FIVE ELEMENTS > EARTH

Late summer and the Earth element

Harvest time belongs to the Earth element in Chinese Medicine. The energy is different from the high-summer months of Fire; the sun is on the decline again. It's now the season of reaping: cereal crops, fruit and vegetables have ripened and need gathering. Earth energy is about coming back to centre, coming back home after a holiday abroad, feeding ourselves on all the abundance before the chill of autumn then the harsher winter returns.

The spleen and stomach

The digestive system, especially the stomach and spleen, comes under the Earth element. Healthy transformation and transportation of food is essential for us to be able to harvest the nutrients from what we eat and gain energy from it. There is a strong correlation between how much time we spend worrying or churning things over, and how robust our digestion is. Separating the acts of digesting information and digesting food helps us to do both more effectively so if you have a weak or sluggish system, don't grab lunch at your desk! Train yourself to stay more centred or at least regularly come back to neutral, if you have a hectic life. And ensure your own needs are being met: this is essential for the healthy function of the stomach and spleen. If you're a mother, you may find this especially challenging, but aiming for a better balance is vital for your continued wellbeing.

Above: the harvesting of fruit and vegetables belongs to the Earth element and late summer, a time of abundance
when we can feast on nature's produce, ready for the harsher winter months ahead

The importance of staying grounded

In our increasingly fractured and full lives, the importance of staying centred and grounded cannot be overemphasised. With constant access to emails, texts and phones in the West, we rarely switch off from the stimuli and demands of the external world, and barely give ourselves time to recentre and reconnect with our inner realms. This is exhausting for our bodies, which were originally designed for much simpler functions hunting and gathering, eating, sleeping, having children... We have an overload of information coming at us from all angles, what with the internet, TV, radio, adverts, as well as emails, mobiles and apps. No wonder our concentration suffers. This overstimulation has a direct impact on the stomach and spleen, which desperately try to digest and sift through the stream of information we receive. In order to strengthen these organs, and our digestive systems generally, we need to give ourselves space and permission to let our minds drift sometimes, and to go for walks in nature, or sit quietly until worries or frustrations have subsided. Cooking, gardening and other earthy, simple chores, also help to restore our equilibrium and clear our minds. If you're struggling to redress this balance, and feel constantly overloaded, try the exercise below to help strengthen the spleen. If you feel you need further help, visit an acupuncturist. Click here for my clinic details in London.

Symptoms of weak spleen and stomach energy

Worrying a lot, or churning thoughts over and over, are clear signs of weakened spleen energy. Sluggish digestion, IBS, loose stools, feeling tired and heavy in the mornings, aching limbs and dull frontal headaches are also common symptoms. When the spleen is struggling, fluids and fat accumulate in the body; these can also manifest as lumps, fibroids and cysts. A good diet, low in sugar and dairy, and with an emphasis on warm, cooked foods, which are easy to digest, can quickly invigorate a tired spleen and replenish your energy.

Qi Gong exercise to strengthen your spleen

This can be done either lying down or sitting upright. Find the spleen area tucked below your left ribs at the front. Direct a smile at it, and feel the area relax and become more expansive, as your thought energy sends blood to the area. Breathe in slowly and deeply and envisage the spleen filling with a warm yellow. Pause. Then, on the out-breath, picture an exhaust pipe leaving the spleen and coming out through the back of the body, taking the dull, sludgy browny-yellow of the spleen's toxins with it. Do this five times. This whole area should feel warmer and more alive; the more you practise the exercise, the more energised you will feel. You should also feel increasingly centred and less racked by obsessive thoughts. It's very good for helping digestive complaints and calming stomach nerves too.

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HARVESTING ENERGY

The Earth element, linked to late summer, is all about understanding what nourishes and feeds us, and creating boundaries with those who rely on us

WORRY & INSTINCT

When we fret and worry about all the things we have to juggle, we lose sight of our instinctive priorities. Give yourself space to tune into your deeper needs, and you will make the right decisions quickly and effortlessly

GET IN TUNE

If you would like to book an acupuncture or face-reading session with me to help you tune into the seasonal energy and rebalance yourself, click here

BOOST YOUR DIGESTION

A craving for sweet foods is a sign of stomach and spleen deficiency. Try to eat naturally sweet foods such as carrots and sweet root vegetables, rather than those containing refined sugars. Eating regular, cooked meals, and focusing on the meal rather than on work or television, helps us to digest and assimilate properly

YOUR FACE UNMASKED

The health of your stomach and spleen is indicated on your lower cheeks, lips and eyelids. Puffy or yellowish eyelids show retention of body fluids; full cheeks show that you have a lot of support; and full, wide lips are a sign of strong Earth energy and generosity. See Face Reading