Do the seasons and the weather impact you?
According to Traditional Oriental Medicine, the cycle of the seasons has more influence on your health than you may think. Five thousand years ago Chinese physicians developed a philosophical and practical approach to healing called the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water). This unique concept and diagnosis system governs the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of human beings. In addition the five elements identify stages of trans-formation, patterns of expansion and contraction, proliferation and withering.
The theory of the Five Elements has correspondence to colors, flavors, tastes, organs, systems of the body, patterns of disease, and every aspect of human life. It also symbolizes the continuity of life, and integrates human activity with the natural rhythms of the universe.
So what exactly does the summer element in Traditional Oriental Medicine represent?
Traditional Oriental Medicine teaches us the summer season is associated with the fire element. It is a time when nature is at its maximum growth. The organs governing this element are the heart, the small intestine, as well as the functions of circulation and heating in the body. It is associated with the color red, and bitter flavor. It is a time when nature is at the peak of its growth.
The heart is not only the physical organ that lies in the chest and propels the blood, but also the spirit, or “shen” representing the universal consciousness into which we grow and expand.
Just as the sun provides warmth and light for all creation, so the heart – the root of life and intelligence – permeates warmth in human relationships, enthusiasm, passion, compassion, and fulfillment.
The heart gives rise to our capacity for perception, feelings, love, joy, awareness, discernment, communication, and memory.
The heart also links us to a higher intelligence and creativity through an intuitive domain where spirit and humanness merge.
Here are some tips for preventing imbalances with the fire element this summer
Dietary recommendations to keep you cool and balanced all summer long:
Fruits and vegetables: Eat Watermelon, Apricot, Cantaloupe, Lemon, Peach, Orange, Strawberry, Grapes, Lemon, Asparagus, Sprouts, Bamboo, Bok choy, Broccoli, Chinese cabbage, Corn, Cucumber, White mushroom, Snow peas, Spinach, Summer squash, Watercress, Seaweed, Mung beans, White lentils, Cilantro, Mint, and Dill, Dates, Lychi berries, Roasted Sesame seeds and sesame oil to nourish the heart.
Summer Spices: Add a little spicy, pungent flavor to your cooking. Cayenne, various peppers, fresh ginger, horseradish are good in the summer. It is important to not overdo these foods as they can eventually be too dispersing.
Summer Beverages: Add lemon juice and cucumber to your water.
Peppermint tea, rosehip and chrysanthemum teas make great summer heat quenchers.
Other Helpful Dietary Tips for the Summer Season
- Eat in moderation. Over consumption of any food, especially cooling foods, can lead to indigestion, sluggishness and possibly diarrhea.
- Cut down on dairy products, heavy, greasy, fried foods. Eat moderate amount of red meat and chicken as it can increase internal heat.
- Zucchini, citrus fruits, soy products, kelp, white or green vegetables are good for clearing heat. If you are prone to heat rash avoid warm or hot foods such as: chicken, prawns, lobster, mussels, spicy and fried foods, peanuts and alcohol.
- Eat iced drinks and ice cream in moderation. Summer heat combined with too much cold food or drink weakens the digestive organs.
Prolonged exposure to heat and insufficient body fluid can result in heat exhaustion. Dehydration can stress the heart and impair the kidneys’ ability to maintain the correct level of fluids and balance of electrolyte.
Preventative tips for heat exhaustion:
- Pace yourself when working outdoors, exercising or just having fun.
- Carry water with you and sip it throughout the day. Keeping yourself hydrated is important.
- Drink power drinks that have potassium and electrolytes such as Gatorade. Watermelon juice cools and cleanses the system; it clears summer heat and acts as a natural diuretic.
- Avoid drinks with large amounts of sugar.
- If you feel dizzy quit your activity and get out of the sun fast. Drink cool, not cold water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in it. The vinegar helps to replace electrolytes and minerals.
- Take a cool bath for 15-20 minutes. Try to submerge as much of your body as possible.