Chinese Medicine Nutrition In The Season of Late Summer

late summer forest

Nutrition is one of my favorite topics to write about, so you’ll be seeing more on this topic in the upcoming months.  My philosophy on nutrition is evidence based, accessible, and influenced by the principles of Chinese medicine.

Living in harmony with the seasons is a key concept in Chinese medicine.  In follow up posts we will talk about how this applies to topics like illness prevention, and the treatment of cold, flu, and other common ailments with nutrition, and herbal medicine. Stay tuned for that, and follow our blog to make sure you get our regular updates.

Chinese medicine recognizes five distinct seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Late Summer, and Autumn. The shift from one season to the next is a time to slow down and reflect on how the change in season affects our daily lives.

The change from Summer, to Late Summer is considered to be especially significant.  This is when we move from the most Yang (warm, hot, dry, bright, active) time of year, to a more Yin (cool, moist, dark, quiet, still) time of year. In Late Summer the weather is still warm and sunny, but we begin to see and feel the Autumn approaching. The air becomes more dry and crisp, and the leaves are slowly changing. We are enjoying the full harvest. It is a time to slow down and prepare for the Fall and Winter.

In Chinese medicine Late Summer corresponds to the Earth element. The Earth element represents the digestive organs. Earth represents nourishment, both physical and emotional.  In the cycle of the Five elements, the Earth is the center. It representsthe place of stability, the axis around which the rest of our physiology revolves. This means that thousands of years ago they already knew what modern medicine is just catching up to, that digestive health is the foundation of good health!


farmers market abundance

The Earth season is the perfect time to focus on eating nourishing foods, and creating time to connect with close friends and family. It’s a good time to ask yourself if eating is making you feel energized, and happy, or does eating have you feeling pain, and distress? Are you taking time out to eat your meals in a calm environment, chewing thoroughly, not rushing through meals? Do you feel emotionally nourished by your life? Are you feeling loved, supported, and inspired, or drained, and unsatisfied? Supporting the Earth element with proper nutrition, mindful eating, and herbal medicine can improve your health in the upcoming Fall and Winter months. Here are 5 things you can implement TODAY, that are FREE, and will go a long way to supporting your digestive health.

  1. Take Time to Eat at Regular Intervals throughout your day. What schedule works for you might depend on your individual needs. If this is a challenge because your time is extremely limited, aim for something reasonable like 15-20 minutes for each meal. Work up to at least 30 minutes for each meal.
  2. Chew Thoroughly! This may seem like a small thing, but good digestion begins with how well we CHEW our food, and most of us don’t do so well enough. The more thoroughly we chew our food, the easier it is for the enzymes in the digestive tract to break it down, extract the nutrients from it, and get rid of the waste products.
  3. Try to Eat in a Low Stress Environment.  Try not to eat in loud, stimulating environments (if possible). Is there a quiet place at your work/school where you can eat? Can you avoid the crowded, busy lunch room? This will allow your body to relax into a parasympathetic state, which is optimal for digestion.
  4. Focus on Eating a WHOLE FOODS DIET.  Avoid processed foods, refined grains, and sugar. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, pasture raised meats and eggs, nuts, and seeds. *If you have complex digestive complaints you may need customized nutrition coaching.
  5. Try to eat what is LOCAL and IN SEASON as much as possible. Try to implement a wide variety of cooked and raw foods.  Transition to mostly cooked foods as Fall approaches. Not only will this support optimal digestion, but it supports your local farmer, and minimizes environmental impact by reducing food transportation.

If you’re feeling run down, worried about getting sick easily, experiencing digestive upset, or struggling to create nourishing relationships in your life, now is the perfect time to come in for a new digestive wellness plan.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes for Late Summer and Early Autumn to get you started.