Living in accordance with the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine means adapting your lifestyle and eating habits to reflect the season. During the summer months, particularly in Australia where temperatures can soar and the sun is strong, seasonally-specific practices can help the body and mind stay in alignment, minimising ill health and allowing you to get the most out of the season.
Fire: the element of summer
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a theory called the 5 phases which includes wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Unsurprisingly, the season of summer is ruled by the fire element, due to its association with heat. Fire is linked to the maximum expression of yang, representing a time of growth, joy, outgoingness, and spiritual awareness. Physically, fire is also associated with the heart and small intestine, while emotionally it is associated with the stability and strength of the mind, our memories, thought processes, and consciousness. This is because the heart is considered the seat of the mind. The summer months, when the element of fire dominates, is the perfect time to strive for outward progression while also focusing on heightening our spiritual awareness and harnessing a sense of joy in our lives. A healthy summer season will mean a strong heart, deep stability of the mind, and a satisfying sense of spiritual connectedness.
Summer health problems
The predominance of heat and the fire element during the summer months can be a source of strength and growth, but if the body and mind are out of balance, it can also lead to some summer-specific health problems. You may notice an increase in these issues during the warmer months:
- Insomnia and sleep problems
- Excess perspiration
- Anxiety, agitation or irritability
- Heart palpitations
- Mood disorders including depression or mania
- Speech issues such as stuttering, rapid speech, or excessive talking
Lifestyle tips for summer
Altering your daily rhythms and habits to reflect the season can help you maintain balance and health during the summer months. Some simple tips to stay in alignment this summer include:
- Wake up earlier and go to bed later
- Take a rest or a nap after lunch and escape the midday heat
- Stay hydrated and take the opportunity to immerse yourself in cool water frequently through baths, showers, and swimming
- Dedicate time to creative projects
- Avoid stressful or anger-inducing situations and prioritise finding calm in your everyday life
- Try to create space for child-like play and nourish your inner sense of fun
Nutrition tips for summer
During summer, your diet should focus on increasing hydration and preventing indigestion. This means you should be eating plenty of light, cool foods and avoiding heavy, rich, or fatty foods. This will help to prevent overheating and to bolster your fluid levels to prevent the common health issues of summertime.
Foods to include
Summer is the season to enjoy refreshing fruits like watermelons, pineapples, oranges, pears, kiwis, and lemons, as well as light salads incorporating foods like cucumber, lettuce, sprouts, bamboo, watercress, seaweed, spinach, snow peas, and asparagus. Fish and seafood are also considered cooling, as well as yoghurt, grains, and mung beans.
Foods to avoid
Warming foods, including red meat, oily dishes, spicy foods, or meals using large amounts of onion, garlic, ginger, or pepper, should be avoided or minimised in the summer. It’s also important to be aware that very cold foods (such as ice cream) should be avoided during summer as they can cause the digestive system to slow down, creating indigestion problems.
Of course, drinking plenty of chilled water is always a good idea in summer. You can further enhance the cooling properties of your water by adding slices of lemon or cucumber. In terms of hot beverages and teas, mint, chamomile, lemon balm, hibiscus, chrysanthemum, green and white tea are all considered cooling, regardless of the temperature at which they are consumed. Coffee is considered very warming and should be avoided during summer.
Remember that the body becomes prone to indigestion during the summer months, so avoid overeating and allow plenty of time between meals. Getting up earlier and going to bed later should help you to space your meals out more across the day.
Learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine
The Sydney Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SITCM) has a thirty-nine-year history of providing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) education and continues to contribute significantly to the development of traditional Chinese medicine education in Australia. With courses designed and taught by industry experts with years of hands-on experience, we offer students the best start in their career in Chinese Medicine. To learn more about our courses, or to make a general inquiry, contact us today.