Preparing for Winter through the wisdom of Chinese medicine. Mind, body + spirit
By Dr. Lauren Dulberg DACM, L.Ac
This summer has been one of the wettest ones on record in the Northeast and the humidity levels are higher than average. While late Summer should be the perfect time to lay in the sun at the local pool or have a sunny day at the beach, we are instead needing our rain gear and find ourselves dealing with floods and rainforest like conditions.
Chinese Astrology knew this was already in the cards. Not only are things like personality, lifestyle and relationship situations predicted in Chinese astrology, so are medical and environmental happenings. This is such a profound part of Chinese culture that herbal formulas are designed depending on the properties of the year and certain types of epidemics are predicted with associated formulas as well. This foresight actually saved the day during SARS, since the formulas which were eventually administered via the government worked when antibiotics didn’t.
This year is the Double Earth Dog year, according to renowned Chinese Medical Astrologer Lillian Bridges. She states this year this year will bring about wetter than normal conditions
“ Earth years are warm weather-wise, so expect more warm fronts and warm rain, which could also melt snowpack quickly. It is likely to produce more atmospheric rivers like the “Pineapple Express,” which produce a lot of rain. Overall, there will be more moderate temperatures this year. However, the Earth Element is also associated with Humidity and Dampness, so there will likely be significantly increased humidity even in areas where it does not usually occur, particularly in the summertime.”
Not only does Chinese astrology predict this damp jungle like weather but according to Chinese medicine, this is the time of the Spleen which is the dampest time of the year. All organs channels in Chinese medicine have their own properties, emotions, time of season, foods, tastes they crave and so on. The Spleen is the element of Earth and is associated with the end of the summer. In Chinese Medicine the Spleen is known as a cold and wet organ who is in charge of making our body's Qi + Blood, which is what we need to stay healthy. The Spleen keeps various organs in the body such as the bladder and uterus, from prolapsing, holding the blood and most importantly, it transforms the food we eat into energy and transports that energy into nutrients to other parts of our body. It is also associated with the emotion of worry and overthinking. Meditation and keeping the overthinking at bay, trying to not stress the little things, and calming the mind are also very important for spleen health.
The spleen when out of balance or weak is connected to various health imbalances from digestive to gynecological to emotional. Diabetes, hypothyroidism, muscular issues, fatigue and chronic immune problems are also connected to an unhealthy spleen. In Chinese medicine, a happy and healthy spleen can be nourished and helped via Chinese medicine and diet. Nutritional therapy related to the Spleen is key for maintaining good and balanced health.
How To keep The Spleen Healthy + Happy According to Chinese Medicine
Regular acupuncture treatments, along with herbal treatments formulated for specific to conditions and symptoms related to weak Spleen Qi or Spleen Damp and Spleen Yang Deficiency, can greatly enhance and change the health of the spleen and digestive system. Diet which is another aspect of Chinese medicine is one of the most crucial modalities for Spleen health.
What we advise is contradictory to modern day health trends since one of the most important things we stress not to eat or drink are cold, raw foods and beverages. Salads, smoothies, juices and yogurt are all viewed as healthy dietary options in Western culture since the 1970’s but in Chinese medicine, they actually can cause a lot of damaged if consumed often, especially in women.
Human beings for millennia have been eating very consistent diets. Cross culturally we can find certain traditional diet trends that stand through the test of time. Some sort of grain, animal stock or vegetable stock soups, animal protein, ( in some cultures just eggs + butter), and then lightly cooked or steamed vegetables. In Asia, Chinese medicine has been ingrained in the diet for 5000 plus years, so you would never see anyone eat anything but something warm for breakfast. Eating a salad for a meal or drinking a green juice is basically unheard of.
In Chinese medicine, cold raw food creates dampness in the Spleen which will then lead to a slower and colder spleen and ultimately leading to a sequela of health events but the spleen can not function nor produce abundant Qi or Blood when it is not healthy. Maintaining warmth in the Earth center of the body is very important. Gut health has been a key part of Chinese medicine since the beginning. Not only do we see foods such as wheat and sugar, that may not be good for you as negatively affecting the digestive organs, we also understand each organ has its own properties. We must live in accordance with those nuances, especially when nourishing our center and healing through our diet.
Food The Spleen Does Not Like
- Iced Beverages
- Juices ( yes even green juice )
- Raw vegetables as a meal ( a little on the side is ok )
- Yogurt, Cheese, Milk
Foods That Make the Spleen Happy + Healthy
- Warm soups
- Warm food in general
- Steamed and lightly cooked vegetables
- Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, and squash
- Rice, Barley, Oats
- Turmeric, sage, black better, ginger, nutmeg
- Bone broth
- Lemons, strawberries, cherries and in season fruits
Living With the Seasons
When we live in harmony with the seasons and learn about ways to create balance and health in the body in one season, it can affect how our immune system responds in the seasons ahead. Fall is the season of the Lung and this is when we to see a lot of colds and flus starting as well as allergies. Keeping the spleen healthy in late summer contributes to strong and healthy lungs in Fall.
Preparing for the seasons ahead is one of the oldest forms of preventative medicine. Know the clouds before the storm.