Chinese Medicine divides the year into five seasons, not four. This time of year, called “Late Summer”, begins around mid-August and ends with the September solstice. Late summer’s unique weather affects our internal environment. August and September are the dampest times of the year. If our systems are not running efficiently, we can experience foggy thinking, depression, excess mucous like runny noses, and joints that ache more than usual.
If a patient comes in presenting with these symptoms after our intake, I use a specific combination of acupuncture points along with targeted tuina (Chinese massage), cupping and guasha. This will help to “resolve the phlegm”.
Along with an actual treatment I make lifestyle suggestions to support what we have done in the office.
Diet: The spleen and stomach are, according to Chinese Medicine, the organs associated with late summer. They work harder at this time of year. Digestion becomes more difficult if they are weak. One way to strengthen them is to avoid excess sugar and greasy foods. Instead, indulge in the natural sweets of the season: peaches and cherries, squash and tomatoes. This is the season to eat light. A simple favorite meal of mine is brown rice, sweet potatoes, a few greens and some avocado. Switch up your diet using the abundant harvest from local gardens.
Exercise: Moving helps to get rid of the phlegm that can get stuck in the joints, tissues and muscles. Get up from your computer regularly, walk out the door (if you can) walk briskly for 10 or fifteen minutes, then come back. Do a few stretches before sitting down. Overcome inertia by scheduling some time in for a swim, a yoga class, or look up some local classes in movement in your area or on zoom. The woman next door to me swears by her morning zoom class before sitting at her desk to work remotely all day.
Emotions: The spleen is the organ that does the most work in late summer: an overtaxed spleen results in worry, a vibrant spleen manifests in clear focus and thinking. How can we help this? Cut out the habits that sap energy and replace them with habits that feed energy to your body/mind. Talk with someone if you are not clear or need some courage to change.
One last thought: The spleen represents earth energy and is the organ associated with nurturing and caring for others. It is not in our highest and best interest to care for people and tasks that really do not need us. This takes some discernment. Late fall, the fifth season, is a great time to determine what people and jobs really need our attention. The necessary ones tend to give you energy, not take it away.
Late summer is a good time to think about how we can care for ourselves. Then, our help for others flows with a natural and healthy rhythm that ends up fortifying us.