As the sweltering heat of summer gives way to cooler weather, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recognizes this transitional phase as its own season: Late Summer. Late Summer, characterized by heat and dampness, is associated with the Earth element and its corresponding Spleen and Stomach meridians. It represents stability, nourishment, and transformation.
The transformative actions of the Spleen and Stomach (and by inference, digestion) play pivotal roles in our overall well-being. If we cannot digest properly, then we are unable to fully integrate and transform what we eat, drink and experience into energy: energy to work, to play, to focus, and to just "be."
In TCM, the Spleen and Stomach transform nutrients from what we eat and drink into Qi and Blood and transport those vital substances to nourish the our physical body. If our physical body is well maintained, then, it is able to house our spiritual and emotional bodies in a healthy manner. When the Earth organs are balanced, we experience healthy digestion, stable energy levels, and clear thoughts. We are grounded and joyful. When the Spleen and Stomach are out of balance, we feel fatigued, forgetful and anxious. Our stomachs may feel bloated, bowels sluggish, and we may even feel nauseous or lack appetite.
To ensure we honor the energy of the Earth element when it's at its peak in Late Summer, here are some steps we can take to harmonize the Spleen and Stomach.
In TCM, foods that are naturally sweet, mild in flavor, and damp-relieving in nature are beneficial during this season. Think of grains like rice and oats, as well as sweet potatoes, carrots, and legumes. Congee (rice porridge) is especially tonifying for the Spleen.
Avoid excessive cold or raw foods, as they can weaken the digestive fire. Foods that are overly and artificially sweetened can also harm digestion.
According to the TCM circadian rhythm, 7 AM to 9 AM is when the Qi travels through the Stomach meridian. This is the best time to harness energy from food, so you should eat a hardy nutrient dense breakfast.
Maintaining consistent daily routines can help stabilize energy and mood during late summer. Consistency with regular meal times, including eating dinner before 7PM, exercise, and sleep are essential for the health of your Spleen and Stomach.
Late summer is a time to reflect on your life and make any necessary changes. Just as the Earth element represents nourishment and support, it's a good time to assess your support systems, both personally and professionally. If you have any relationships, habits or things that no longer serve you, send them off with well-wishes and let them go.
Late Summer is a season of transition and transformation, both in nature and within ourselves. By aligning with the principles of TCM and giving attention to the needs of our Spleen and Stomach meridians, we can achieve harmony during this season and prepare for autumn. Nurturing our bodies during each season can have positive impacts on overall health and vitality.