Summer Wellness Plan, Part 2
June 21st to September 4th
The Spirit of Expansion, Growth, Joy, and Intuition
The Heart, mind, spirit, and Small Intestine are ruled by the fire element of Summer, so priority should be given to these important aspects of ourselves in the Summer season. The Heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through the body and, according to Chinese medicine, it also connects our inner life and external universe—it is the foundation of the mind and gives rise to our capacity for thought, perception, sensation, speech, communication, and memory. The Small Intestine separates the turbid from the clear. This means it pulls nutrients from the food we eat and refers to differentiation in clarity of mind and thoughts. This is a great time to realize our life’s greatest potential, but it is easy to overdo it in summer with the energy of abundance all around. Here are some ways you can remain balanced in summer while still following your inspiration.
- Awaken earlier in the morning, Go to bed later in the evening, Rest at midday: People naturally go to bed later and wake up earlier during Summer in Northern California with all the extra daylight we get. The part they forget is to get some rest midday to make up for it. Some mindful breathing or a short nap at the hottest time of the day will keep you ready for summer action.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Water with slices of cucumber will keep you cool and prevent the body from overheating. I recommend people drink ½ their body weight in ounces of water each day and it is especially important in the hot summer season.
- Promote cardiovascular health with:
Daily exercise: It’s a great time to use that extra burst of energy that you wake up with to get some exercise in the cool morning time.
Heart Healthy Nutrients: To support a healthy Heart eat foods high in or supplement with potassium, magnesium (Natural Calm Magnesium is my favorite supplement), Coenzyme Q10 (make sure you get the active ubiquinol form), and fish oils high in omega-3s.
- Promote digestive health in your Small Intestine by:
Eliminating food allergies: Get curious about any food sensitivities that might be causing inflammation and harming the lining of the intestine. Do an elimination diet for 2-4 weeks, then reintroduce the foods, one by one, and observe how your body reacts. Eliminate the foods that make you feel poorly from your diet while you build your digestive system back up.
Eating probiotics: There should be 3 pounds of beneficial bacteria in your gut; they play a large role in your digestion, immune system and inflammatory response. Probiotics are available in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, raw sauerkraut, specifically labeled pickles, miso, kombucha (careful because it can contain lots of sugar and some caffeine). I recommend supplementing with a therapeutic dose of 50-100 billion probiotic organisms, per day. Work your way up slowly.
- Let emotions pass quickly, don’t dwell on them: Pent up or excess emotions cause and exacerbate heat. One of my favorite Chinese proverbs is “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.” Let emotions pass over you as you would a weather system. With this in mind you will be able align with the Chinese medicine classics that say “A healthy heart receives the joys and sorrows of the world without breaking.”
- Allow yourself to act on impulse and intuition: The Heart is connected with our true impulse. When in balance, this connects us to our intuition or inner guidance. For practice start by listening and following small impulses while you go for a leisurely walk or drive. See where your impulses and intuition take you and enjoy the journey.
- Plan a summer vacation: Vacation calms the mind and refreshes the body. It is crucial to balance the focused intensity of work with the reckless abandon of summer play. This will help you go about your daily activities with more joy, passion, and laughter.
- Clean Up Your Diet:
Eat in moderation: Our body thrives on lighter fare in the summer; we don’t need as much of the heavier foods that are appropriate in winter. Eat small light meals throughout the day. Overconsumption of foods in the heat, even cooling foods, can easily lead to indigestion, sluggishness, and diarrhea.
Eat cool: Summer is the perfect time to enjoy more cooling foods in your diet to clear heat, reduce toxins, and generate body fluids such as lettuce and salads, cucumbers, and watermelon.
Eat healthy fats: It is now widely acknowledged that the low fat dietary recommendations beginning in the 1950s were based on little scientific evidence. Current evidence shows that we need healthy fats and oils to support a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids which contribute to a healthy Heart and circulatory system. Increase consumption of cold-pressed or expeller pressed olive and coconut oils, pastured butter, lard, duck fat, and ghee. Decrease consumption of corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower oils
Taste bitter: Bitter flavors improve nutrient absorption and distribution as well as cool and enhance the sometimes sluggish summer metabolism. Get a digestive bitters tincture or increase the consumption of radish, kale, arugula, mustard greens, dill, sesame, horseradish, parsley, cilantro, turmeric, fenugreek, mint, and basil.
Cook Less: Use shorter cooking times. The best cooking method for Summer is stir-frying; it quickly adds the heat and energy of the season. Increase the percentage of raw and fermented foods in your diet.
Buy In Season Foods: In season foods tend to complement the prevailing season, helping our bodies adjust to the climate, supporting health, and preventing the illnesses typical of that time of year. Summer foods have the ability to clear heat and cool the body down. Those grown in late summer or fall are more hearty and tend to be better for building heat for those cooler fall days and nights (think root vegetables versus cucumbers). From a western perspective in season food simply contains more nutrients. Food looses nutrients after harvest and if it’s not locally in season it has to be imported. The shorter the time from harvest to your plate, the more nutritious your food will be.
Summer Shopping List
- Animal Products: beef, chicken, lamb, seasonal fish and seafood
- Beans: red lentils, red beans, tempeh and tofu, mung beans
- Grains: amaranth, corn, quinoa, rice
- Vegetables: arugula, sweet corn, green beans, basil, summer squash, garlic, okra, cucumbers, avocados, tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, chives, cilantro, snow peas, chard, sprouts, mushrooms, watercress, edible flowers
- Fruits: apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, melons, citrus
- Herbs, Spices, Condiments: garlic, hot peppers, horseradish, ginger, fresh herbs such as tarragon, rosemary, oregano
- Get acupuncture treatments: Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help restore vital functions to your Heart and Small Intestine as well as calm the mind, enhance one’s ability to focus, soothe emotions, promote sleep, and cool off the body. Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year can serve to tonify the inner organ systems, ease the transition between the seasons, and correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.
Time to Take Action
Take a moment and pick 2 things from above to help align yourself with Summer and foster your expansion, growth, joy, and intuition! Yup choose them right now. Health is so much more than the absence of disease; your health is the most precious asset that you have. There is nothing more important than being proactive about your health, investing in your well-being, and choosing a lifestyle that fosters longevity and vitality. Summertime is a great time to initiate changes that can bring about your best sense of self. If you have any questions, please be in touch. I’m always happy to help people figure out how to find their balance and maximize their natural rhythms.
(Image Source: Lafiya Watson)