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Your Health in Late Summer:

Your Health in Late Summer:

Acupuncture Theory & Functional Medicine Approach

As the days become shorter, the air cooler, and the harvests ready; we know we are entering late summer, which is the last “season” in our exploration of the Five Element Theory of acupuncture. So far we’ve discussed the following season-element pairs: Fall-Metal, Winter-Water, Spring-Wood, and Summer-Fire.

We’ve been examining the theory and how it is a guide to how each element corresponds to an internal organ system, and each system is associated with certain physical and psychological conditions. The late summer is ruled by the Earth element, which represents the core of the body in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), i.e., the Stomach and Spleen/Pancreas. It is about digestive vitality and emotional nourishment.

Late Summer: The Earth Element

There are 4 seasons. But Late Summer, which is associated with Earth, is not a season in and of itself—it is much more.It is the field that enables the play of 4 seasons because Earth gives everything life. This season is characterized by sustaining both body and spirit. The activities of an Indian summer see individuals taking advantage of what’s left of the light and warmth to begin harvesting preparation for fall and winter. It is both a literal going to the ground to get the earth’s bounty, and a figurative grounding of one’s emotions.

When the Earth element is unbalanced emotionally, worry and anxiety are manifested. A person gets stuck in rumination and overthinking which impedes any action and contributes to feelings of being overwhelmed or preoccupied. Brains are foggy and pensive. An emotionally balanced Earth elementis found in a person who is strong, connected, and who can give and receive sympathy. That person would be clear thinking, able to receive and assimilate knowledge and have a sense of stability. And that person will be able to nourish the body with a healthy digestive system.

When we speak of physical imbalances in the Earth element, we are seeing symptoms associated with disorders and deficiencies within the stomach and spleen/pancreas—those organs responsible for digestive health. In my clinical practice, I see a demonstration of how almost all diseases related to imbalances of Earth Element, meaning Stomach and Spleen/Pancreas Meridians, present as digestive tract disorders. These 2 meridians of the Earth element are at the heart of digestive health and this acupuncture theory intersects with Western medicine as the root of almost all medical conditions.

Physical symptoms of spleen/pancreas deficiency include:

• Exhaustion and fatigue

• Lack of appetite

• Undigested foods in loose stool

• Weight gain

• Yeast and candida

• Nausea and vomiting

• Fibromyalgia

• Organ prolapse

• Weak muscles and tendons

• Insulin issues, pre-diabetes, diabetes

Stomach disorders are indicated by:

• Epigastric hunger pain; constant hunger

• Thick white or yellow coat on the tongue

• Bloated feeling after eating

• Sour regurgitation, belching and hiccups

• Halitosis

There are also facial indicators of Earth element deficiencies. Stomach and spleen/pancreas organs are represented on the face by lips and mouth. If there is a darker color around the mouth and skin and common outbreaks in that area, these are early signs of GI tract disorders.

GI Tract: At the Earth (Element) Core

GI tract disorders are the primary source of any Earth element imbalance, and right now, these conditions are running rampant. Examples of these physical disorders include:

• Gastritis

• GERD, aka Acid Reflux

• IBS

• SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)

• Candida

• Leaky gut syndrome,

• Insulin resistance

• Diabetes, and more

Most GI tract issues are a result of problems with diet, lifestyle, and environmental toxins interacting with our unique genetic susceptibilities. For example, with insulin resistance, cells cannot absorb glucose (sugar) for energy production. Insulin builds up in the blood, creating high levels of blood sugar and A1C. As your insulin levels increase it leads to ramped up appetite, increasing weight gain around the belly, more inflammation and oxidative stress, and myriad downstream effects including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL, high triglycerides, thickening of the blood, and increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression.

Another example is gastritis. This condition involves stomach inflammation most often due to the presence of infection or excessive bacteria (H. pylori) from a variety of different sources, which cause persistent heartburn, bloating, and in some cases vomiting. The influencing factors of gastritis range from food allergies or sensitivities to eating spicy foods and heavy meals before bedtime.

Working Out Your Core: Treatment and Tips

Insulin resistance, gastritis, and virtually all the GI tract disorders and their symptoms can be resolved by following a special diet, detecting food allergies, cultivating your gut biome, and improving digestive enzymes and intestinal mucosa. In my clinic, we employ a Functional Medicine approach to testing—meridian/organ testing, food allergy/sensitivity testing, blood tests, parasite tests, and more— and to treatment protocols, which safely and effectively identify and treat root causes as well as the symptoms. Overall, these conditions can be managed naturally through dietary adjustments and herbal supplements, as well as with recommendations for lifestyle changes.

Here are just some of the ways to take care of your stomach and spleen/pancreas:

• Explore different diet protocols, e.g., Paleo, SCD, FODMAP, Gaps, Ketogenic, Mediterranean, Low Histamine, Blood type and more.

• Choose natural supplements to counteract your symptoms such as proper digestive enzymes, blood sugar stabilizers, probiotics and natural antibacterial and antifungal remedies. Check your micronutrients and supplement the missing ones.

• Make nutritional adjustments to avoid food allergens, like gluten, grains or dairy. Very often eliminating grains and cow dairy helps tremendously.

• Eliminate spicy foods, and fried and processed foods, all of which fuel acid production in the stomach.

• Follow a food-combining chart for better and faster digestion.

And sticking to some simple lifestyle tips can go a long way toward symptom prevention and supporting good digestive health:

• Don’t worry, be happy! Worries, anxiety and overthinking can negatively impact your digestive health.

• Eat mostly cooked and warm foods and beverages.

• Don’t overeat! And have dinner by no later than 7pm to give your stomach, along with your other organs, a chance to rest and digest fully before bed.

• Increase your activity level! Nourish your muscles.

Late Summer is the perfect time to get your digestive health in order. The wisdom of Chinese medicine encourages taking care of your stomach and spleen/pancreas, which also supports mind and spirit with strength and stability. Western medicine echoes the finding that digestive wellness supports mental wellness, and vice versa. Use the wisdom of the Earth element as the basis for balancing your body’s core.

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