Change Of Season: Preparing The Body With Whole Foods

Posted by Chris Penton on

"What can I do to prepare myself and my family for the Change of Season?” is a question I often get from patients this time of year. Whether you are referring to stress management as we switch into a mentally exerting work/school routine, regular immune support to prevent seasonal cold and flus, or emotional support in prevention of Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is commonly known that once Labour Day comes and goes, our health concerns can change as quickly as the weather.

The chart below outlines through a Traditional Chinese Medicine lens the changes of seasons and how to support our health as the seasons transition.  Do you notice how seasonally available foods are the ones that have the highest medicinal activity for particular times of the year? I promise my bias for local foods has no influence on the information presented in the chart (it is in fact the information in this chart that has won my bias for local foods).

Let’s take a closer look. As you can see by the chart, Shoulder Season is the transition period between Summer, the season of Fire governed by the Circulatory System, and Autumn, the season of Metal governed by the Respiratory System/Immune system. While it might seem odd at first that a healthy shoulder season is depicted by optimizing Mental Clarity, if we momentarily consider Western Science, we know that chronically elevated or rapidly fluctuating levels of the hormone Cortisol, a hormone released in response to emotional and physiological stress, and Insulin, a hormone released in response to ingested carbohydrates and sugars, can negatively impact our bodies’ ability initiate an appropriate immune response to pathogens or disease.

In Western society during shoulder season, not only do we typically attempt to remain as physically active as we may have been in the summer, but we add to that the high mental strain of returning to school and work. Including in the mix an increased intake of caffeine, decreased sunshine, and changing sleep patterns, we have created for ourselves the perfect recipe for constant mental drive and to shamelessly rev up those cortisol levels. What is to follow for our health under this routine? Colds/flus, emotional strain/burnout, Seasonal Affective disorder.

So how then does eating local foods help us optimize our health with the Change of Seasons? Well, in addition to a continued harvest of many hearty greens of the summer, Mother Nature kindly provides us this time of year with apples, pears, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, corn, beans and potatoes. A shared characteristic of these foods is that they are slightly sweet with a moderate-high fiber content. This combination will allow for a gradual blood sugar response for sustained insulin levels, and enough sugar to fuel our bodies and minds in mental exertion. Furthermore, these foods have high levels of Vitamin B5, beta-carotene, vitamin C, antioxidants and other nutrients required in the production of healthy hormonal responses, reduced systemic inflammation and healthy immunity.

I could write an entire dissertation on this fascinating topic. If you have questions or are seeking care in preparation for the change of seasons, please reach out to your health care provider, I would certainly love to hear from you as well.

Wishing you a healthy Change of Season!




Shoulder Season
(you are here)







Heart, Small Intestine

Spleen, pancreas and Stomach

Lungs, Large intestine

Food nurtures

If you’re feeling low/ listless: peppers, ginger, corn, rice,

If you’re over-excited: cucumber, watermelon, sprouts

Apples, carrots, pears, cabbage, potato, beans, olives/olive oil, tomatoes

If feeling low energy, bloated, brain fog overwhelmed: increase warm cooked foods and broths, reduce raw

Root Vegetables, warm hearty foods. Lean, happy farmed meats/fish, Whole grains to promote healthy elimination.


Food injures

Heavy, greasy, hot foods

Processed, Sweet, Raw

Foods with heavy metabolic/toxic load, excessive fasting


Joy, mania

Stabilizing in times of transition.


Grief, sadness (seasonal depression anyone?)


Cardiovascular and circulatory system

Mental Clarity.

Cortisol and Insulin – hormonal responses to food and environmental stress

Immune system (Wei Qi), elimination


Cardiovascular (jogging, dancing)

Building movement (brisk walks ~ esp 30 mins after meals to help deliver nutrition evenly to body, Weight/resistance training to build mass in prep for cold season)

Breathing – pranayama, WHM, square breath

Weight/Resistance training


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