Using the Summer Heat to Combat Internal Ills

According to TCM the change in seasons are a perfect time to make use of our surroundings to change the way we eat, live and enjoy the changes for optimal health.  Something that is usually an afterthought in Western culture has been seen as a way of life in Eastern cultures. In TCM for example, it is said that eating too many cold foods and drinking too many cold drinks, especially during the summer months, will cause an increase in dampness, bad digestion and lack of appetite. Consider this, our metabolic kitchen is like a pot of soup bubbling about 98-99 degrees on the stove. In TCM, the pot of soup is the Spleen, the burner under the pot is the Stomach, and the pilot light of the stove is the Kidneys. Foods that digest easily in this soup pot are thoroughly cooked and warm in temperature. Even with the increasing heat outside in order to keep our bodies healthy and prepared for Autumn we have to be sure to keep replenishing the heat that’s escaping.

During the hot summer months, especially during San Fu, the dog days of summer, our yang qi, also known as our internal heat, is making its way to the surface of the body. What this means is that the heat that should be stored within, is essentially escaping the body leading to a lack of yang protection on the inside. If you haven’t read my post on the Five Element Model (LINK TO PREVIOUS BLOG) and what it has to do with our body as a whole, go check it out. The summer according to TCM is governed by the energy fire and thus in charge of the process of growing and ripening. Although the taste associated with summer is bitter, we should limit this and instead consume more pungent foods to prepare our bodies for the cool winds of autumn (which governs the lungs), that will arrive. By the same token, one should not eat any summer squash, eggplant, uncooked vegetables, or other excessively yin foods, because at this time there is already plenty of yin qi present in the abdomen, and the ingestion of coagulating foods like this may promote the formation of abdominal masses.

The Healing Powers of Eating Ginger During San Fu

Ginger grown during this time of year is said to hold tons of San Fu’s yang energy which will lead to more healing benefits. Ginger is known for being a medicinal herb to add to your diet. With its healing benefits aiding in digestion, circulation and its anti-inflammatory properties, it’s no wonder ginger is a staple in most Eastern homes.  Eating ginger or drinking it helps to increase the internal yang that we lose with each sweat. I know it sounds crazy to have ginger tea during what is most likely the hottest time of year, but think of it like this, in the summer yang is strong and outwards, so ginger boosts its function in that nature helping to dispel internal colds, increase blood circulation, helps detox and eliminate toxins, as well as rectifying stomach ailments. 

There are different ways to enjoy your ginger tea if you’re still on the fence;

If you’d like to see recipes for any of these, comment below and I’ll make an Instagram post.

·       Ginger Tea & Boiled Pear

·       Ginger Tea & Red Dates

·       Ginger Tea & Mint

·       Ginger Tea, Goji Berries & Red Dates

*Disclaimer: If you are someone that has trouble sleeping or prone to hot flashes, please do not consume ginger after 12pm. The optimal time to consume tea is during Spleen Time which is between 9am and 11am.  

Food to Have During San Fu Season

Foods that clear heat in summer: Avocados, asparagus, bamboo shoot, banana, grapefruit, pineapple, strawberry, alfalfa, barley, celery, kiwi, mulberry, peach, millet, mung-bean, peppermint, potato, radish, red dates, wild yams, lily bulbs, lotus root, chrysanthemum congee, honeysuckle tea, licorice and watercress.

Foods like watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, pears, grapes and bitter melon, are great water rich and cooling foods to help aid in combating these dog days. Depending on your body type and constitution here are some added health benefits by following the instructions below for those that fit the characteristics.

Naturally strong build, physically active, showing signs of heat and excess

These people often already eat a lot of meat, so it may be best to cut down on red meat. Increase the amount of fruit, cooked vegetables and grain eaten in summer will help deal with heat and benefit the Heart and Spleen. Include lots of cooling by nature foods.

Thin, weaker build, sensitive to cold

Use the summer to put more energy and activity in the body. Eat more warming foods, such as ginger, lychee fruit and tonifying your Spleen and Stomach are important for a healthy digestion and overall health.

Keep cool but remember to nourish that Spleen Qi and incorporate warming, pungent foods for a more comfortable digestion and better overall health!