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Late Summer, a time of transition

late summer Earth Chinese medicine

Summer has well and truly ended, school is back (for now) and days are getting colder and shorter. It’s a time of transition as we step away from the carefree and social hot summer energy to the slowing down and turning inward energy of autumn. For some, the transition from one season to another can be hard to navigate, they may find themselves getting sick easily every seasonal shift, while others will be feeling more emotional or unsettled as the seasons change.

Believe it or not, this transition time of late summer is actually a “season” in Chinese Medicine. It is a time associated with the Earth element and it literally has to do with our ability to stay grounded and nourished. It is linked with our digestive tract and our ability to absorb – both nutrients and all that life throws our way. The same way plants (fruits and vegetables) absorb the nutrients from the soil, our digestive system extracts what it needs from food and excretes the rest. If our digestion is weak or depleted, we are not able to absorb the nutrients that the earth is giving us. We can’t absorb what life is giving us.

Someone with an imbalance in this system may experience digestive weakness (no appetite, loose bowels), fatigue, chronically blocked sinuses. They could feel lethargic after eating as their body doesn’t have enough energy to digest the food properly. Other symptoms include being chronically fuzzy headed, struggling to find the energy to get through the day, having difficulty loosing weight or putting weight on. When we are lacking, we may also struggle with feelings of not enough (not enough time, money, food, attention, etc).

Earth is all about nourishment and it is essential to keep this system strong and healthy year round. Luckily there are a few very simple things that can be done to help keep yourself nourished and healthy and your digestive system strong year round.

  • Eat whole foods and limit processed or sugary foods. Whole foods give us what we need to thrive. When we eat processed foods our body isn’t getting nourished and will often tell us this via cravings. As we don’t get what we need, our body will say “maybe if I eat more of that I’ll get what I need”. The problem is, in those moments we often chose foods with no nutrient (junk food, sugary food, fried food or highly processed food), which isn’t nourishing so it’s a vicious cycle. Since those foods are often your “comfort foods” they can be hard to cut out. If so, try eating some nutrient dense food first. For instance if you are craving crisps, have some greens first, and then if you’re still craving crisps have them after. If you are more of a sweet snacker, try to have dried fruit (sweet but high in fibre) with nuts (protein). Chances are your cravings will lessen considerably once you are nourished.
  • Seek balance in your life and activities – activity followed by rest. Stimulation followed by calm. If you have a busy day or are always on the go, make sure to schedule some quiet time.
  • Seek nourishment -for your body, but also your mind and soul. There are many ways to get nourishment/fulfilment in your life, be it through time with friends, being in nature, reading a good book, having a stimulating conversation, making art, dancing, cooking. Try to spend time regularly doing things that nourish you/feed your soul or with people who make you feel comfortable/happy/content.
  • Try and eat warm cooked foods and avoid raw foods or cold drinks. To stimulate digestive enzymes and break down the food for absorption, our body needs to warm up foods to above body temperature. By at least lightly cooking food, our body doesn’t have to work so hard to get nourished.
  • Have plenty of soups: it is one of the best foods to strengthen your digestive tract and by adding in some of the simple food supplements (turmeric, ginseng, astragalus, depending on your physical make up and needs), you can boost your immune system and help prevent seasonal colds and flus and deal with stress in the body.
  • Avoid skipping meals or having coffee on an empty stomach: both will send your system into overdrive and in a state of stress. If you do love your morning coffee try to add something high fat and protein like coconut oil to help balance out the stimulating effects.