Late Summer & Health

Late Summer and Health

Chinese medicine identifies five elements which are emblematic of the various patterns and dynamics in the natural world, and within the human microcosm. In this “Five Phase Theory,” the elements Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood are further correlated with other phenomena- emotional states, organs, tissues, climates, directions, flavors, colors, and so forth. Seasons, too, are part of this framework, and “Late Summer” is considered its own unique period as part of the Earth category. This 5season refers to the abnormally warm spell ofweather at the tail end of summer/early autumn. It is a natural stage oftransformation, a time when all the spring and summer growth (Yang) begins togive way to autumn and winter decline (Yin).

With each season, a particular organ is thought to be more active- and more vulnerable. In late summer, the Spleen is particularly vital. The spleen and stomach are central to digestion, transformation and transportation of food, so it is imperative to support a healthy diet this time of year. Strong spleen qi is a cornerstone of good health, and it is easily damaged by dampness and damp-producing foods, so I advise avoiding refined sugars, excessive dairy, greasy foods, and eating less raw fruits and vegetables. Also, avoid overeating.

Foods that are particularly beneficial to the spleen include: millet, rice, quinoa, amaranth, oats, potatoes, carrots, yams, pumpkin, cabbage, corn, beans, string beans, poultry, beef, fatty fish, chicken eggs, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, fennel, miso soup, nuts, dates, figs, cherries. Chew your food thoroughly with each meal, as this facilitates digestion.

Worry and overthinking tax the spleen, and physical exercise can be a helpful distraction, especially activities like yoga and dance. I recommend decreasing the noise in your life this season, e.g., with social media, and revisiting contemplative practices like meditation and prayer. Late Summer is a time for quiet reflection. How has your year been going to date? Is there anything you might change to bring more balance into your life for the remainder of the year, as we prepare for harvest and the Yin of winter?

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