When you think of Summer, you think of long days at the beach, family vacation, enjoying fresh fruit, and overall warmer, or in our case, HOT temperatures.
Summer: The Fire Season
Summer According to Traditional Chinese Medicine is known as the Fire Season. The heart, mind, and spirit are ruled by the fire element, which means summer is a time to prioritize these aspects of yourself.
Fire is symbolic of maximum activity or greatest yang. Summer is the most Yang time of year. It represents the outward expression of energy, expansiveness, movement, and activity.
Summer is the time when life and energies are at their peak.
When the Fire element is in balance, you feel calm, sleep well, and are healthy. If there is an imbalance or you are already yang or ‘fiery’ in nature, as many of us are in the modern world, the fire can burn a little out of control. In TCM, this imbalance is referred to as excess heat in the body or mind and may present itself through symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions such as joint problems, digestive upset, skin issues, headaches, sleep troubles, hot flashes, irritability, anxiety and emotional upset.
Late Summer: The Fifth Season
You’re aware of Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring, but TCM also recognizes a fifth season. Late summer is a season within a season, beginning in August. It’s the time when you shift from the yang energy of summer to the yin energy of fall and winter.
Late summer brings in muggy weather and heat-breaking afternoon thunderstorms. It’s the time when nature undergoes its last burst of growth before harvest time.
The energy of late summer corresponds to the nurturing Earth element. It invites us to slow down and reflect. It’s a time of self-nurturing, self-cultivation and a time to ripen and transform fully.
The Earth element is related to the stomach and spleen. In TCM these organs are responsible for digestion not only of our food, but also of our thoughts, as well as help provide us with energy, or ‘Qi’. If you’ve been overdoing it through the early summer months, these organs may be low on energy, leaving you feeling nauseous or struggling with weight gain, IBS, stomach flu, reflux, digestive upsets, or blood sugar disorders.
In many places, late summer is not only very hot, but also very humid. This increased humidity can lead to ‘dampness’ in the body, and we may find ourselves feeling a deep heaviness, brain-fogged and particularly fatigued as a result. So, this season is an especially important time to relax and rest as we begin to transition into the fall months.
The Late Summer Transition
Late Summer is the time to reconnect and rebalance. If you’re feeling out of sorts as summer ends, implement calming practices and focus on your mental and physical wellbeing. Focus on areas that may need attention or extra care.
Finding Balance in The Summer Heat
It’s a given to drink plenty of water on warmer days, but there are additional ways to hydrate and cool your body.
Sipping coconut water or watermelon juice are great ways to hydrate and keep cool.
Hydrating foods like cucumber, peaches, zucchini, tomatoes, and strawberries, can help clear heat from the body and generate body fluids to keep your body hydrated and replenished.
In TCM, the emotion related to summer and the fire element is joy. The opposite of joy is mania. When dealing with an imbalance of heat in the body, you can experience an imbalance in your emotions and mental state.
Taking the time to relax, calm your mind, and enjoy the season can help to restore balance in your mental and physical health.
Enjoy new foods
In summer, eat cool, yin foods that are moistening to balance the heat. Enjoy more pungent flavors and reduce bitter flavors to strengthen the lungs (the organ responsible for sweat.)
A margarita with watermelon juice and mint or a salad full of raw vegetables are delicious ways to cool down in the summer heat.
The summer brings longer days and warmer nights. Altering your sleep schedule to the rhythm of the season can help you sleep better and balance the body. Wake up earlier, go to bed later, and rest at midday, when temperatures are at their highest.
It’s the perfect time for an Acupuncture and TCM tune-up to help rid the body of dampness, clear heat, increase energy, and increase your Yin to balance any excess heat and calm the mind.
Acupuncture helps to release trapped heat and encourages the movement of qi in the body. If you’re dealing with digestive problems, skin issues, or inflammation, acupuncture can offer relief and restore balance in your body.
In addition to acupuncture, I like to utilize Gua Sha (myofascial release), a treatment that increases local blood circulation and is particularly helpful in releasing trapped heat in the body.
Moxibustion is an ancient practice of thermal heat therapy utilizing the herb mugwort (Ai Ye). Yes – you can use heat techniques to reduce inflammation!
Work with Dana DePaul Ellis
Dana DePaul Ellis, MSTOM, L.Ac is a licensed, board-certified acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine, specializing in women’s health and chronic pain.
Dana supports patients on their paths to optimal health and wellness through personalized, holistic care. Schedule an appointment today if you’re ready to work with a practitioner who listens, takes you seriously, and develops integrative wellness plans designed to help rebalance your mind and body.
The path to feeling better starts here.