Welcome Summer! This is a time most people love because it’s associated with time that they get to spend with their loved ones, beach trips, get-togethers, barbeques and more.
The changes in seasons can have a profound effect not only on our social life, but also on our health, energy and mood. A healthy body can handle these changes with ease, but some people are more sensitive and so are susceptible to falling ill at the change of season.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is it said that our organs can be sensitive in certain seasons so if they are having a hard time we can get symptoms related to what those organs “rule”.
Preparing your body with specific herbs and making food choices based on what is in season can help prepare you for the changes and feel great all year round.
Eating seasonally no longer comes as second nature to us. Somewhere in us is programmed the urge to reach for foods which heal and nourish us… but this urge has been dulled. Most foods are now available all year round due to the speed and ease in which food can be shipped from overseas. Food has been moved around the world for many years, however now that transport has become faster and easier it is possible to move perishable food great distances before it spoils. It is now cheaper to produce food overseas where labour costs are lower, such as in African and Asian nations and ship it than it is to produce it locally. However, the large distances that food travels has a price: pollution. Another issue is that food is picked too early and artificially ripened with chemicals. This means that the nutrients that develop during the ripening process are not present in our food, so we are getting less out of it. Not only does this mean we are leaving a bigger carbon footprint, but the quality of the food is affected and this can have an impact on our health.
For the health of both yourself and our environment, try to always eat local produce that’s in season.
How our body changes in the seasons and how we can eat to support this
Most people’s priority during summer is keeping cool. Our natural method of regulating our body heat is sweating, and we can help to maintain this mechanism by eating pungent foods (e.g. coriander, ginger, garlic, wasabi).
Aim to drink at least 2 litres of clean filtered water each day, and enjoy lots of fruit.
Summer is also one of the most popular times to lose weight as you become more aware of your body (more skin tends to be revealed) and your metabolism increases as it gets hotter. Exercise is a great way to lose weight, but ensure that for every hour that you exercise you have another litre of water. Consult your naturopath for a professional weight loss program.
In general, the daily diet should contain more vegetables and fruit at this time which will stimulate the appetite and help provide fluids. Warm and cooked foods ensure the digestive system work more effectively; too many greasy, raw and frozen foods can damage the digestive system and lead to a poor appetite, diarrhoea or stomach upset.
As summer progresses try to eat more raw foods, and keep your meals quite light.
- Consult your naturopath for a weight loss program if desired
- Drink at least 2L water each day (and 1L additional for every hour of exercise)
- Eat plenty of fruit of vegetables
- Eat pungent foods to help regulate the sweating mechanism
Preparing for the dryness of winter and supporting stomach and lung function is our aim for autumn. Improving the immune system and ensuring that the body has a sufficient store of body fluid for winter is important in preventing infections and coping with the dry weather. As the lungs and colon are more active in this season people can experience coughs or breathing difficulties, or diarrhoea and/or constipation. The lungs and colon are eliminatory organs, and help us to ‘let go’ both physically and emotionally, so it may happen that unresolved emotions will pop up during this time.
The mucous membranes in the stomach, intestines, lung, mouth, throat and sinuses are one of our first lines of defence – improving the integrity of these and the good bacteria that resides within helps us to reduce our chances of getting an infection in the winter months. If your skin is dry during this time, chances are your lungs are dry too.
Sour foods (eg pineapple and lemon) have astringent properties and this helps prevent bodily fluid loss.
Eat lots of red and yellow vegetables during autumn to get plenty of immune boosting nutrients. Continue to eat pungent foods. There are also several herbal medicines that can increase your immunity by boosting white cell count and will improve your ability to fight infections. If you’re susceptible to getting colds and ‘flu at the change of season, consult your naturopath now to prepare.
- Drink plenty of water
- Enjoy sour foods to prevent fluid loss
- Take herbs to tone stomach and lung function
- E.g. Mullein, Lemon balm, Licorice, Meadowsweet
- Take immune boosting herbs and nutrients
- E.g. Echinacea, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Probiotics, SB.
During winter, our bodies tend to slow down their processes. We need to focus on building up our energy and reserves for spring. The most important organ to replenish is the adrenal glands, which help us cope with stress. Commonly, people experiencing anxiety, cold limbs, palpitations and fatigue are showing signs of adrenal weakness. Our urinary system is sensitive during winter as well, and according to TCM principles these organs look after our ears, bones, hair and lower back.
The best foods to eat in winter are those with a bitter flavour, are naturally salty (e.g. miso, sardines, soy sauce and barley) and high protein foods. Dark foods such as black beans and seaweed nourish and strengthen the kidneys. Nutrient dense foods are important as well, as the body’s appetite increases in winter yet our metabolism slows down – we are storing more from our food.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, you should avoid high calorie foods during winter as this can cause excessive heat to accumulate in the lungs, leading to problems like sore throats, bronchitis and skin problems.
Cook your meals for longer over a lower heat, using more water and a little more quality salt and oil. Enjoy hearty meals like soups and stews, and use cooking techniques like roasting rather than stir-frying.
- Balance the nervous system and rebuild the adrenal glands with herbs
- E.g. Licorice, rehmannia, chamomile, oats, passionflower
- Energising herbs help to eradicate chronic disease and improve metabolism during winter
- Eat nutrient rich but low calorie foods
- Ensure you obtain protein with each meal
- Eat bitter foods
Spring is all about new life. Spring is also one of the best times to support and repair our liver function as this organ tends to become more sensitive now. Most people subconsciously cut down on their fatty food and alcohol intake in Spring.
The liver is important for detoxifying all that we eat and come in contact with. It is also our ‘furnance’ – it burns fat for energy. According to the TCM principles the liver stores blood and is connected to our eyes, nails and ligaments. Supporting the liver with herbal medicine can help to reduce the severity of spring time allergies and other conditions that occur. The emotion associated with the liver is anger and frustration and these can surface more at this time. Getting outside and having fun helps us to deal with these emotions.
Start to reduce salty and heavy foods and introduce more sour foods such as chicken, lemon and tomatoes along with sweet and pungent foods such as honey, dates, ginger and onions. These flavours are more nourishing to liver function and by supporting our liver with food and also with herbs, we help our body to eliminate any old disease and increase our energy and metabolism. Try to eat more greens, particularly those that are fast growing.
- Support liver function with herbs
- E.g. Dandelion root, St Mary’s Thistle, Schisandra, Globe Artichoke
- Reduce heavy food foods
- Increase sour, sweet and pungent foods
- Increase green leafy vegetables