Updated: Dec 9, 2020
With strength to lift mountains and spirit to take on the world – Xiang Yu
As the temperature builds so does that awesome Yang dynamic energy of Summer. Summer is a time of movement, invigorated by the warm days we find ourselves inspired to be outdoors and active longer. We make the most of the beautiful mild mornings and long sunlit evenings.
In Australia, the season of Summer coincides with our end of calendar year. This means we
often find the Summer yang energy represented in a flurry of activity. Social engagements a plenty, from end of year work celebrations to catch ups with friends and of course the annual Christmas / New Year hustle and bustle. We find ourselves thrown into a period of overindulgence, there is a distinct lack of attention given to rest and the catch cry “I’m waiting until the New Year” surrounds our intentions around health and vitality.
As hard as it can be to implement, we encourage you to find calm in the chaos that surrounds us. Make a mindful effort to avoid the flurry and instead focus on a healthy progression through Summer. This can be difficult, particularly around the festive time of year. Hopefully, we can help provide you with some insight and (hopefully) inspiration that supports you to make simple changes into your everyday routine. Every small positive choice will serve to keep you healthy and balanced this summer silly season!
So read on, please reach out to us if you have any questions and when in doubt, stay a step ahead of any seasonal imbalances with routine care at Red Bridge.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine approach…
Five Element Theory has featured across many of our blogs and posts, but a refresher is always handy. Five Element Theory forms a significant part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory. It acknowledges that Qi can express 5 different qualities, fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. These qualities are observed not only within us but also in nature. As we shift through the seasons each holds a connection to a specific element which in turn influences the balance of the elements within us.
TCM consider people and nature to be completely intertwined. The shifts in our external environments have a direct impact on our internal environment. Because of this best health is achieved when attention is paid to the subtle changes of the seasons as they transform.
When we do experience periods of excess or deficiency internally in any of the elements then Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can be used to reinstate balance and resolve these disharmonies.
Along with holding a link to an element TCM considers each season to also carry connections to paired Yin and Yang organ meridians, an emotion, and a taste. An awareness of how all of these systems work together to support each other means that we can use this information to best support our bodies.
The FIRE element….
Summer’s pairing with the Fire element will come as no surprise. During this warmer season we see the fire element’s yang expression reflected all around us in nature and within our body. Fire is intense, dynamic, moving and of course warm in nature. It is the spark from which all of life is born.
Because of the inherent heat of the season an excess of fire can be common in Summer. The combination of the external heat of the Australian Summer (hello sunburn) combining with the internal fire and often an exhausted Yin in our body we can often experience imbalance. Physically this can present as fever, headaches, thirst, dry nasal passages, inflammation, and insomnia. Too much fire dries out our internal fluid balance. In the digestive tract this can result in constipation. Fire has an ascending property and tends to commonly affect the upper body. Mouth ulcers, gum problems, dryness in the mouth and red eyes are great examples of an excess of fire within our system.
On an emotional level an imbalance of our fire element can result in agitation and nervous exhaustion. A deficiency of our fire element may be expressed as a lack of joy or depressed mood and when excess there may be a manic nature to joy.
When our fire element is in balance then we experience a calmness of spirit and strong healthy heart. This balance of heart and mind brings true joy and contentment.
The Summer Organ pairings THE HEART and SMALL INTESTINE….
Every season is paired with Yin and Yang organ systems. This means this is the time that their energy is at its peak.
The organs associated with Summer are:
Yin - the Heart
Yang - the Small Intestine
Traditional Chinese Medicine perceive the role of each organ far beyond its physical mechanical function reaching into the spiritual and emotional connections of our organs to our experience of health.
The physical function of the Yin organ the Heart is to govern the blood circulation, it is in essence considered the control centre of all our activity. Poor circulation of blood has a flow on affect to all areas of our health. It is imperative therefore that this process is operating at its optimal level. In addition to this crucial role the Heart in TCM theory houses our ‘Shen’ or spirit and is considered to be the home of our internal harmony. Any deficiency of Heart Qi can in turn result in an unsettled spirit, have an impact on our mental health, cognitive ability, and emotions. If the heart is not in balance, then it is impossible to experience good health.
The Yang organ, the Small Intestine is well known in Western Medicine for its role of digestion and of course elimination and is considered in a similar way in Traditional Chinese Medicine. More emphasis however is given to the part it plays in the eliminator or waste or unnecessary products. In TCM the Small intestine is said to separate the pure and useful from the impure. This is not isolated to the physical act of digestion and nutrients but also the way we absorb and processes information, emotions and events that occur throughout life. Digestion issues, abdominal pain and appetite disturbances are common when imbalances are experienced in the Small Intestine. Due to the Heart connection it is common to experience gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, loss of appetite and stomach pain in association with heartache and stress. With the Heart housing the Shen, clear judgement and mental peace can be impacted by the Small Intestines ability to effectively process the pure from the impure. The gut mind connection is clear as where there is dysfunction of the gut, the Heart will not be able to function correctly, and the mind will also be ill at ease.
Did you know the FIRE element is the only element with 2 extra meridians: Pericardium (yin) paired with the Triple Burner (yang)?
Neither of these meridians house organs but have extremely important functions.
The Pericardium holds the important role of the ‘protector’ of the Heart. It is a shield both energetically and physically. It guards not only against infection, shock, and trauma but also against the energy we allow in and out. The Triple Burner (San Jiao) is the abdominal area divided into three sections, the Upper Jiao which distributes fluids all over the body, Middle Jiao which digests and transports food and drink and Lower Jiao that separates the essences of food into clean and impure, excreting the impure.
A JOYFUL Summer….
The emotion of Summer is Joy. Of course, the experience of Joy is essential to optimal health. When we feel good, we feel good! In clinic when a patient expresses an inability to experience Joy this as a sign of imbalance of the Heart Qi. Other related symptoms to a lack of Joy can include heart palpitations, insomnia, agitation, and anxiety.
Often, we consider illness as a result of a deficiency. Excess can however contribute just as much to ill health.
The key word here is balance. It is probably hard to consider an excess of Joy as a bad thing however consider them in this light: manic episodes, extreme over excitement and other expressions of disturbed Shen. These manifestations may be as simple as an acute migraine or headache experienced after sudden over excitement or elation or more chronic such as ongoing mental health issues and imbalances.
Now bitter is probably not up there as a favourite when it comes to flavours, but it is indeed the flavour of Summer. Bitter is a powerful mover of Qi and enters all Summer’s FIRE organs, it plays a vital role in our health. Brilliant at aiding digestion by encouraging movement it is also be useful to dry and drain. Being overzealous with the use of bitter in your food will dry up Yin fluids and bloods and rob us of Joy (make us bitter ourselves) so be wary of how much you do incorporate this into your diet. Coffee is a good example of an area we overuse the bitter flavour; we love the taste, and we love the ritual. The energetic punch it can give us certainly does not go astray either…. but it is