A Healthy Late Summer with Chinese Medicine
Updated: Oct 28
Life somehow starts on that Indian summer, when leaves dance to kiss the ground, filling the earth with stars and the rustling of leaves beckons me to wander and get lost in its beauty." ― Mystqx
The dog days of summer are here. Eastern traditions consider this it’s own unique season. Late Summer begins around the third week of August and runs through the Fall Equinox (Sept 22nd). During this time, all of nature is swelling to a final crescendo before pivoting to Autumn. Returning home from travels away, we can utilize this vibrant energy to launch into a new school year, return to work, begin novel projects. This unique season offers a middle space - a moment between the expansive growth of spring/summer and the more inward movements of fall/winter. Late Summer is a span of suspension, just before the pendulum reverses its swing.
To align with Late Summer and channel its bounty, we can calibrate our lifestyle, diet and energetic awareness to do just that. We can use this time to fully digest past experiences, cull what's worthwhile and release what’s just "so last season." We can intentionally harness the ample Qi of Late Summer to ripen and transform physical health and personal aspirations.
Unlike the Fire element of early Summer, Late Summer is associated with the Earth - the center, sustenance, abundant resources. It’s a time of enrichment and harvesting. The vibrations of Late Summer home to the center of our beings as well. Namely, to the Stomach and Spleen - organs that metabolize the outer and the inner; building the energetic and physical foundation upon which we live.
Just as Nature relies upon the Earth for nourishment, our being depends upon the Earth energies of digestion to support our physical and emotional wellbeing. We are continuously metabolizing sights, sounds, foods, beverages, speeds, emotions, sensations, seasonal shifts and so on. Maintaining balance of the Earth inside provides the foundation for robust health and vitality. If there is an imbalance in the Earth element, you may notice fatigue, feeling more worried, blood sugar issues, low or increased appetite, weight gain and/or nausea. If your Stomach and Spleen are in harmony then your digestion will naturally improve during this season.
Ideal Late Summer dietary recommends include foods and habits that nourish the Stomach and Spleen. In Chinese Medicine, the role of the Stomach is to receive and absorb food. The role of the Spleen is to transform and transport the vital nutrients from food throughout the body. Even though it’s still warm out, I will probably always beseech you to avoid or limit raw and cold foods and beverages. This includes smoothies and salads. Opt instead for a warm, cooked meal or heated leftovers. The body loves foods that it doesn’t have to bring up to temp before digesting. If it has to heat food up, there’s less Qi available for proper digestion and assimilation.
Because Late Summer is associated with sweet flavors, drinking or eating lightly sweet things nourishes the Earth element (Stomach and Spleen). This means a few slices of pear or watermelon. Not a Slurpee. Too much sweet can actually tax the digestive system and leave you feeling heavy or fatigued - think post sugar spike. As always with Chinese Medicine, it’s all about balance.
Foods that support the center are often mildly sweet, golden or yellow, and round in shape. If you’re friendly with starches - millet, corn, white and sweet potatoes, squash, and white rice are all more easily digestible and supportive during this season. Maybe whip up a batch of Kitchari - a marvelously nourishing, cleansing porridge of yellow moong dal and basmati rice. For the omnivores, fish and small amounts of beef are recommended. Pro-tip: smaller portion sizes aid in digestion, as does chewing each bite well.
Consistent exercise also supports the Earth element and helps keep Qi, blood and body fluids circulating optimally. Exercise helps us to strengthen the body, integrate and process thoughts and emotions more easily, and flows stuck patterns that can otherwise lead to somatized discomfort/pain, stress, and mental rumination or psychological duress.
Right on cue, Late Summer and the Earth element are linked with worry and over-mentation. So. Quieting and mindfulness practices can go a long way at this time. During Late Summer, we may be more susceptible to uncertainty or disquiet. Intentionally balancing emotions and releasing habits of over-thinking can transcend us from a season of potential doubt and fixation to one of masterful growth and expansion. Meditation, body-scanning, tai qi, qi gong, yoga, focusing on the breath for ten counts, diverting attention to an engaging activity, identifying what we do and don’t have control over, taking a first action towards a solution, etc.
Since Late Summer is all about fortifying the center (Earth) to flow through Fall, enjoy practices that enliven your authenticity within and with others. I personally have a list of favorite activities taped to the fridge - most are informed by my inner teen. Dancing, roller-skating, thrifting, beading, saying hi to animals, and so on. I make sure to do at least one fun thing per week. Daily practices like exercise, meditation and journaling also help to ease the mind and keep emotions in balance. Supporting others and being of service is rewarding, and, be sure to do so without over-extending. When we care for others we often pour from the earth/center solar plexus area. Be mindful of that. Make sure that your feet are grounded and you are replenishing your stores as needed.
While Late Summer is a short season, it can also be one of potent transformation - just think of all of these storms a-brewin' and blown' through. The potential for dramatic change is another reason to ground and replenish - so that these climactic shifts don’t toss us off center. Picture a glorious stalk of bamboo - it's firmly and deeply rooted into the earth, and its tensile strength is malleable enough that it bends with the wind without breaking. This is what we are going for. Cultivate suppleness in mind and body and become more intentional about what to take in and release - on a nutrient level and emotionally and energetically as well. So. For example, if scrolling social media leaves you feeling restless or activates ADHD (me! hi), maybe set scrolling aside for a stroll outside, tend to some plants, hit up a museum. Read another one of my blog posts. Whaaat? There are a zillion resources for self-care and mental wellbeing. Find what works best for you.
The more we can leverage the unique potency of this season the better we are setting ourselves up for some delightful dog days and a brilliant start to Fall. As always, I'm here to support you in any way that I can. If you’re feeling out of sync and/or would just like a friendly ear and energetic attuning, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m easy to find via email firstname.lastname@example.org and by texting or calling 917 519 2432. Loves xx