Knowing a little about Late Summer and its associated Earth element can help you to optimize your health this time of year and ensure you’re in harmony with the season. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are actually 5 seasons and 5 elements:
- Autumn (metal)
- Winter (water)
- Spring (wood)
- Summer (fire)
- Late Summer (earth)
Qualities of Late Summer and the Earth Element:
- Digestion takes center stage- the organs of digestion (in Chinese Medicine, this is the Spleen and Stomach) are at their peak, and this is seen as the best time of year to address digestive issues. How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Regular mealtimes, chewing your food slowly and with attention, and eating appropriate amounts (not too much or too little) will optimize your digestion.
- Sweet Flavors correspond to the earth element. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can eat cupcakes all day (I wish!), but foods that have a gentle sweetness can be very nourishing this time of year. You’ll also notice that most of these foods have a golden, yellow or brown color. Focus on grains such as rice, millet, farro and barley, fruits like apples and pears as well as root vegetables like butternut squash and summer squash. The emphasis on the sweet flavor doesn’t mean we should only be eating these things, but that naturally sweet foods are especially nutritious and harmonizing.
- Pensiveness and Overthinking are Earth’s mental/emotional qualities, and it can be helpful to take note of whether you’re engaging in this way of thinking. Think of it this way: how are you “digesting” the information that you’re given? Ideally you are processing information in a clear and efficient manner, without overthinking.
- Dampness is associated with Late Summer, because the digestive organs are especially vulnerable to it. Signs of dampness include sluggishness, bloating, sinus congestion, fluid retention and feeling heavy and mentally foggy. If this sounds like a familiar state in your body, avoid damp-producing foods such as dairy, many raw fruits and veggies, refined sugar and fried or overly oily foods (people who tend to feel cold are especially vulnerable to dampness). This can be a great time of year to look at the relationship between your health and your digestion, making adjustments if needed.