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Eastern Medicine & Natural Healing, Health for the Body, Nutrition, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Summer to Fall Transition – Late Summer

September 23, 2015
Late Summer

Hi everyone! I hope that you all had a fantastic summer! I think I might have enjoyed my summer a little too much, putting this blog on a little vacation =). Well, I’m back! Today technically marks the first day of fall, but the weather is still quite hot and humid in a lot of areas. What we are experiencing are the effects of “late summer” or “Indian summer”. Some Chinese texts say that late summer is the last month of summer from August to September. Other definitions of Indian summer state it is a period of unseasonably warm, sometimes dry, weather that occurs in autumn especially in the Northern Hemisphere (from late September to mid-November).

The important thing to remember about this time is that it is a point of transition from yang to yin, where we go from the expansive growth of spring and summer to the inward, cooler, fall and winter seasons. This season also represents the interchange of ALL seasons –  the week before and after the equinox and solstice of each of the four main seasons. It is a time of balance which buffers the shift from one season to the next (i.e., the transition from spring – summer, summer – fall, fall – winter, winter – spring, are all referred to as “late summer”). Each seasonal transition is an important time to center and balance ourselves. Nothing in extremes should be done during this time (e.g. in your foods – don’t eat foods that are too hot or too cold but just enough cooling or heating foods to balance our bodies out). Your energy should be focused on unity, harmony, moderation, and finding common ground between extremes (not only in the foods you eat, but in every aspect of your life – work, family, projects etc). It is a time of self-reflection and calmness in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.

Late Summer Basics

The following are basic concepts to remember about the Late Summer Season:

  • Five elements: Earth
  • Organs: Spleen-Pancreas and Stomach
  • Sense Organ: Mouth/Taste
  • Tissue: Muscles and Flesh
  • Emotion: Worry and Anxiety
  • Voice Sound: Singing
  • Fluid Emitted: Saliva
  • Paramita (Way to correct imbalance): Giving
  • Enviromental Influence: Dampness
  • Development: Transformation
  • Color: Yellow
  • Taste: Sweet
  • Direction: Middle

Food Preparation

To acclimate to the changes in seasons, we should choose foods that harmonize and strengthen our core center, or our digestive systems represented by our stomach and spleen in Chinese medicine (review stomach and spleen qi function here). These foods include mildly sweet foods, foods that are yellow or golden color, round shaped foods, or foods that harmonize our digestion. They include millet, corn, carrots, cabbage, garbanzo beans, squash, potatoes, string beans, yams, tofu, sweet potatoes, sweet rice, rice, amaranth, peas, chestnuts, apricots, and cantaloupe. These are all great foods to eat when you are having GI symptoms/upset, stomach issues or problems digesting in general.

To reflect this time of moderation, prepare foods simply with minimal amounts of seasonings and mild taste. Meals can be simple without too many ingredients. It is a time to really purify and cleanse our bodies from over-eating, over-drinking, or over doing anything.

Our Digestive System and Earth Element

The element associated with late summer is the Earth Element (remember Spring is associated with Wind while Summer is associated with Fire). The Earth Element is intrinsically connected to our digestive systems or the spleen-pancreas and stomach. These organs are responsible for the digestion and distribution of food and nutrients to our bodies. Our digestion represents the core and center of our bodies because it literally IS in the center of our bodies. When these organs are balanced and healthy we are also balanced and healthy. We will also tend to be more hard-working, practical, and responsible. Our appetites are healthy and digestion is good. Emotionally, we are able to give and receive appropriately (i.e. we are not overly stingly or overly generous). Our muscles will be strong and we have the ability to think clearly.

When the earth element and our digestion is out of balance then we will see chronic fatigue, physical and mental stagnation, as well as “stuck” behavior which inhibits our creativity. We will tend to worry and have more anxiety than usual. Digestion will be weak along with nausea, poor appetite, abdominal bloating, and loose stools. Those with poor digestion also tend to have weight problems as well (either underweight or overweight – since the center is not balanced). Common diseases seen with weak digestion include diabetes, candida, fibromyalgia, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), MS, and organ prolapse. I will be focusing more on our stomach and digestion and how to keep our guts healthy. We will see how important a healthy digestive system is for not only overall health but our immune systems as well.

For now, remember to focus on balance, centering yourselves, and staying grounded physically, mentally, and emotionally!

In health and wellness,

Dr. Elain

References: Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

 

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Eastern Medicine & Natural Healing, Nutrition, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Mind-Body Connection and Our Emotions

May 13, 2015
The Mind Body Connection and our Emotions

While Western medicine usually sees emotions as a secondary factor or an effect resulting from physical disease, Chinese Medicine views the emotions as an integral part of our internal organ’s interactions and oftentimes as the primary cause of disease. Emotions are not “good” or “bad”, but reflections of how we interact with life experiences as well as ourselves. It is important for us to express different emotions at appropriate times. For example, when a loved one passes away, one should feel grief and sadness. In fact, it is abnormal not to, and detrimental to our physical health if we ignore or suppress these emotions as they will manifest physically in our bodies. Our emotions also become the cause of disease if they are extreme and especially if they are prolonged over time. The inseparable connection between the mind and body shows that emotions are not only the cause of disease, but that they can also be caused by disease. For example, having prolonged fear and anxiety, the emotions associated with the Kidneys, can cause Kidney weakness. On the same token, weak or deficient Kidneys, which can happen after having too many children in a short period of time, may cause fear and anxiety.

Suppressing appropriate emotions or having prolonged emotions will cause emotional blockages in our meridians and may ultimately lead to physical disease. Each emotion is connected to a different organ system in our bodies. It is important to find out the underlying emotional component and treat the appropriate organ system and its corresponding meridian (I will discuss meridians and acupuncture points in more detail later). These emotions are then processed and released, so that we do not become “stuck” with the emotions, resulting in physical problems. This is the intricate connection between the mind and body. There are seven major emotions in Chinese medicine. Let’s take a look at each of these emotions.

Anger

Anger is the one emotion that will include several other related emotional states. It is probably the emotion that most of us deal with on a day to day basis from stress (road rage anyone?). It can also be expressed as:

  • resentment
  • repressed anger
  • irritability or annoyance
  • frustration, (internalized anger)
  • rage
  • indignation (anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment)
  • animosity
  • bitterness
  • impatience
  • violence or belligerence
  • arrogance
  • stubborness
  • aggression
  • impulsive or explosive personality

These emotional states will mainly affect the Liver and if they persist can cause Liver Qi or blood stagnation (review Qi and Blood pathology here and here). Anger can also cause Qi (energy) to rise in our body causing signs and symptoms to show up in our head and neck such as headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, a red face, red tongue, or thirst. Headaches are one of the most common symptoms caused by anger. Who hasn’t gotten a headache after being really angry?

Repressed anger and resentment, usually towards a family member, can also develop into depression. In this case, someone can appear subdued, depressed, and pale. The way to determine whether the depression is due to anger or sadness is to look at the tongue color. Depression due to anger will manifest a red or dark-red tongue and wiry pulse.

Anger can also affect the Stomach and Spleen (digestive system). The interaction between our Liver and Spleen/Stomach (digestive system) will become clear when we discuss The Five Element Theory. The take home lesson of this is not to get angry while you are eating, which can easily cause digestive problems.

Nutritional Guidelines to Treat and Heal the Liver

– When liver qi stagnates, the best thing to do is eat less (unless you are malnourished). It is also important to eliminate foods that further damage the liver, such as foods high in saturated fats (meat, cream, cheese, and eggs).
– Foods that get rid of liver qi stagnation are moderately pungent foods, herbs, and spices (review the Five Flavors here) : watercress, all members of the onion family (chives, garlic, leeks, scallions), mustard greens, turmeric, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, marjoram, fennel, dill, ginger, horseradish, rosemary, mint, and lemon.

Joy

Joy is only a cause of disease when we experience excessive excitement or continuous mental stimulation (no matter how pleasurable), which will affect the Heart and cause Heart Yin deficiency. For example, a migraine attack can be triggered by sudden excitement from good news. Have you ever been so happy and excited about something that caused a headache or your heart to flutter and skip a beat?

Nutritional Guidelines to Treat and Heal the Heart

In order to enrich the body’s yin, the Heart will usually rely on Kidney Yin for replenishment. Foods that strengthen Kidney Yin will also strengthen Heart Yin. These foods include parsley, wheat berry (sourdough bread), and sweet rice. Herbs that strengthen Kidney Yin include: rose hips, oyster shell (in supplement form), clam shell, schisandra fruit, raspberry and blackberry leaves.

Sadness

Sadness or grief directly weakens Lung Qi but also affects the Heart. Prolonged sadness and grief can lead to symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue, depression, or crying. This is most common after the death of a close family member. In cases of severe grief, this can lead to more devastating diseases. A poignant example is when Christopher Reeve’s wife, Dana Reeve was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 44, despite never smoking, less than a year after his death. Sadly, she also passed within 7 months of her diagnosis.

Foods that support Lung Qi

– Foods and herbs that strengthen lung qi include rice, sweet rice, oats, carrot, mustard greens, sweet potatos, yams, potatoes, ginger, garlic, molasses, barley malt, and herring.
– Cooling and mucus forming foods should be restricted (citrus fruits, milk and dairy products, spinach, chard, and seaweed).

Worry and Pensiveness

Anyone out there who thinks or studies too much? If so, your Spleen and Stomach, or digestive system will directly be affected causing symptoms of fatigue, loss of appetite, and loose stools. This is most commonly seen in those in school, graduate studies requiring excessive mental work, or those with demanding intellectual occupations. Spleen weakness and deficiency will cause accumulation of mucus and phlegm in our bodies and is further aggravated by a person who doesn’t eat on time, eats too fast, or discusses work while eating. Sound familiar?

Chronic worry will not only injure the digestive system, but also the Lungs. The most common causes of worry are financial, employment, and family problems. Weak Lung Qi will lead to anxiety, shortness of breath, and stiffness in the shoulders and neck. Instead of worrying about your problems, do something about it, since worrying will only make you sick and do nothing to resolve the situation.

Foods that strengthen Digestion/Spleen and Stomach Qi (previously discussed here)

– Foods that help Spleen Qi deficiency are sweet and/or pungent.
– This includes complex carbohydrates: rice (in the form of congee), oats, spelt, sweet rice
– Carbohydrate-rich vegetables: winter squash, carrot, rutabaga, parsnip, trurnip, garbanzo beans, black beans, peas, sweet potato, yam, and pumpkin
– Pungent veggies and spices: onion, leek, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, nutmeg
– Severe deficiency will require small amounts of animal products in congee: mackerel, tuna, halibut, anchovy, beef, chicken, turkey, or lamb.

Fear

As I discussed above, fear and anxiety are the emotions associated with the Kidneys. An easy way to remember is when someone is scared, they pee in their pants. Good analogy? Fear drains Kidney Qi and makes it descend. It also drains our Essence (read more about Essence here). Fear in children causes descending Qi and nocturnal enuresis, usually from insecurity. In adults, fear and chronic anxiety will deplete the Kidney’s Yin, or cooling power, and cause heat in the face, night sweats, palpitations, dry mouth and throat.

Foods that Nourish Kidney Yin and Essence/Jing (previously discussed here)

In general, foods that nourish the Kidney will also nourish Jing. However, choosing the appropriate foods and herbs to strengthen our Kidneys largely depend on each individual’s constitution and condition.

Cooling Jing Foods – for those who tend to have heat signs and symptoms, yin deficiency, or excess

– chlorella, spirulina, black beans, seaweed, wheat grass, blue-green microalgae, almonds, and bone marrow soup

Warming Jing Foods – for those who tend to have cold signs or deficiency symptoms

– royal jelly, bee pollen, milk, clarified butter, placenta, dear antler, walnuts, animal products (chicken, liver, beef or lamb kidney) and warming seafood (especially mussels; also trout, salmon, anchovy)

Shock

Mental shock affects the Heart and Kidney. It will suddenly deplete Heart Qi leading to palpitations and insomnia. It also affects the Kidneys since our bodies must use Essence to replenish the sudden exhaustion of energy. This can cause night sweats, dry mouth, dizziness, and tinnitus.

What you need to know:

  • Chinese Medicine views the emotions as an integral part of our internal organ’s interactions. This is the mind body connection.
  • If emotions are suppressed or prolonged, physical disease may manifest in the associated organ. Weak organs can also cause the emotions to appear.
  • The seven major emotions are anger (liver), joy (heart), sadness (lungs), pensiveness and worry (stomach and spleen), fear (kidneys) and shock (heart and kidneys).

Which emotion do you think you are most affected by?

In health and wellness,
Dr. Elain

References:

The Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

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