It’s sweltering here in California, as I write on this late August day. The weather is typical of this time of year here, and continues well into September and even October. We often call this Indian Summer, though most people don’t realize that it has it’s own unique season from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM we call it “Late Summer”, and just like all the other seasons in TCM, there are unique qualities to it. Read on to learn how to adjust your energy, diet, and lifestyle to the season of Late Summer to achieve holistic health and maintain it as you transition gracefully into Autumn.
When Is Late Summer According To TCM?
The existence and the timing of Late Summer can be a little confusing for two reasons.
- There is no consensus about the exact dates of Late Summer in Chinese Medicine. Most practitioners who acknowledge Late Summer agree that it covers the last week of August through at least the Autumn Equinox in September, here in the Norther Hemisphere.
- Some practitioners believe that there are still just 4 seasons, and that the Earth element (which rules Late Summer) instead has a transitioning/stabilizing role in between the seasons.
I actually appreciate both perspectives. Because this end-of-summer phenomenon is consistent year-to-year here in California, it makes sense to embrace the idea of a Late Summer season. But I also think it’s healthy to pay attention to the transitions between each season, and supporting the Earth element to help with that.
Late Summer is the last burst of nature’s energy to help food ripen before harvest. It’s typically very hot, and in some places, also very humid. And because kids are going back to school and people are anticipating the transition to cooler, crisper Autumn mornings, it can be a surprise when the weather fluctuates back and forth. It can be truly exhausting for some people, and it can make them ill if they don’t adapt and listen to their bodies. It’s natural to want to just lay around to conserve our energy when it’s hot, and retreat inwards. This is helpful with the transition to Autumn since it has a similar slowing-down energy, though the actual temperature is different.
Adjust To The Energy of Late Summer
To stay healthy throughout the season and transition well into Autumn, we need to align with the energy of Late Summer. This is because we’re microcosms of nature and our inner nature is seasonal too. We can adapt to the characteristics of the season in this list below, especially if we are out of balance.
The energy of Late Summer is related to:
- The Earth element
- “Center” as the direction, and down into the Earth (instead of north, south, etc.)
- Stomach & Spleen organs and meridians
- The color Yellow
- The mouth as the sense organ
- Muscles as the tissues affected
- Sweetness as taste
- Damp & humid climates
- Worry or pensiveness when out of balance
- Empathy & nurturing when in balance
- The Spirit of Yi, or the Intellect
Whether it’s hot or not, this is the best time to “find our center”. This means that we should focus on feeling fully embodied, grounded into the Earth, and create a balance of inner & outer awareness. It also refers to striking a balance between body, breath, heart, and mind. When you focus on your center, you’re also fully present in the moment and trust that what is happening in your life is there for a reason. This is why I like honoring this stable Earth energy not just in Late Summer, but in between all the seasons, as a reflection point and a re-setting of sorts.
Health And Dietary Changes In Late Summer
Digestion is always important, but it would benefit everyone to give extra energy nourishing the Stomach and Spleen organs and meridians this time of year, and in between seasons. Your digestion could be super efficient this time of year because of the relationship between the season and the Stomach and Spleen. But if these organs and channels are imbalanced (too much or too little energy), one may experience:
- Belching, bloating
- Stomach bugs
- Loose stools
- Weight gain
- Blood sugar or metabolic disorders
- Borborygmus (stomach/intestinal rumbling)
- Phlegm in lungs (coughing) or stools
- Water retention
- Feeling heavy with sore joints
- Candida overgrowth
- Fungal infections (nails, genitals, skin, etc.)
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge or stools
- Oozing rashes
- Nodules and lumps under the skin
- Low energy
- Worry and overwhelm
These imbalances are mainly from “Dampness” in TCM, which is the disruption of digestion and water metabolism that can arise anytime, but especially in Late Summer.
Foods To Avoid That Cause Dampness
If you’re prone to these Damp conditions in Late Summer or throughout the year, it’s best to avoid these foods:
- Sugar and all sweets
- All dairy except yogurt (even if it’s raw and “good quality”)
- Refined, processed grains, flour, and all starches
- Too much raw fruit, especially tropical fruit
- Too many raw vegetables
- Cold beverages
- Too many fermented foods with yeast and vinegar
- Deep fried foods
- Too much fat and oils
You can just try to limit them. But if you’re really wanting to improve your health quickly, you can do our Nourish To Heal Diet & Lifestyle Cleanse and make the dietary changes here to support the Stomach and Spleen, and to Resolve Dampness.
Foods To Eat To Resolve Dampness
Eat more of these foods that resolve Dampness and help regulate your body, heart, and mind:
- Vegetables: Scallions, chives, leeks, asparagus, celery, potato, lettuce, alfalfa, turnips, mustard greens, dandelion greens, mushrooms, squash, daikon radish
- Fruit – in season, local, cooked if possible (except melons, citrus, grapes), and limit to 2-3 servings a day
- Herbs & essential oils: Basil, rosemary, dill, oregano, sage, cilantro, parsley, cardamom, nutmeg, fennel, anise, clove, coriander
- Nuts, seeds & beans: Aduki beans, mung beans, pumpkin seeds, peas, organic fermented non-GMO soy,
- Animal protein (organic, grass-fed): yogurt, fish, chicken, beef
- Grains (soak first prior to cooking and eat in whole natural form): Corn, millet, barley, rice, rye
- Sweets: raw honey only
- Teas: Green, chrysanthemum, barley
The dietetics of Chinese Medicine is all about balance and eating close to nature and it’s rhythms. While I typically advise people to prioritize eating protein, if you have an imbalance of Dampness my advice is different. Still make sure you have protein at each meal, but it can be in smaller amounts than usual. It’s best to not overeat anything heavy and hard to digest.
I’m also usually a big fan of fat. However if you’re dealing with the health issues above, it would be a good idea to reduce the amount in your diet since you way be consuming too much for the season or your constitution. Remember that the advice you hear in the mainstream, even among modern-day nutritionists, is very general. What makes TCM super awesome is that it’s a specialized approach to caring for your unique constitution while also aligning to the seasons. So it’s definitely not one-size-fits-all!
The Best Environments in Late Summer
It’s also wise to avoid damp and humid environment if you can, especially if this is your constitution and are prone to having the health imbalances listed above. You would do better with normal humidity or even drier locations. And if that’s not possible, then do your best to adjust the humidity level in your home.
I hope this information was helpful! If you have any health issues that are related to Earth & Late Summer, hopefully you’re inspired to make some changes today.
As always, comment below if you have questions or would like to share your experience. And reach out to me if you’d like any 1:1 support with your health. Well wishes to you …