In Chinese medicine theory, there is a 5th season called Late Summer and corresponds to the Earth element. The earth element corresponds to the spleen and stomach, both in their physiological function and their energetic and spiritual sense. As we transition from one season to the next, it can put pressure on our bodies to follow that transition but if we are not mindful, we may notice adverse effects especially in the digestive system.
In the clinic recently, I have been seeing all manner of digestive issues – bloating, abnormal weight gain, unpredictable bowel movements, sluggish or incomplete bowel movements, constipation, lack of appetite, etc. The role of the stomach is to accept or receive food and drink and then like a compost pile, rotten and ripen to extract or transform what we consume to Qi and Blood. The role of the spleen is to give and nourish the whole body with this nutritious Qi and Blood, and the waste is moved through the intestines and colon through peristalsis. One aspect of digestion that is very important to keep in mind is that food and drink is not all that we digest; we are also bringing in information, thoughts, experiences, other people’s energies and ideas etc. This can begin to really bog down the digestive tract if we are not mindful.
The following is an example of how this could show up…my client cam in because they were feeling as though they had gained weight in the face, neck and mid-abdomen, even though they had been eating less. While chatting, we realized that with a recent promotion at work they had been taking on much more information, people they are now responsible for in the work setting were needing more and more of her time and energy and at the root of this, they have a feeling of giving more than they are receiving. In a case like this, the body gets concerned and begins to store energy in the form of fat in the body which most often shows up in cases like this in the mid-abdomen (but can vary with each individual). The treatment strategy was to relax the nervous system so it is able to release sensations of virtual starvation. We want to encourage nourishment in the stomach and spleen and support the energetic foundation of the kidneys while also releasing aggravated qi in the liver system. We discussed setting boundaries at work and ways to refill their cup outside of work as well.
With a stressed digestive system, we may not be able to harvest the lessons of life and integrate it into our own lives. This means that we may feel as though we are stuck in the proverbial rut and not able to move in any direction to get out of it – worrying away at the same things repeatedly. However, we are not destined to continuously repeat the past, but getting out of this rut requires doing something different! The earth element gives rise to our sensate curiosity, so get curious about what is coming up for you and experiment with what different looks like.
I often am asked what foods can help and in general, we always want to eat for the season. In the late summer, we are beginning to see those beautiful root vegetables coming to ripeness – sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, and ginger. The spleen and stomach crave sweet flavours and these root vegetables when cooked and roasted take on a sweet flavour, which nourishes and moistens the digestive tract. Dates, figs and other dried fruits are also appreciated by the spleen and stomach. The rule of thumb is cooked foods is best at this time of year, so limit raw veggies and cold foods now.
Sending you digestive warmth and a smooth seasonal transition.
With gentle kindness,
Jessica McDonald is a Registered Acupuncturist, and Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist, and is in training for Somatic Experiencing. She has advanced training in Cupping Therapy, Facial Cupping, Medical Qi Gong, Yoga Nidra, Mindfulness Meditation, and much more. Jessica brings calm and gentle attention to each treatment and holds space for everyone to feel welcome and safe. She practices at 2 convenient locations in Calgary – at 360 Brain Body in Marda Loop, SW and from her home clinic in Parkdale, NW. Booking can easily be made through online booking for the Marda Loop location and all other inquiries and to book at the Parkdale location, please contact Jessica directly at email@example.com or 403-606-3372.