examine and evaluate aspects of your life that need restructuring. Metal time is energetically about getting your affairs in order before hunkering down during the winter season. It’s a time to organize, purge, and plan.

Each organ system is associated with an emotion; the emotion housed in the lung system is grief. During the fall you may be faced with deeper layers of grief. To harness this emotion in a positive way, it’s important to allow yourself to accept it, feel it, and let it go. The metal energy allows you to let go of what needs to go.

The lung season is all about restructuring, grieving, and letting go. In your body, the letting go happens through your breath and your stool.

The West part: A Functional medicine fall cleanse

A Functional medicine cleanse or detox program typically focuses on the liver. For a good reason, because the liver (and the gut) do the majority of your detox work, through three phases described here.

However the lungs are also a detox organ, and fall is the time to support the lungs. (Spring is the season to do a liver cleanse.) This is not only because it’s energetically appropriate in Chinese medicine, but also because the lungs and entire respiratory system are vulnerable to viral attacks in the winter cold and flu season. This is the time of year to prepare your body to fight the viruses you’ll inevitably encounter in the winter.

A Functional medicine cleanse goes beyond the lungs to support the entire antiviral branch of the immune system. This branch is your innate immune system, which employs Th1 cytokines and natural killer cells to defend against viruses. You want your innate innate immune system primed to act quickly and robustly.

Step 1 to priming a robust innate immune response is to calm down chronic inflammation. This is because chronic inflammation blocks your innate immune response. This includes all types of ongoing inflammation, such as insulin resistance, autoimmunity, osteoarthritis, and excessive histamine. When you release chronic inflammation, your antiviral immune response is free to do its job.

The fall season is a great time to cleanse chronic inflammation and prepare your innate immune system for the winter season ahead.

Want help with a personalized fall cleanse? Book a discovery call and let’s chat

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