Living in harmony with the seasons is at the core of Traditional Chinese wisdom. When we live in a way that goes along with nature and our environment, we cultivate our health and longevity. Eating foods which are in season, expending or conserving energy appropriate to the season, and attending to specific organ systems during certain times of year are examples of ways in which we can live in accordance with nature.
June 20th marked the first day of summer. I always loved summer for its carefree attitude and its abundance of my favorite fruits and veggies. When I was a kid, I enjoyed being outside and the feeling of weightlessness while floating in a cool body of water on a hot day. We swam, climbed trees, and sucked nectar out of the honeysuckle growing in the yard. When the sun finally went down, there were fireflies to catch lightly in our hands to put in a jar or set free back into the night. Summer is a magical time. It represents the outward expression of energy, expansiveness, movement and activity. Life and energies are at their peak and it's during this time that we can fully sit back and enjoy all that we have been cultivating throughout the spring and winter.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) associates summer with the color red, the element of fire, the heart organ, and the emotion of joy. In summer we should be filled with joy and happiness. This is how we know that the heart energy is balanced in us. Mental activity is associated with the heart, and therefore memory, thought processes, emotional well-being and consciousness are attributed to the heart and fire element. When the fire element is in balance, the heart is strong and healthy, the mind is calm and sleep is sound. When the fire element is imbalanced, we may either lack joy (depression) or have an excess of joy (mania). Some indicators of an imbalance in the fire element may include agitation, nervousness, heartburn, and insomnia. Here are some simple tips to help you keep balance in your health during the summer season.
- Stay hydrated, but skip the ice: Everyone knows how important it is to stay hydrated, but drinking water without ice is a tough one in the summer when you just want to cool down. Iced drinks and a lot of cold, uncooked food can actually be harmful to your digestive system. Iced and frozen drinks can send a cold shock to your stomach, thereby harming it's functioning in the long run. Drinking liquids warm or at room temperature is ideal. You can spike your water with cucumber, mint, lemon, or watermelon for a more cooling effect on your body. Just take out or limit the ice.
- Pick up some watermelon: Watermelon is a Chinese herbal remedy for summer heat. It helps cool you down and also helps with digestive functioning when there is heat. You can either eat it as is or have it as a yummy juice. A bunch of my pregnant lady patients like to drink this one as their summer cocktail, to help cool them down while their body has the added warmth of another tiny body. Watermelon is also a helpful remedy for summer heat rash.
- Eat these foods: The bitter, sweet, and pungent flavors are beneficial in summer. Foods with these tastes clear heat, benefit digestion, and clear dampness in our bodies. Eating lighter and more frequently is a good idea, and substituting fish for the heavier meats of winter such as beef and lamb is the way to go. Include Apricot, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, lemon, peach, cucumber, orange, asparagus, sprouts, bamboo, bok choy, broccoli, corn, white mushroom, snow peas, spinach, watercress, seaweed, mung beans, cilantro, lotus root, bean sprouts, and fish. Eat what is fresh and in season.
- Go to bed late and wake up early: Because summer is the season of expansion and vitality, you will benefit from going to bed a little later and waking earlier, taking full advantage of the sun's nourishment. Be sure to take a break in the summer. With a little less sleep and increased activity, it is important to make sure to slow things down. Daily, make sure to take some time to rest your mind and body in the afternoon. And if you have some time to take a vacation, now is the perfect time. Your heart will be happy!
- Carry a thin scarf: This one probably sounds weird, but have you ever suffered from a summer cold? Our bodies were designed to acclimate to the time and temperature of our natural surroundings. These days we go from being in the heat of the outdoors to air-conditioned spaces which can be down right frigid. According to TCM, influences that make us catch a cold often enter at the back of the neck. This is something you should look out for if you live in a windy place or if you are simply prone to catching colds. It's a vulnerable area so covering the back of your neck when you go from hot to cold will help you avoid getting sick.
I hope you find these tips helpful and I wish you an abundant and joyous summer! Call me for an appointment if you're due for a summer balancing treatment! 617-308-6620