Summer and Your Health: Put Your Plan into Action

by Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-founder and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

Ahh! Finally!  Summer is almost here!  While spring is a time to start planting seeds for our plan for this year and to start to see them grow, summer is about abundance and happiness.  We see the fruits of our labor flourish.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the summer season. How does the season affect your overall well-being? What can you do to ensure good health in the summer?

According to TCM, the element of summer is fire.  Our organ systems most affected are the heart and small Intestine systems. The emotion associated with these organs and therefore summer, is joy.  While these are the areas that are ripe to be nurtured and flourish in the summer, they are also the ones that can end up falling out of balance the most easily during the season.  Just as gardens must be weeded with care if our fruits and vegetables are to grow well, we must also give extra attention and care to the parts of ourselves most affected by the season.

First, let’s look at the element of Fire.  Fire is the most Yang of the elements.  When we think of Fire, we think of heat, outgoingness, and expression.  We want to cultivate this fire within us, but not to excess. We should keep this in mind when we think of how we are taking care of ourselves.

As opposed to winter where we hibernate and rest, summer is a time of going out and having funThe key for good health in the summer is connection.  We should be meeting with friends and family because that love connection nourishes our hearts.  Like the spring, this is an exciting time, and staying indoors will suffocate the heart and promote depression.

When the heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we enjoy peaceful sleep. A balanced heart is also more motivated to engage in cardiovascular activity.  So, if you’re feeling unmotivated or experiencing restless nights, these may be indications of imbalance. Agitation, nervousness and insomnia are also indicators that the heart may be imbalanced.  In this state, making a few key changes can make all the difference.

Another thing to keep in mind is summer’s effect on existing conditions. One thing that my patients will hear me say often is that our bodies, and minds, are a microcosm of the world we see around us. People will complain of aches and pains being more pronounced when it is cold and rainy outside.  They are often disappointed when I tell them it is because the weather is exacerbating the already present dampness in their bodies.  In the summer, it gets hot.  That heat is also can also show up within our bodies and minds as rashes and agitation.  So, we need to be proactive to keep that in balance.

Below are some recommendations to help you achieve or maintain summer time balance:

To nourish the Heart, we want to clean up our diet.  In regards to foods, eat lots of red foods as red is the color of the fire element.  The taste of the fire element is bitter.  Bitter foods stimulate the Heart Qi so try adding bitter foods into your diet.  Examples of bitter foods are dandelion greens, coffee, wild cucumber, and asparagus.

Some examples of other foods that are good for the summertime but may or may not necessarily be specifically beneficial to the heart include: watermelon, cucumber, corn, mint, dill, watercress, lemon, and green leafy vegetables.  It is not coincidence that many of us have always enjoyed these foods during the summer.  They keep you cool by releasing excess heat from your body and nourishing your Yin.  Drink from a glass of lemon, mint, or cucumber infused water by you as much as you can.  Try to avoid greasy and heavy foods.  Eat in moderation and try not to become too full, especially if you still have daytime activities to perform.

We require less sleep in the summer, so don’t be afraid to stay out with friends a little later.  At the same time, try not to sleep in so late in the morning.  This may be a good time to try introducing early morning exercise especially since it will start getting hotter as the day goes on.

If you get tired, try to take a rest in the middle of the day.  Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  Remember that Fire is heat so you may be more susceptible to dehydration.  Also, try to avoid conflict that would make you angry.  Stay even-tempered.  Don’t worry, be happy should be your mantra.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and I hope you enjoy the new season.  Remember to visit your acupuncturist regularly to prevent illness and injury.  Please try to eat locally.  It not only helps out local farmers but the food will be in season and in tune to you and your surroundings.

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