Nutrition, digestion, and nourishment are central foundations of life. Life is impossible without the Earth Element function to receive food (and drink), transform it into Qi and blood, and transport the Qi and blood throughout the body.
Even though winter seems far away right now, Late Summer is a crucial time of preparation for the colder weather. As we follow the seasonal cycle, we focus on the Spleen and Stomach organ system during this time because it’s important that we eat in order to prepare our bodies for winter and hibernation.
Of course, in modern times, as denizens of rich western societies, we no longer must prepare ourselves for lean times and curtailed food choices or availability in winter. In fact, many of us put on some pounds during winter because we aren’t as active and aren’t going outside as much.
However, you can still follow the natural cycles and phases of nature…and you will be all the healthier for it!
So, what do we eat to help regulate and balance our Earth element – our Spleen and Stomach? The Spleen and Stomach like “sweet” foods. Late summer is a time of harvesting and gathering, so we eat late summer corn, fruits, and grains. Sweet foods that strengthen the Earth element include whole grains like millet and rice, and root vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
“Sweet” in Classical Chinese Medicine also refers to certain meat dishes, such as rich beef stews with vegetables. Think of dishes that soothe and nourish, and you are on the right track.
Most of us are still active this time of year. Yes, the kids are back in school and many of us are back to a regular work schedule, so we may feel time starved. But it’s important to continue to get outside and get that natural Vitamin D – and equally important to maintain physical activity. Physical activity helps ensure regular peristaltic activity in the stomach, intestine, and colon supporting good digestion, assimilation, and elimination.
The mouth is the sensory organ related to the Spleen. Issues such as chronic bad breath or bleeding gums could be a sign of deficient Spleen / Stomach function.
The muscles are the tissue associated with the Spleen. Think about the healthy folks you know. They likely have a strong, balanced Spleen and Stomach. The ability to maintain or build muscle mass means your digestive function is working and you can process the protein you eat into amino acids that help build and repair body structures as well as important enzymes that support critical processes.
Now think about someone you know who has difficulty gaining or maintaining weight. This person could have digestive troubles and be weak or out of balance in their Spleen and Stomach organ system.
How to Boost and Balance your Spleen / Earth Element
In addition to “eating for your Spleen” (that sounds like a wonderful tagline for a promotional campaign), you can also practice the Wu Xing / Five Elements exercise for Earth / Spleen.
Earth elemental energy rises from the level of the Spleen and Stomach and then divides as it reaches the top of the thrusting meridian (Chong Mai), which moves up through the center of the body. This yellow, dividing energy exists at the point of change or transformation of the other elements.
In the Earth / Spleen exercise, we use movement and intention to pull up energy from the ground / earth through our core, through the level of the Spleen and Stomach, up to the point at which the energy divides at the center point of change between the other elements. The nice stretch and twist of this exercise also directly activate the Spleen and Stomach meridians.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Five Elements exercises, visit the Wu Xing / Five Elements Course page.
In our next post on the Earth Element, we will go deeper into the Earth / Spleen energetics and the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of transformation.