The seasonal cycle has moved into late summer, leaving behind the high heat of summer for a season full of the warmth without the intensity of heat or brightness of summer. This time is associated to the Earth element in Chinese Medicine, and it is a season unto itself with a unique energy and function in the cycle of the year. This is the time of ripening of all that has grown and matured throughout spring and summer, a period of abundance and harvest before the decline and decay of autumn and winter. A good harvest means that there will be no scarcity and energy can be preserved during the colder months.
|Earth Element||“During the season between summer and autumn, late summer, the fruits ripen and turn yellow. When they ripen they taste sweet and can nourish […] Qi.”|
NeiJing Su Wen – 1st Century BCE
|Organs||Spleen and Stomach|
|Time of day||7am – 9am|
As always in Chinese medicine, what goes for Nature and the seasons of the year also goes for life’s seasons. Physically and spiritually, this period of late summer is a time for slowing down and gathering in. It is a time when we recognize and hold the fruits of our labour. The earth element grants us the ability to nourish ourselves and this is an especially good time to ensure that we are able to receive and process food but also experiences.
In our bodies, the earth is represented by the stomach and spleen meridians, the organs that receive food and enable us to be nourished. As the process of digestion begins in the mouth, food should be chewed thoroughly and mixed with saliva. Also, icy cold foods and drinks are generally best avoided, as the stomach processes food best at body temperature. In Chinese medicine, the time between 7 and 9 a.m. is the time of peak energy for the stomach, which makes it the optimum time to take in nourishment. So for the ancient Chinese too, breakfast was the most important meal of the day and we should instinctively begin the day with a good breakfast.
On a non-physical level the way information and feelings are taken in and “digested” is also largely a function of the Stomach, seen as the agent who receives and processes emotional and mental “food.” The Spleen and Stomach are associated to mental acuity and if the function of information processing fails to be performed correctly thoughts and feelings can go around endlessly in our heads, leading to poor concentration, excess worry or even obsessions. . Many people with an earth disharmony are famous for “thinking too much”!
We can see that if the Earth element is out of balance, we may be prone to digestive disorders, poor concentration, bloating, thinking too much and worrying, we may feel that we literally “can’t stomach” not just foods, but life’s experiences. At this time of harvest, it is appropriate for us too to pause, center ourselves and take in the fruit of what we have achieved, as big or small as it may be.
TIPS TO STRENGTHEN YOUR DIGESTION
When your digestion runs smoothly, you get the maximum nutrients from your food, which helps keep your body functioning in peak condition.
Drink one or more cups of herbal tea every day. In our culture poor diet and poor digestion are more and more prevalent. The body’s energy and nutrients come from the food we eat but cells cannot absorb these nutritional benefits unless food has been digested, processed, transformed into a useable form. If particles of undigested foods adhere to the inner intestine, this can prevent nutrients from being absorbed properly. There are herbs containing digestive enzymes that have been used for centuries to promote a healthy.
For best digestive benefits, drink one of these teas one hour after every meal:
■ Peppermint: increases gastric secretions, relaxes the intestines, soothes spasms, settles the stomach and alleviates gas.
■ Licorice: thought to have soothing and anti-inflammatory action that help relieve gastro-intestinal irritations.
■ Ginger: soothes the stomach lining and balances gastric juices; also facilitates the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of wastes.
■ Chamomille: excellent herb for settling the stomach. It also soothes the nervous system and relaxes the muscles, making it a perfect evening drink.
■ You can also create your own “digestion blend” from the herbs in your kitchen: steep 1 tsp each of basil, coriander, mint, oregano, rosemary and sage in hot water.
■ If tea is not your thing, you can get digestive benefits from drinking a glass of hot water with fresh lemon juice squeezed in it first thing in the morning (before food). This lemon drink will help cleanse and move the residues from your intestines.
Eat a proper breakfast between 7 and 9am
Your body follows daily rhythms and patterns and certain organs have times of peak activity. According to Chinese Medicine, for the stomach, this time is between 7 and 9 every morning. At this time, our body is most receptive to taking in vital nutrients. It is therefore essential to ensure that you eat a good breakfast every morning. Conversely the stomach is least active between 7pm and 9pm so this is the worst time to have your biggest meal of the day.
To maximise your nutrient intake follow the adage “Breakfast like a King/Queen, lunch like a Prince/Princess, dinner like a pauper”.
Eating foods such as carrot, potato, sweet potato, pearl barley, adzuki beans and adding aromatic spices and herbs to cooking like star anise, cardamom, coriander root, turmeric, cumin, caraway, marjoram and tarragon will help stimulate digestion.
Our digestion is adversely affected by an excessive amount of sweet foods in the diet – reducing sweets and high GI foods like fruit juices will help to improve your digestion.
Acupuncture can be very effective for digestive problems, and combining food therapy to acupuncture increase the effectiveness of the treatments.
Appointments: For acupuncture treatment in Marbella contact Dao Vida