Chinese Medicine divides the year into five, not four, seasons. Late summer begins around mid-August and ends with the September solstice. Just like all of the other seasons, its unique weather affects our internal environment. Late summer is the dampest time of the year. If our systems are susceptible from fatigue, stress or illness, we can experience symptoms like runny noses, aching joints, and foggy thinking. How can we resolve dampness, as we say in our treatment protocol? In acupuncture, we use a clinical strategy of needling certain points, doing gua sha, and/or using moxibustion. But there are ways to tweak our lifestyle that will greatly help as well. Here are some tips on keeping healthy at this time of year.
Diet: Avoid complex sugars and greasy foods. The spleen and stomach are the organs associated with late summer. Digestion becomes more difficult if they are weak. Eat the natural sweets of the season: peaches and cherries, squash and tomatoes. This is the season to eat light. Try simple pasta dishes topped with sautéed peppers and tomatoes from the garden and some Parmesan cheese. This is a great time of year to try new recipes, using the abundant harvest from local gardens.
Exercise: Move. Get your circulation moving to resolve the phlegm that can stagnate in the joints and elsewhere in the body. Choose something you like: perhaps fast walking, yoga, biking, or tai chi. Just make it a point to move for a good 45 minutes to an hour daily.
Emotions: The spleen is associated with earth energy in the five-element system of Chinese medicine. When it is healthy we experience groundedness, or a feeling of belonging right where we are. The spleen helps us sense the certain quiet or not-so-quiet purpose in our lives. When the spleen organ system is over-taxed, we worry. We think too much (dipping into pensiveness), and our thinking can become obsessive. This is a good time to begin to rethink our routines. What can we add or take away that will bring our lives into balance? It is a great time to nourish our connectedness by getting together with friends, family and colleagues. Out of our usual routines, we can enjoy the last days of summer together.
One last thought: The spleen is the organ associated with nurturing and caring for others. ‘Taking care of the world,’ as many are prone to do, is not necessarily in our best interest if we give more than is available. Late summer is a good time to focus on what we need to do for ourselves. Then, our help for others can flow from a healthy and balanced center.