Summer – The Fire Element
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Summer
Organs: Heart, Small Intestine
Summer is the element of fire, the most yang season of the year. It is a time of heat, and increased metabolisms. It represents expansion and growth and encourages outgoingness. It is also a time of moving forward, getting outside and being in nature. The Fire element gives enthusiasm, vitality, and energy. Fire is also the energy of creativity and intuition.
The heart, mind and spirit are ruled by the fire element and are therefore most affected by this season. In Arizona, we experience harsh heat and dryness, more so than most other places. Because of this, extra care should be given to the heart, mind and spirit during this season. We will cover some ways in which you can do that.
The fire element is at its most active between the hours of 11:00am and 1:00pm for the heart. The small intestine is most active between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. Therefore, if you tend to get more tired or emotional during these times or feel more energized, it can be an indication of balance or imbalance in these organs.
In Chinese medicine, mental activity is also associated with the heart. This includes memory, thought processes, emotional well being and consciousness. This is a time to nourish and calm our minds, and to realize our life’s greatest potential.
When the fire element is in balance, the heart is strong and healthy, the mind is calm and sleep is sound. When the fire element is strong you will be charismatic and sociable and enjoy conversing and interacting with others.
When fire energy is weak or out of balance, a person may suffer from anxiety, stress and insomnia. They may be too excitable or prone to excess emotion. One may stutter, talk too much and too rapidly, or laugh nervously. One can also be cold-natured and emotionally disconnected.
Some common illnesses related to fire imbalance include:
• Heart palpitations
• Chest pain or pressure
• Irregular heartbeat
• Sores or ulcers in the mouth, particularly on the tip of the tongue.
How Acupuncture can Balance the Heart Energy
In Chinese medicine we always seek balance, in nature as well as within the human body. As the Fire element is predominant in our environment, its complementary element, Water, is needed. If the Fire element in our body, represented by the Heart, is too strong or weak the Water element, represented by the Kidney, needs to be strengthened and balanced.
Acupuncture is a very useful tool to help strengthen, re-energize and restore balance within the body as it pertains to the specific elements.
This time of year it is especially important to strengthen the kidney energy which helps you stay grounded and connected to the earth. Being grounded helps keep you calm, balances out excess heat, alleviates restlessness and allows for peaceful sleep and general wellbeing.
If you are experiencing a difficult transition from spring to summer or manifesting any symptoms related to the heart/small intestine, consider coming in for a seasonal tuneup to align and balance the fire element within you.
It’s important to adjust the energy balance within ourselves as we enter into each new season, otherwise little accumulated imbalances can eventually lead to bigger imbalances and health issues.
Do’s and Don’t’s
In summer, indigestion can easily occur, so a light and less greasy diet is strongly recommended.
Summer is usually hot and we tend to be more active. We need a diet that keeps us cool and light during this season. A diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables (organically grown) is going to keep us feeling our best and performing at our optimum.
Foods that most enhance the fire element: Do Eat!
• Grains: Amaranth, quinoa.
• Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, cucumber, snow peas, brussels sprouts, summer squash, chives, spinach, cilantro, mint.
• Legumes: Red lentils, chickpeas, mung beans.
• Fruits: Watermelon, apricot, guava, strawberry, persimmon, peaches, cherries, cantaloupe, lemon.
• Fish: shrimp, lobster, crab.
• Spices: Chilies, curry, and spices in general are considered fire foods. You would think it to be counterintuitive to eat spicy foods in the heat. While you want to stay away from greasy spicy food, adding hot spices to healthy foods will keep your metabolism going strong and counterbalance the more cooling foods we tend to gravitate to in the summer.
Food that can cause indigestion in the summer months: Don’t eat! (or eat with caution)
• Diary: Although we all love our ice cream treats during the summer months, it’s important to realize that dairy is very congesting and mucous forming. Phlegm cone anyone? There are other healthier alternatives that are just as tasty and won’t leave you feeling sluggish. (see below)
• Fried and Greasy Foods: I’m not sure when it’s ever a good time to eat these kinds of foods, but they are especially heavy in the summer time and should be avoided. Opt for grilled, baked and steamed food instead.
• Alcohol: I know. Bummer. Just don’t over do the alcohol as it lowers the body’s tolerance for heat and acts as a diuretic and affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Alcohol also raises the body’s blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heat-related illness like hyperthermia (over heating) and heat stroke (especially for people with high blood pressure).
• Caffeine: Caffeine is also a diuretic and could exacerbate dehydration during the summer months. It is also depleting to the kidneys and adrenals and can over stimulate the heart which could further exacerbate a fire element imbalance. I’m also convinced it causes schizophrenia. Mostly in me. Opt for some green tea instead which is conveniently lower in caffeine, is less acidic and has very desirable cooling properties ideal for summer heat.
• Sugar: Whenever I have a “don’t eat” list of foods, you know sugar is going to be on it. Summer time in particular, it’s easy to get out of control with the frozen treats. Thankfully, with all the fresh fruit in season, you can opt to have that instead, otherwise you will blow out your spleen (the Earth element) by the following season. Be sure to stay tuned for my next newsletter so you know what to do if that happens:)
Other Simple Tips for Staying in Balance in the Summer
Tips for Summer Health
To remain in balance and in harmony with the environment of summer, ancient Chinese physicians advise the following:
• Awaken earlier in the morning.
• Rest at midday.
• Drink plenty of fluids, adding lemon and cucumber to enhance the cooling effect.
• Add cooling foods to your diet such as watermelon.
• Eat in moderation. Overconsumption of any food can lead to indigestion and sluggishness.
• Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered.
• Begin a meditation practice. Just 15 minutes each morning helps keep you grounded and balanced throughout the day.
Healthy Frozen Non Dairy Treats
Coconut Milk Orange Creamsicles
• 1 cup orange juice
• 1 cup light coconut milk
• 3 tsp honey or maple syrup.
• 1/4 tsp orange extract
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• stir in a handful of diced peaches after blending (optional)
Whip together in a blender and pour into popsicle molds and freeze 4 to 6 hours.
• 1 cup light coconut milk
• 1 cup water
• 2 tbsp cacao powder
• 1 to 2 tbsp of maple syrup depending on desired sweetness
• Tiny pinch of sea salt
• dash of cinnamon (optional)
• dash of cayenne (optional)
Blend in a blender, pour into popsicle molds and freeze 4 to 6 hours.
Raw Non Diary Ice Cream
• 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours or more
• 1 cup young coconut meat
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/3 cup or less cup of maple syrup
• 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
• Seeds of half a vanilla bean or 1 additional tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp sea salt
• 1/8 cup coconut oil (warmed to liquid)
• 1 cup of fruit (your choice) (optional)
In a high speed blender, blend all the ingredients except coconut oil until completely smooth. With the blender on low speed, slowly add the coconut oil and blend until incorporated.
Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, then process in an ice cream maker according the the manufacture’s instructions.