Welcome to the end of August! The classical Chinese calendar has a name for this time of year: "late summer". This additional season starts in August and lasts for about a month. It is actually at the very center of the year, considering that the Chinese calendar begins in February, at the beginning of spring. As such, late summer marks the transition between the yang part of the year (the growing, expansive, active energies of spring and summer) and the yin part of the year (the retracting, receptive, inwardly-focused qualities of autumn and winter).
In the five-element system of Chinese philosophy, the period of late summer (and seasonal transitions) corresponds to the earth element; the spleen and stomach are the organs of the body associated with late summer and the earth element.
From a Chinese medical perspective, the spleen and stomach system can be thought of as encompassing and controlling the whole digestive system. Together they are responsible for the breaking down of food and assimilation of nutrients. Among the functions of the healthy spleen and stomach are:
However, when spleen and stomach health is compromised (sadly, not uncommon given the typical "American diet" and high levels of daily stress present in our lives), late summer can be a time when health problems crop up. As an acupuncturist, I generally notice - and expect - more patients coming in at this time of year with imbalances of the spleen and stomach system: digestive upset; fatigue or malaise; exacerbation of chronic health conditions; or complex emotional issues.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post, which will detail how you can help insure your spleen and stomach system is working as effectively as possible during late summer.
Michael A. Sassack is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist serving the northwest suburbs of Chicago.