In the Nei Jing or the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine (written over 2000yrs ago), Huang Di states: "From ancient times it has been recognised that there is an intimate relationship between the activity and life of human beings and their natural environment." In Traditional Chinese culture living in harmony with the seasons is recognised as fundamental to good health, longevity and well being. My purpose of this quarterly news letter is to educate and give tips on how you can optimise health with the seasons. What foods to look for, how to flow with your circadian cycle, how to move and relax your body, what thoughts and mindfulness practices we should do. When "we" (Chinese Medicine practitioners) talk about seasons we term it "5 elements", these elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each one corresponds to a season, organ, temperature, colour, emotion, food and so much more. Summer is the fire element and we recognise it as a time of warmth, expansion, growth and abundance. When heavenly energy descends and earthly energy ascends. The corresponding organ is the heart which governs circulation, sleep, memory, emotions, is passionate and has enthusiasm for life, there is laughter and joy. The qualities of this element will be more strongly expressed at this time of year.
Foraging for mulberries to nourish my yin, yum!
Summer is a time to enjoy the beach and sun, but as much as exposure to sun is healthy and a good source of vitamin D, overexposure in the peak times of the day can, like anything too hot, scorch and burn. Avoid the hottest parts of the day and keep your exposure to the morning or afternoon. Cover up, wear a hat and stay hydrated. If you do catch too much you can cool yourself down and clear the excess heat with the white rind of watermelon. I know, we always discard it right! Just munch on a nice big slice.
Why do "we" tell you to avoid ice cold drinks and ice cream? Because it causes dehydration and overheats you! It may give instant gratification but when you consume such cold things inside your digestive tract it causes contraction and the blood vessels to shrink, this inhibits digestion, slowing down absorption of nutrients as the body has to spend time regulating temperature instead, it also solidifies fats if consumed with your meal making it harder for them to be digested. Compare this with warm water which stimulates digestive enzymes, making food easier to break down and hydrating your body.
At this time of year the sun goes to bed later which means so can we, but still rise early! Regularity with your sleep cycle keeps the heart in balance as well as detoxify and rejuvenate you for the next day.
Be mindful of your emotions, let go of grudges, anxiety over the future and surfacing negative thoughts. In balance the heart element is a peaceful mind, enthusiastic, joyful, passionate and full of vitality, out of balance it can be an overactive mind, gloomy, spiritless, no or excessive laughter, burnt out and lifeless. Spend time with friends, nurture connections, intimacy, communication and joy. Laugh. Spend time around water to cool fire down.
Exercise boosts circulation making sure adequate nutrients and oxygen reaches all the cells. Summer is a time to release and open the body and choose exercises that stretch the ligaments and open the joints. Avoid heavy exercise between 11am and 1pm as this is when fire is at its peak. If you heavily sweat or have a red face be cautious when it's too hot.
One of the best things you can do for your health is to eat seasonally and summer is a time of an abundance of fruit and veg. This is a time when our diet should be considerably higher in fruit and veg to stimulate the appetite and supply plentiful fluids. Enjoys foods like: cooling and colourful avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, asparagus, celery, aubergine, leafy greens, cabbage, olives, mint, seaweed, coriander, dill, pear, sandia, grapefruit, lemon, apple, banana, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, mulberries, fish, clams, duck, barley, chrysanthemum, mint, chamomile and green teas. Balance moderately with hot spices: hot peppers, cayenne, fresh ginger, black pepper, horseradish. Avoid cold foods: cold causes contraction and holds the heat in. Avoid rich heavy meals. Avoid too much salty and sweet.
Make choices that maintain the integrity of your health.
Reach towards a calm and focused mind in all areas of life.