BY: JESS CLAYTON, M.AC., L.AC. – AUGUST 1, 2018 – ACUPUNCTURE
For over five thousand years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been a body, mind, spirit medical system that has been rooted in nature. Many of the fundamental concepts of TCM are based on observations and studies of nature. In Five Element Acupuncture, the idea is that each of the “elements” that we see in nature (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) are reflected within the human body. Just as nature relies on a state of balance and harmony between all of the elements, so does our health and wellbeing.
As each season ebbs and flows from one to the other so does the qi (energy) within each of us. If we observe and begin to understand the energetic nature of each season, we are able to adapt easier to the seasonal changes and move fluidly from one phase to another. In Chinese medicine and the East, there are five seasons as opposed to the four that we acknowledge in the West.
We are currently coming into the fifth season now known as Late Summer. Late Summer begins in August and goes through the Autumn Equinox in September. Although this 4-6 week period is a short season in comparison to the others, it is an important time of transition between the most yang energies of the Summer Fire and the most yin and contracting energies of the Fall and Winter. Each of the five elements are connected to a season which possesses its own energy. Late Summer is associated with the Earth element which represents abundance, harvest, centering and grounding – think of Mother Earth herself. This is the time fo harvest, to reap the benefits of what we have worked for throughout the year. Nature’s fruits are at their ripest, the soil is of good quality and we produce abundant crops that are nourishing to our bodies. Like nature, we should be enjoying and taking advantage of the abundance by absorbing all that mother nature has to offer us during this time before the colder, yin months ahead.
You can know when Late Summer arrives because this is when people will begin to say with sadness that summer is almost over, the children are returning back to school and we are beginning to see the weather shift. This is a time to begin to slow down, it is a good time to relax, eat fresh foods and enjoy our family and friends. It is a time of balance while transitioning from summer vacation mode to the beginning of fall and winter – and this is also the calm before the holiday storm so to speak. The days are beginning to grow shorter yet there is still light, humidity and afternoon thunderstorms – nature is undergoing its last burst of growth before the fall. The next few weeks are an important time for self-cultivation, centering, grounding and balance. This is an excellent opportunity to nourish our bodies – especially our digestive system.
As we are entering the Late Summer season the following are some tips to maintain balance, nourish your digestive system and create ease and stability as we transition from the yang of the Summer to the yin of the Fall and Winter:
◊ Eat Seasonal, Naturally Sweet and Warm Foods –
Farmer’s markets are in full swing this time of year. The produce is often organic, grown locally and is delicious. The foods that are associated with the Earth element are about creating strength and nourishment throughout the body. Eating warm and cooked foods helps the digestive system not have to work as hard to break it down. Soups and stews are one of the best foods to support the Earth element.
The following foods are great for nourishing our bodies in the Late Summer:
♦ Bone Broth
♦ Congee, Oatmeal or Porridge
♦ Fermented Foods such as: Kimchi, Pickled Vegetables and Sauerkraut
♦ Fruits such as: Apples, Apricots, Berries, Cherries, Dates, Figs, Grapes, Papayas, Peaches, Pears, and Stone Fruit
♦ Herbs and Spices such as: Basil, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Lavender, Nutmeg, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage and Tarragon
♦ Lentils and Legumes such as: Adzuki Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Green Lentils, Mung Beans and Red Lentils
♦ Nuts and Seeds such as: Almonds, Chestnuts, Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds and Walnuts
♦ Organic Meats and Fish
♦ Sweeteners such as: Honey and Molasses
♦ Vegetables such as: Artichokes, Beets, Bell Peppers, Bok Choy, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Green Beans, Mushrooms, Mustard Leaf, Onions, Parsnips, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Turnips, Yams and Zucchini
♦ Whole Grains such as: Amaranth, Barley, Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Millet, Oats, Quinoa, Spelt and Teff
♦ Winter Squashes such as: Acorn, Butternut, Hubbard, Pumpkin and Spaghetti
◊ Don’t Skip Breakfast –
The nutrient qi is at its peak from 7-11am. This is the time of the day when you can most efficiently digest and transform your food to create the energy that you will use throughout the rest of your day. Skipping this vital meal may mean that you will incur blood sugar imbalances and that your body will begin hoard reserves and retain which is not ideal if you trying to maintain or adjust your weight.
◊ Avoid Processed, Refined Sugar and Carbohydrate Filled Foods –
Foods that have refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, excess gluten, processed foods, cheese, greasy fried foods and dairy all create a phenomena which Chinese medicine calls dampness. Damp foods bog down the body systems and create slowness and sluggishness throughout. You may feel foggy brained, unfocused, fatigued or a heavy sensation throughout the body. Excess dampness is like taking a well flowing river evolving into a swamp. As the dampness continues to build within the body it becomes thicker and can create symptoms of weight gain, sinus infections, ADD, ADHD, arthritis, cysts and candida.
◊ Nurture Yourself –
Not only is the expression “You are what you eat” true but “You are what you think” is also true. In the world around us it is easy to feed ourselves a steady intake of negative thoughts and emotions. Our bodies are processing and digesting these as well as our food. Negative emotions and thoughts can directly impact our mental and physical health. An example of this is when we are overly tired or depressed it is much easier to catch a cold. Inner calm and harmony can start with something as simple as being careful not to absorb too much negative news as well as showering yourself with positive thoughts and self love. Try something new and fun, travel to a new destination or journal your thoughts without judgment to see if it helps you to connect to your deeper self.
◊ Connect with Nature –
It is so easy to get busy in our daily routines and work that we lose sight of our connection with nature. While the weather is still warm, take some time each day to walk in nature and reconnect. Find something that grabs your attention and observe it intently. Notice how all of the things around you are energy beings just like you are and feel that connection to them. Try a meditation out in nature or stand on the ground barefoot visualizing yourself sending roots out of the youngquan or bubbling well points in the soles of your feet deep into the earth. Another technique is simply grounding yourself by “Earthing” or walking barefoot outdoors on the dirt or grass. These techniques all help to release any built up energy, worry or stress and allows you to feel a connection to nature and Mother Earth as well as helps to ground and center you overall.
The fundamental belief in TCM’s healing is based on the wisdom that the body is born with the ability to heal itself. TCM believes that prevention is the best cure. Many of the treatments that are available in TCM focus on restoring the body’s balance and harmony as opposed to healing or fixing symptoms. Getting an acupuncture treatment, especially in Late Summer, is one of the easiest ways to stay in balance and prevent illness in the upcoming Fall and Winter months. With that said, the above tips are some great ways for you stay healthy and nourish your body throughout the Late Summer in order to stay in harmony with the current season and prepare for the upcoming ones as well.