In Chinese medicine, the seasons can play a major role in your personal healthcare. Specific weather patterns ebb and flow with the seasons, just as certain health concerns take on a cyclical pattern. Some common health concerns that have a cyclical nature are seasonal allergies, autoimmune disorders, and some mental health conditions. If one struggles with a cyclic health concern, an East Asian Medicine Practitioner (AKA acupuncturist) would encourage you to note if there are specific seasons or transitions from one season to the next when the condition flares. This can inform the most effective course of treatment with Chinese medicine.
If for instance, you have seasonal allergies that rear their sneezy, phlegmy, teary head every autumn, then the best time to seek treatment is during the summer. A standard course of treatment for seasonal allergies involves going to weekly acupuncture treatments for three months prior to your troubled allergy season paired with Chinese herbal medicine. This pre-season treatment is then followed up with maintenance appointments during the allergy season on an as need basis. Everyone knows that seasonal allergies are obnoxious and stubborn. Due to this stubbornness, it often takes two to three consecutive years of treating allergies this way to significantly reduce the symptoms.
The cyclical nature of autoimmune disorders is very different than seasonal allergies. It is often unique and highly Individualized. The ebb and flow can occur through a season, a year, or even stretch across many years. While the flare – ups may seem erratic, spontaneous, and even random, it can be informative to look for a pattern. In some instances, the pattern involves diet, stresses in life, as well as weather or seasons. Basically, autoimmune disorders are much more complicated than seasonal allergies, and require different treatments. The similarity lies in the cyclic presentation. If the cyclical pattern involves a specific season year after year, then it would significantly inform any acupuncture treatment you receive the season or time period before the predicted flare up.
Similarly, mental emotional conditions can increase in the summers. When you reminisce about and mentally prepare for the Walla Wallan summers, you think of heat – dry heat, heat lightning storms and the possibility of fire. Just like the heat of the summer, mental symptoms that tend to flare in the summer are hot in nature. It is usually the more frenetic, agitated, and manic mental emotional concerns that summer exacerbates. Minds tend to race and fixate during the summer. If your Achille’s heel, so to speak, is a tendency towards anxiety or insomnia, summer is a likely time for these struggles to increase. Insomnia is often the first domino of mental well being to topple. If this is a tendency of yours, try to notice if the summer seems to have more incidences of insomnia or the above emotions.
Metaphorically, the element of summer is fire. If we are not careful to mitigate its effects, the heat, the dance of flames, the drying nature of fire all show up in our bodies during the summer months. If you think of what puts out a fire, you can start to create a culinary tactic to control the summer heat before it becomes a problem.
What controls fire in nature? Water, earth, and minerals/stones usually do the job to hem in a blaze.
The first tactic, just like your mother may have harped on you, is to hydrate. Make sure you drink plenty of non-caffeinated beverages. Nothing controls fire like regular, old water. You know you are hydrating adequately if your bathroom breaks gift you with light yellow or clear urine.
But sometimes on those super hot days, water just is not enough to replenish your fluids. Keeping a good electrolyte balance becomes important when you are active in the heat of the summer. Electrolytes act as the minerals or stones ringing the fire pit. Coconut water is a natural source of perfect electrolyte balance, but not everyone loves the taste. A simple multivitamin or working with your health care provider to zero in on an individualized vitamin plan, can also help to stabilize moods and body chemistry during the summer months.
In the kitchen, focus on mineral rich foods, such as dark green, leafy vegetables, squash, sweet potatoes, and possibly try adding some seaweeds to your diet. You can also try to switch out coffee for green tea. Coffee is considered hot in nature in Chinese medicine, while green tea is actually cooling to your body even if you drink it hot. If it is impossible to make the switch, try to replace one cup of coffee with one or two cups of green tea to try to mitigate the heat of the coffee plant in your diet.
I will post some recipe ideas on Friday.