Five Elements: Earth - Late Summer is the Season of Abundance

Kathleen's picture

Have you been feeling the shift in the seasons lately? The heat spell of Summer has broken and as the weather is just starting to cool down, it feels like even the molecules in my own body are slowing down. Having a weekend to “do nothing” feels like a welcome respite from the dizzying fun from playing all summer. We have just entered Late Summer which is that beautiful brief time as the Summer is transitioning into Autumn. I’ve outlined some ways to take care of yourself during this season in this post.

 

THE EARTH ELEMENT

In Chinese Medicine, Late Summer is associated with the Earth Element. When I am thinking about the Earth element, I am brought to one of my favorite places. When I moved to Vancouver early this spring, I started a farm with my partner. We have been planting and weeding and toiling for the past six months and all that hard work has paid off because for the past month or so our garden has been gifting us with cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, kale, chard, cabbages, potatoes and carrots. The Earth element is all about welcoming and receiving the abundance that we have cultivated in our lives.

 

EMOTION

Each Element governs an aspect of the emotional and intuitive aspect of human nature. The emotion associated with Late Summer/Earth is Worry. There are no emotions that are considered to be “negative” in Chinese Medicine. Any emotion can be manifested in a healthy and unhealthy way. During its infancy a few thousand years ago, Chinese medicine was developed by philosophers and practitioners who were in direct contact with nature. They assigned the emotion of Worry to the Late Summer season because it is when the Joy of Summer is winding down and thoughts of the upcoming Winter are starting to trickle into our consciousness. The planning that comes with Late Summer is about consolidation. How do we store enough food for the Winter? Do we have enough? It is easy to see if we frame it in this context why Worry is such a big part of our emotional landscape during this time of year. This can manifest as repetitive thoughts that seem to circle endlessly without resolution like a hamster in a wheel. It can also appear like looking at the world through the lens of feeling like the glass is perpetually half empty.

 

ORGANS

The organs of the Earth Element are the Spleen and Stomach which are our two powerhouses of digestion. Late Summer is the time of abundance as reflected through the literal bounty of food that ripens during this time of year. The Stomach’s role is to break down food and the Spleen is responsible for transporting nutrition into the cells.

 

The Stomach and Spleen also have a spiritual role that reflects their physical function. When we eat food, we are taking something that is external to us and integrating it to feed and power our bodies. Similarly, there are external events that happen to us and around us that need to be digested, processed and internalized. In Chinese medicine, the Stomach and Spleen are responsible for digesting experiences and emotions. If there are too many things happening all at once, we get overwhelmed and those organs may need support through acupuncture and herbs.

 

PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE EARTH ELEMENT

  • Digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, nausea)

  • Edema

  • Worry, overwhelm

  • Prolapse (of organs, of spirit)

  • Repetitive or ruminating thoughts that seem to circle without resolution

  • Anemia

  • Excessive menstrual bleeding

  • Amenorrhea

  • Easy bruising

  • Weight gain that is difficult to lose

  • Yeast infections

 

GROUND WITH THE EARTH ELEMENT

  • Chew Your Food: The Organs of Earth are your digesters: the Stomach and the Spleen. Help them out by chewing your food thoroughly. This is especially important when eating foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are plant defense systems to deter animals and insects from eating them. In most antioxidant-rich foods, the more you chew your foods, the more antioxidants are released because the plant thinks it is under attack.

  • Eat Your Breakfast: Turns out, your Mom was right, breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day. In Chinese Medicine, there is an organ clock that represents the time of the day when a particular organ is at its optimum function. The Stomach is responsible for the digestion and breakdown of food and it has the most energy between 7-9am. The Spleen’s function is to assimilate the food that the Stomach has taken in and extract nutrition from it. The time that the Spleen is working most efficiently is between 9-11am. This is why it is so crucial to eat a healthy breakfast loaded with good fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates early in the morning. If your breakfast hits your Stomach between 7-9 am you are harnessing the power of your body’s digestive power. For ideas on healthy breakfast ideas, check out my recipe roundup and Acubalance Fertility Diet video.

  • Start Slowing Down: This is not the appropriate time to start making and breaking ground on big plans. The big planning is best left for the Springtime when energy and momentum feels like it is full of potential. Late summer has a different energy. Look out the window, temperatures are starting to drop from the high heat of the Summer and leaves are just beginning to show signs of color. For those of us who garden, the crops are at its most prolific. So much abundance in fact that we are figuring out ways to store the harvest by canning and pickling. The appropriate energy for this time of year is to bask in the abundance.

  • Hold Boundaries: It is easy to get overwhelmed during this time of year. The kids are going back to school, plans are being made for the holidays. In my own life, there are just too many

darn cucumbers to pickle! If boundaries get loosey goosey, it is easy to grow resentful and develop what I call “Empty Cup Syndrome”. ← Check out this older blog post for helpful tips on how to develop healthy boundaries.

  • Walk Barefoot in Dirt or Grass: Hiking and gardening barefoot has been something that I’ve been intuitively doing for years to feel grounded and calmer. I was so excited to find these research papers (1)(2) demonstrating the health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth. This practice of walking barefoot is called “grounding” and it has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation, speed wound healing, combating sleep disorders and showing a reduction in the perception of pain.

 

EAT FOR LATE SUMMER/EARTH

Check out the recipes section of the Acubalance website for ideas on fun meals to cook at home. During the Late Summer months, it is best to stick to a diet that emphasizes these key points:

  • Soups and Root Vegetables: This is when you should start transitioning from your lighter summer recipes like salads and smoothies into warmer and more nourishing foods for the Late Summer. Root vegetables are chock full of minerals and vitamins that are very grounding to the body and soul.

  • Support your Microbiome: To support your digestive system that might be a bit sensitive during this time of the year, it is a great idea to find foods that are supportive of your microbiome. My favorite homemade microbiome booster is kombucha, but it might be a good idea to add a probiotic to your supplement regiment. Acupuncturist Bronwyn talks more about the microbiome and its role in inflammatory diseases in her blog post here.

  • Avoid Sugar, Dairy and Processed Foods: This goes back to the microbiome discussion because sugar, dairy and processed foods wreak havoc on your beneficial bacteria colony.

 

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