By Dove Sprout
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a way of life. It encompasses many modalities, including acupuncture, cupping, Qi Gong, diet and nutrition, and lifestyle counselling – to name a few. Living in accordance to the five-element theory is also a part of the medicine and lifestyle.
In TCM, there are actually five seasons in- stead of just the four that we name here in the west. The fifth and less talked about season is called “Late Summer” and it can be described as the shoulder season between summer and fall. It also has its own unique set of qualities and correspondences that we will discuss in this article. If we can live in accordance with the seasons, it can help us to stay healthy all year round as our internal environment reflects that of the outer world.
Late Summer is the time of year when the hot weather starts to wind down. It’s a little cooler in the mornings and the evenings, but we are not quite into fall yet. Late Summer is the season of the Earth Element in TCM and allows us a pause to centre ourselves before the next season begins.
Earth Element also corresponds to:
• Organs: Spleen & Stomach
• Emotion: Centred, balance, stability or if imbalanced worry, obsession, over deliberation
• Colour: Yellow
• Flavour: Sweet
• Sense Organs: Mouth
• Tissues: Muscles
• Virtues: Empathy/nurturing
• Climate: Dampness/humidity
The spleen and stomach are our main digestive organs according to TCM theory. They like to be warm and dry and dislike cold and damp. Summer is probably the only time of year that our digestive systems will be able to properly assimilate and digest cold and raw foods such as salads, raw fruit, and cold drinks. Too much of this in other seasons can create a damp situation in our digestive tract and create feelings of heaviness and other physical manifestations such as digestive disturbance, pain/numbness/swelling conditions in our muscles and joints, weight gain, edema, headaches, foggy thinking, malaise etc. When a damp condition has been stagnant for a long time it can coagulate and create phlegm conditions, stones, tumours, and growths. Symptoms of “Sinking Qi” may also occur with weak Earth energy including organ prolapse, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and possibly menstrual disorders.
Late Summer is the best time to nourish our digestive systems with gently cooked, slightly sweet/bland (but not desserts) foods. Yellow and orange foods such as carrots, squash, yams, zucchini, peaches, congee made from whole grains such as oats, barley, millet, and spices such as ginger, turmeric, cinnamon are beneficial.
The spleen and stomach are at their highest digestive energy between 7 to 9 a.m., so breakfast is of utmost importance. Remember to enjoy regular meals and be mindful when you eat, savouring and enjoying the nourishment that your food gives to your body. Gratitude rituals can be a wonderful way to start your meal and kick start your digestion.
TCM encompasses your whole being, not just the physical part of you. An imbalanced Earth Element may present with any of the physical symptoms named above as well as potential mental/emotional symptoms of poor memory, “brain fog”, worry, obsession, over-thinking, and maybe just a sense of heaviness/dullness in your mood with low energy, lethargy, disinterest in life.
Giving and receiving of gifts or your own energy may also become unbalanced or inappropriate. But this also means there is an opportunity to nourish yourself on many levels other than just changing your diet.
Gentle exercises with focus around balance and mindfulness,are preferred: Tai Qi, Qi Gong, Yoga etc. It is also a wonderful time to cultivate practices that leave you feeling centred, balanced, and connected to your most authentic version of you such as meditation, breath work, mindfulness, gratitude rituals, and prayer. Physical therapies such as acupuncture, ReiKi, massage or other practices that give you a sense of peace can also help you feel more balanced and give you a break from the daily grind. Sometimes even just a five minute break between tasks can be a way of re-centring yourself in the middle of a hectic day.
Have you ever noticed how when you become unbalanced, your surrounding environment tends to fall apart? Therefore it is of utmost importance to start at the centre, with yourself, in whatever way feels like you’re nourishing yourself with what you need whether that is with diet, with exercise, or with spiritual/religious/lifestyle practices. See what pops into your mind when you’re able to quiet yourself for a few minutes and ask “What do I need right now?” If nothing comes, keep practicing, keep asking. You’re the only one that can answer that question for you. I hope you enjoy the pause of Late Summer.
Dove Sprout and Paul Gaucher co-own & operate Creston Acupuncture & Natural Health Centre located in downtown Creston. For more information or to book an appointment with Dove, call the clinic at 250-428-0488. For further questions about what acupuncture and herbal medicine can treat, you can e-mail Dove at email@example.com or check out acupuncturecrestonbc.com.