In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), the fifth season of Late Summer is one of the most important times of year as it focuses on the health of our digestion and nourishment. After an indulgent summer with a variety of raw foods, our digestive system can be taxed. TCM believes that digestion is where our health and wholeness is based. It's responsible for our immunity, nourishment, and often emotional stability.
In modern science, this is reflected as more research is done on the human biome. Studies recently show that the gut microbiota is now considered an important partner of human cells, interacting with virtually all cells. Although gut microbes have been explored for decades, investigations of the role of microorganisms that reside in the human gut has attracted attention beyond infectious diseases. Numerous studies have reported changes in the gut microbiota during not only obesity, diabetes, and liver diseases but also cancer and even neurodegenerative diseases. (I love when science catches up with ancient wisdom!).
This season of transition is considered more difficult on the body and it is important to take care now. I think we all can agree that we feel better in spring than we do when it starts to get cold. Every year in autumn, I see an abundant amount of colds, flus, mood shifts, rashes, and asthma. Each season prepares us for the next and now is the time to protect from Autumn/Lung illness.
The best way to protect ourselves is to begin cooking more of our foods. Think "easy to digest". Soups, stews, teas, and congees are all great options. Encourage your digestive strength by mindfully sitting to a meal and focusing on the flavours, chew food well, eat at regular times, and chose fewer ingredients in your meals. Avoid overindulging in breads, dairy and iced foods (sorry ice cream). If you do have these foods, add some tea with the meal. Ginger, chai, or mint are great options. Nourishing foods are emphasized and generally come from the earth or sit on the ground such as yams, sweet potatoes, and squash. Increasing pungent foods is helpful now as well. Radishes, onions, cabbage, and turnip open and protect the lungs which are the focused organs in upcoming Autumn.
Seasons have a direction and an emotion. Late Summer's direction is the obvious centre or Earth. The emotion is that of "being centred". Meditation, prayer, and reflection are especially beneficial activities now. This will create stability in us and assist in this transition to a colder climate.
I enjoy using TCM as prevention. It's what it was originally intended for. During this season, acupuncture is focused on the abdomen and often warmth is applied with moxibustion on corresponding points that boost immunity. This is especially a great time to tend to any digestive concerns or if you tend to autumn illness.
Wishing you a healthy Late Summer!
"I am convinced digestion is the great secret of life."