Staying Healthy in Summer: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

The new growth + reviving energy of spring is now exploding into summer vibrance and abundance. Whether you thrive in the heat or want to melt away, self-care is essential this time of year! We love flowing with the seasons by shifting our food intake and habits to reflect those of the season we're in. This helps maintain balance in the body, and we're going to show you ways to help your body thrive this summer season (our quick summer guide is at the bottom of those post!)

Are you craving colder foods? Are you experiencing joy as the warm sun hits your skin? So are we, and it's because summer is truly here! Our bodies flow with the cycles of the earth and seasons - we interact with these cycles daily, seasonally, monthly, and throughout life! A great example of this is how we crave colder foods in the summer and warmer foods in the winter, because our bodies are aligning us with the earth's seasonal cycles to stay balanced!

Why focus on seasonal changes? The body is affected by and is ultimately a reflection of the environment it's immersed in - season change included. The transition from Spring to Summer is represented by the wood element moving into the fire element. The new growth and budding energy of spring is now exploding into summer vibrance and abundance! The organ system related to the fire element is the heart, so our summer our self-care routine should support a healthy heart and circulatory system. The heat and fire of summer allows us to recharge the energies used to nurture detoxification and release during the spring, and being the season of growth and maturation, we can truly blossom in the summer just as the plants do!

T C M  S U M M E R. 

With every season comes a corresponding set of organs (one yin and one yang, for balance), taste, and emotion. Summer is special because it can be divided into Summer, and Late Summer - both of which are governed by organ systems and elements.

Summer's Yin organ is the Heart, which is responsible for maintaining internal peace and harmony. The Yang organ paired with the Heart is the Small Intestine. In Western medicine, the small intestine is seen as supporting digestion, assimilation + elimination - it's where most of our nutrients from food are absorbed, where we separate out the pure which we need and impure which can be discarded by our bodies. In TCM, the Small Intestine separates the pure from the impure. Physically, it separates the pure nutrients from our food and drink, and effectively eliminates the waste. Emotionally, it separates the nourishing parts of our daily interactions with others and eliminates indigestible parts from our conscious experience, allowing us to make decisions about our relationships!

Then we transition into Late Summer, where we celebrate the abundance that summer brought and continues to bring in the form of nourishing our relationships as well as they physical harvest of things grown earlier! Late summer is governed by the Earth Element with corresponding organs of the Spleen and Stomach! The Spleen makes our body's Qi (energy) and blood, both of which are vital in staying healthy by transforming the food we eat into energy and transporting it throughout the body.

F I R E  E L E M E N T.

Fire is brilliant and inclusive. Like Summer, it is abundant with the growth of flowers + plants, and long full days full of vibrant life. Physically within us, Fire is humour, affection, joy and imagination.

IN BALANCE. Physically when the fire element is balanced, the heart properly circulates blood and insures proper nutrient absorption of the breakdown of food in the small intestines. Emotionally there is balance between sensitivity, expression, and feeling true fulfillment. The equilibrium between heart and mind are our greatest rewards. 

IMBALANCE. What does imbalance of Fire (in the Heart and Small Intestine) look like?

  • Excessive, or lack of, perspiration
  • Rashes + hives
  • Sleep disturbances. Insomnia + restless sleep
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Anxiety, irrational fears and phobias

E A R T H  E L E M E N T.

Earth is the element of Late Summer the time after the peak of hot summer days when we are in the hazy days of summer, easing into fall. Within us Earth is family and friends, the components of meaningful life that we create and nurture! During this time we celebrate the abundance of summer to nourish our body and mind, focusing on our digestive system, nourishment + stability. Late Summer's organ system is the Stomach and Spleen. 

IMBALANCE. Meditation and calming the mind are very important for supporting spleen health, because the emotion associated with the spleen is worry. The Earth Element is also associated with dampness which looks like humidity + heaviness + phlegm. Symptoms of too much dampness can be:

  • Physical + mental fatigue
  • Worry
  • Digestive problems (weak/slow digestion, IBS)
  • Muscle weakness

I N  P R A C T I C E.

Now that we've chatted about the organ systems associated with the Summer + Late Summer seasons, here is our guide to thriving during these hot days to make the most of the bright, abundant season ahead! 

SYNC UP YOUR SLEEP. Aligning your sleep schedule with seasonal changes will help you have the most energy throughout your day. In the summer, take advantage of the long days by rising early, resting in the afternoon, and staying up later. This practice will help keep balance within your circadian rhythm by rising and resting with the sun's cycle, and you can get the benefits of being the sunshine before the UV is too high!

EAT SEASONALLY. In these hotter days, we look to foods that have cooling properties, are nutrient dense, brightly-coloured + hydrating to offset the summer heat. This is the perfect time to add more raw foods to our diet, since they are so cooling to the body.

  • apricots
  • bananas
  • apples
  • GREENS! kale, bok choy, collard greens, endive, arugula
  • celery 
  • cantaloupe + watermelon
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes
  • citrus
  • peaches
  • cucumber
  • zucchini
  • asparagus
  • water chestnut
  • corn
  • snow peas
  • mint 
  • parsley

HERBAL TEA. Maintaining balance is all about clearing excess heat, nourishing fluid balance in the body, and replenishing depletion! The colour of summer is red, and herbal iced teas that are red are very beneficial, especially for heart health - easy enough to remember! Hibiscus + rooibos are two great options!

HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE! How do you keep a fire from growing too much? Adding water! This same principle applies to maintaining balance in the Summer heat. Dehydration has a lot to do with electrolyte + mineral depletion rather than actual water intake. Another great way to support hydration and keep our nutrient levels balanced during hot and busy summer days is IV Vitamin Therapy - learn more here!

Try coconut water on hot days or adding a pinch of sea salt to your water to replenish those electrolytes and help re-hydrate. TCM also recommends watermelon juice for cooling the body and cleansing the system.

ACUPUNCTURE. Acupuncture quickly and effectively invites change and balance in our body. No surprise here, that acupuncture is our #1 go-to for self-care, especially with regards to seasonal change. Points to balance the "fire element" and boost the health of its corresponding organ pair, the Heart and Small Intestine, become essential during these steamy summer days! In Late Summer, since the emotion of dominance is worry, we certainly recommend acupuncture to support healthy flow of Qi and relieve any symptoms of anxiety, worry, or nervousness! Learn more about acupuncture at EASTND - in Charlottetown and Moncton!

ENGAGE YOUR SENSES. Summer comes with an abundance of colours, sounds, and smells all begging to be experienced! We recommend:

  • Feeling the grass! Go outside barefoot + feel the grass under your feet
  • Listening to the sounds of nature. The sounds of birds and crickets in the early morning, the ebb + flow of the ocean at the beach.
  • Smelling the flowers! Practice slowing down and breathing in the scents of the season.
  • Tasting fresh fruits and vegetables! Summer fruits are so brightly flavoured.

EXERCISE. Heart health and exercise go together like summer + watermelon!!! Try to get your cardio rate elevated and build a sweat to help cleanse toxins from the body. Exercise is always relative to the individual - don't push yourself too hard! If upping your cardio rate begins with walking, then walk daily - fast enough to break a sweat. If running is more your jam, try to fit it into your morning or later in the day so that you are not pushing yourself while the sun is at its peak! While this is the season for the heart to thrive, it's also vulnerable in the heat. Give the heart muscle a good workout to keep your cardiovascular system strong, but don't overdo it!

ESSENTIAL OILS. Remember balance. Hot weather = cooling oils! Peppermint and geranium are excellent summer pals. For Late Summer we recommend patchouli to help any symptoms of dampness. Grapefruit is uplifting to help relieve worry, and neroli helps to "tonify" the spleen to relieve worry + ease anxiety, as well as calm a nervous stomach!

ENJOY LIFE + FILL YOUR CUP. The hot + sunny days of summer invite the Fire in us to come out and play, to experience joy + laughter! Do things that will fill up your cup and give you a happy heart! Things like spending time with friends and family, going to the beach, engaging with community events are all great ways to nourish the social aspect of summer and replenish our joy!

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