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:
- deriving usable nutrients from food;
- transforming the food we eat (as well as the air we breathe) into Qi/energy and blood;
- transporting nourishment (in the form of Qi and blood) to every cell in our body.
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.