In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Summer correlates to the Fire element, and the Heart/Small Intestine organ system, which plays a big role in our emotional well-being and the circulation of blood. Paying particular attention to any issues with these systems during the summer months will help us to prevent illness. The Heart regulates the flow of Blood around the body, and it is where we feel our emotions. Stress, overwork, and emotional distress can cause imbalances within the Heart/Small Intestine, which usually manifest as insomnia, anxiety, or palpitations. Summer is a great time to bring more joy into our lives through socialising, creative pursuits, dancing, and celebrating life. With the long and bright days of summer, it’s a perfect time to get out there and have a bit of fun!
It’s important to spend time outdoors, but make sure you stay hydrated! The days are long so we can get up earlier and go to bed later, making time to rest in the middle of the day, and eat lighter meals. Cold showers, baths, or swimming outdoors are great for cooling down any excessive summer heat. Not taking ourselves too seriously and finding time to play will help to release any pent-up emotional stress that might affect the Heart.
Signs your Heart is in need of some TLC
Common symptoms of a struggling Heart/Small Intestine system (in the traditional Chinese medical sense, not the anatomical heart and small intestine, although they do share similar roles) are:
- Insomnia, waking in the night
- Anxiety, panic attacks
- Excessive sweating
- Depression and/or mania
- Pale or red complexion
- Tongue ulcers
- Speech problems
Yoga and Qi Gong are excellent gentle exercises suitable for all levels of fitness, at any time of the year. Try this 2 minute Qi Gong for the Heart practice, or this 25 minute Yoga with Adriene sequence for a healthy heart. You can also find an acupuncturist to help you with any Heart issues.
Joy and love are the emotions associated with the Heart, and joy makes Qi ‘slow down’. When we’re happy, we might feel like time goes much slower than usual. We don’t feel rushed, and we feel content. The Heart is responsible for our ability to express feelings, communicate, feel pleasure, joy, and happiness. However, the Heart also feels all the other emotions and if we have excessive or chronic emotional upsets, or try to push our emotions down, we might suffer from a Heart imbalance. An imbalance in the Heart might manifest emotionally as anxiety, quick to tears, self-centered or low self-esteem (two sides of the same coin), sadness, and feelings of inadequacy. That’s why we say ‘listen to your heart’, ‘follow your heart’, and not to ‘take things to heart’.
Some useful ways I have found to help process emotions are; journaling, meditation, and mindfulness. Acupuncture and cupping are also useful this time of year, particularly if you suffer from a Heart imbalance.
Diet & Lifestyle Choices that Support the Heart
- Have some fun!
- Spend time in nature, keeping hydrated
- Dance, laugh, socialise
- Be creative
- Eat light meals
- Saute, steam, and lightly cook meals
- Bitter foods such as bitter greens, celery
- Eat plenty of leafy greens such as spinach and cabbage
- Eat plenty of red foods such as watermelon, beetroot, cranberry, tomato, berries, rhubarb
- Reduce alcohol
- Berries, plain bio-yoghurt
- Poached egg with spinach on wholegrain toast
- Lightly cooked veggies
- Salad with boiled egg or other source of protein
- Sauteed, steamed, or boiled dishes with; wholegrain rice, tomato, beans, watercress, asparagus, mushrooms, leafy greens
- Seasonings; basil, dill
- Celery, cucumber, all fruits particularly watermelon, pear, cherries, and strawberries
- Green tea, lemon water, mint tea, chrysanthemum tea, watermelon juice, coconut water
- Raw (always in moderation)
Watch this great video on Summer Health by Wu Wei Wisdom, explaining all about summer and its effect on the Heart, and how you can preserve your health.
I’m no chef - so I’m always looking for delicious recipes that nourish the Heart using the foods and methods above! If you have any you’d like to share, please email them to [email protected]