Your Health in Fall: The Five Element Theory & the Season of Letting Go

Holistic health practitioners employ a transdiscliplinary approach to wellness that combines the knowledge from both Eastern and Western medicine to treat the whole person. One popular aspect of this layered method is the Five Element Theory. It is a road map between each of five elements—metal water, wood, fire and earth—and the human experience and environment. Each element corresponds to an internal organ system, and each organ system is associated with specific emotions, all of which is linked within their related seasons. When the health and wellness of one’s body and mind is compromised, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and holistic health practitioners use their knowledge of all these correlations to identify causes and treatments.

Using the seasons as our guide, we’ll start a series to explore the Five Element Theory with a brief overview of each associated element and emotions; describe the organs/meridians associated with TCM, and the physical and psychological conditions & imbalances that can occur (and how to spot the indicators on your face); and review what East-West treatment approaches can be used for healing. (Each season will follow in subsequent articles.) We’ll begin with the Fall season.

Fall: The Season of Letting Go

In the Five Element Theory, the autumn is associated with the Metal element. The emotion associated with autumn is grief. While there is no good or bad emotion according to Chinese medicine, the emotion of grief is connected to autumn because it is an emotion of letting go in order to create the new. It’s when nature is finishing its yearly cycle.

Someone who has an imbalance in the metal element may feel stuck in the cycle of grief. Psychologically, it makes a person unable to cleanse and prepare for their personal growth. In order to allow new energy and inspiration, we should be able to process grief in a timely and healthy way.

Physically, the organs associated with the metal element are the lungs and large intestines. Generally speaking, the large intestine’s role is elimination of toxicity from our bodies. In terms of the body-brain connection, a healthy large intestine meridian helps to let go of toxic thoughts. It also follows that the health of one’s lungs is critical for breathing, both physically and mentally, especially if the goal is exhaling – a literal letting go!

Conditions associated with metal element during the fall season directly affect the health of the lungs and large intestines. Ailments like allergies and bronchitis flair up, while mood swings take a downturn in response to darker, colder days. Here is a list of conditions in fall affecting the metal element:

• Common colds

• Flu

• Asthma/allergies

• Sinusitis

• Bronchitis

• Constipation/diarrhea

• Colitis, diverticulitis

• Leaky gut syndrome

• Skin disorders

• Arthritis

• Grief and sadness (lung)

• Self-esteem issues (lung)

• Inability to let go (colon)

• Perfectionism (colon)

Facial Signs of Lung and Colon Imbalance

Your face is often the first place to find visible indicators that something is amiss. Imbalance in the lung meridian fails to nourish and moisturize the skin. On your face, this translates to dry, rough, itchy skin and wrinkles, which are related to the quality of your Lung Chi, or energy. Any issues with or around the mouth, like chapped lips or the presence of a cold sore, may indicate a problem with the colon. Excessive wrinkles at the nasolabial area and puppeteer lines can also indicate a weak colon. Sagging jowl areas and lower cheek-area wrinkles indicate a weak lung meridian. Everything is connected. Besides local facial acupuncture points, it is important to support and to take care of internal conditions and balance the whole body.

Sinusitis. Allergies. Bronchitis.

Sinusitis in many individuals tends to become a chronic condition. The reason for this is that most methods of treatment fail to drain the sinus cavities completely of mucus and discharge, which creates a pattern of ongoing infection. Treatment of the infections with antibiotics can weaken an immune system; furthermore, they may cause the development of secondary fungal infections that is often overlooked. TCM uses natural supplementation and change of diet to treat pathogens thereby boosting, not damaging, the body’s immune response. Acupuncture can also be very effective in opening up nasal passages, allowing patients to breathe easily; the most common acupuncture point is called the Bitong point, which translates to “opening up the nose.” Herbal, nutritional, and homeopathic remedies would enhance and expedite the results.

Leaky Gut Explained

Intestinal hyperpermeability, or leaky gut, is a common condition in which the intestinal membrane is damaged and becomes too permeable. Mucus membranes of the gut develop enlarged spaces that create a dangerous situation in which undigested material enters the blood stream through these gaps. The body recognizes the foreign matter and creates an immune response. As a result, antibodies are created. This autoimmune response manifests as allergic sinusitis, arthritis, asthma, colitis and more.

What causes the condition known as leaky gut syndrome? Leaky gut may result from a combination of genetics, environmental irritants (mold, pesticides) and other lifestyle factors (food preservatives, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.). Candida overgrowth as well as SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth) and parasite infection can cause leaky gut, too.

Leaky gut syndrome is a cause of the following common conditions: asthma; food allergies; chronic sinusitis; eczema; urticarial; migraine; irritable bowel; fungal disorders; fibromyalgia; and inflammatory joint disorders including rheumatoid arthritis. It also contributes to PMS, uterine fibroids, and fibrocystic breasts.

An individual experiencing leaky gut syndrome may suffer from bloating, fatigue and brain fog. As a result, it may also cause obesity, depression, ADD, autism, ulcerative colitis, Crone’s disease and the autoimmune diseases.

Removing inflammatory foods, such as sugar, dairy, white flour is a first step to balance. Certain tests will help to determine your food sensitivities, with treatment approaches ranging from a BIOSET protocol to individually designed diet plans and supplements. Research has also shown that neurotransmitters and other chemicals are produced in our gut and also affect the brain. To repair leaky gut syndrome, use of probiotics and prebiotics, colostrum, L-glutamine, Chinese herbs and homeopathics, plus digestive enzymes would restore the integrity of the gut lining, and prevent mucous membrane from “leaking”. By restoring good types of bacteria in the intestinal tract it may be possible to improve brain health, to help anxiety, depression and more.

Autumn Transition For Mind and Body

Restoring balance within the metal element and the emotions it associates with will go a long way to helping your health in the fall season. There are several ways to accomplish this transition from conditions of dis-ease to wellness:

• Breathe. Focus on some deep breathing techniques, which help lung function and relaxation.

• Purge. This can involve a whole-body cleanse as well as mental exercises that help you let go of toxic thoughts and situations.

• Resolve old hurts. Unresolved emotions can express themselves as grief and negative self-images, leading to imbalances of lungs and colon.

• Avoid inflammatory foods; eat organic if possible.

• Include spicy, warm flavors like ginger and turmeric tea, cardamom, and cloves in your diet. They are good for cold and flue season.

• Restore bacterial imbalance in the gut. Probiotics such as lactobacillus have been shown to improve sinusitis symptoms. Your sinuses, nose, and mouth are just extensions of your digestive tract. Determination of your microbiome can help your practitioner to determine your appropriate pro and pre-biotics regimen.

• Improve your immune system. Astragalus, olive leaf, zinc, Vitamin C, trace minerals, garlic, spirulina, medicinal mushrooms and more specific remedies suggested by your practitioner would help to fight not only bacterial, but also viral infections.

• Acupuncture would help the transition into Autumn, not only on the mind-spirit level but also with detoxification and increasing circulation and clarity of lungs and large intestine.

Remember, everything is connected! Your emotions affect your organs and the organs affect your emotions. Treat one, treat all, in fall.

Helena Amos, M.Ac., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist, European physician, and natural medicine practitioner since 1986. She is the owner of the Acupuncture and Natural Medicine Clinic in Rockville, MD, and is available for complementary consultations. Call 301-881-2898, email her at, and visit for more information and a schedule of upcoming classes. LIKE on Facebook @AmosAcupunctureAndNaturalMedicine. See also her ad on page

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