Summer and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Image: Audrey/audreyjm529 via Flickr


After its gradual rising during springtime, yang qi is now in full swing in the summer, like the noon sun.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) summer is the season of the big yang and is characterized by the fire phase and summer-heat. While the British summer doesn’t immediately bring to mind images of sweltering heat, you can still take advantage of TCM nutrition and dietetics.


When the sun is blazing, barbecues and beer and Pimms in the park are popular. Unfortunately these things can be quite “heaty” for the body so don’t over do it, and balance things out with lots of fruit and vegetables which are in abundance during the summer. Seek out cooling food like salads, green tea, cucumber, tomatoes and spinach help disperse heat and calm the system.


Don’t confuse cooling with cold. Cold foods can impair the function of the spleen according to the theories of traditional Chinese medicine. When the spleen is weakened its ability to transform and transport the nutrients from your food is also disrupted and it could lead to symptoms like indigestion, loose stools, lethargy or dizziness.


The spleen functions best when it’s given warm, nourishing food that’s easily digested. It is summer though, and who wants stews and soups in the heat? Eat light, both in flavours and in portion-size.


You can have your ice cream and eat it too, but don’t overindulge and have five in a row. One of my favourite summer-time salads consists of little boiled jersey potatoes, stir-fried asparagus, cherry tomatoes and tuna all on a bed of salad leaves – served at room temperature.


While sunshine is a wonderful thing, we should still enjoy it responsibly and with respect. Remember to wear SPF, a hat and sunglasses. Always have a bottle of water with you, especially if you travel on public transport. There is nothing worse than being stuck on a packed train or bus in the heat without any water to sip. Heatstroke is a very real thing that isn’t only seen in the tropics. Avoid being in the sun at its strongest (noon – 2pm) and go to a cool, shady place if you feel tired, or a sharp, “stabby” headache coming on.


Growing up, summer was a vast shadow stretching before us, the days spanning into weeks and then into months. What a luxury it was for my friends and I to have such a long period off school to indulge our imaginations and play to our hearts’ content.


The world today for many of us is a lot more complicated. There are many things whirring in our heads, what with all the caps we wear for the different roles in our lives. Use this time to remind yourself of what you love best and maybe, just take a step back and breathe. Sometimes we forget to do that, but it’s an awfully nice feeling to remember.

 
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Wellness Tips for August

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Wellness Tips for August

Tomatoes

 

I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that we will have a lovely summer in London (the wonderful weather we had in April and May doesn’t count, that was spring!). Many people are taking a well-deserved break away during this time. If you’re going to be staying in the city, take advantage of the (slightly) quieter days before everyone comes back for September.

 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) summer is the season of the big yang and is characterized by the fire phase and summer-heat. While the British summer doesn’t immediately bring to mind images of sweltering heat, you can still take advantage of TCM nutrition and dietetics. Cold, raw food is typically not approved of in TCM due to the Spleen’s function of transformation and transportation of qi. The Spleen functions best when it’s given warm, nourishing food that’s easily digested.

 

However it is summer and warm stews and soups aren’t particularly appetizing. TCM also recognizes that your body’s relationship to the environment is paramount and whilst certain cooling foods would be too harsh in the winter, in the summer months it is needed to help disperse heat and build up body fluids and yin.

 

This is the time of salad (I like mine served at room temperature) with plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach. Avoid ice-cold food and beverages and ice-cream because they can damage the stomach’s digestive energy. Treat yourself but don’t be excessive. At the same time, avoid hot foods such as coffee and acrid, pungent spices as they are too warming. Save those for the colder months later on in the year. And no, a cold coffee frappuccino does not make it neutral, but good try! If you like the taste of liquorice, fennel tea is great.

 

Photo credit: Andrew Storms via flickr

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Grand slam your way to a sunny summer

Feet_in_park

 

First of all, I would like to personally apologize to everyone in London (and probably the entire southeast of England) who had looked forward to a nice lovely June (we did have a really brilliant May after all). This current bout of indecisive weather (all four seasons rolled into one day for those of you not fortunate enough to experience the schizophrenic climate) is actually my fault. Last weekend I got slightly delirious from the warmth and sun and bought a pair of light-coloured brogues, perfect for the summer. Which we might not get to experience now. Again, my apologies.

 

(If we do happen to see the sun for more than three consecutive hours, I would just like to say: I always had faith in you June, that’s why I got the brogues!)

 

So how is June panning out for you so far?

 

It’s funny to think that your perception of things really does change as you get older (and wiser). Growing up, the last day of school was always around June 15 (I remember this because Mike-in-my-class’s birthday was always the day after, bless him). For me, the beginning of summer vacation was a mix of exhilaration (yeah, I can sleep in till 9am!) and uneasiness (boredom is a lot more daunting when you have almost three months of long, hot Greek summers ahead and the school library closes in July).

 

But as children, weren’t we all amazingly bendy and flexible in our attitudes and games? Within five days I would’ve finished all the books allocated for the summer (only to be reread a few more times over during the following weeks). Thereafter the summer was what we made of it: long walks into the depths of Panorama (before they built all the houses) armed with only that bottle of ice tea we used to buy from the shop furthest away from the neighbourhood in the hopes it would stay cool for more than 10 minutes.

 

Childhood for me, was an incredibly free and rewarding time. My friends and I were allowed to let our imaginations go wild and having been fed books like “Bridge to Terabithia” during the school year, we had the whole of summer to invent our own world where the two stray dogs that always accompanied us on those walks weren’t just dogs, they were Apollo and Poseidon- there to protect us from harm.

 

The world today for many of us is a lot more complicated. There are many things whirring in our heads, what with all the caps we wear for the different roles in our lives. Use this time to remind yourself of what you love best and maybe, just take a step back and breathe. Sometimes we forget to do that, but it’s an awfully nice feeling to remember.

 

Photo credit: Jonatas Cunha via flickr

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