Summer is here which means we have transitioned from the wood element into the fire element. Within Traditional Chinese Medicine Fire is part of the 5 element system, a ancient system that was designed to guide humanity through the seasons. Every season has common themes based on nature that give us an idea on how to naturally transition our diet and lifestyle. Fire is yang energy and it is a time for expansion, lightness, brightness, creativity, socializing, getting outdoors, celebration, happiness, joy, movement, and maturity. Training your awareness to these cycles of the season will teach us how the changes can affect how we feel and how to maintain our vitality. That is why I have created this fire energy eating guide which helps you cook summer foods and herbs based on the fire energy.
The Phycological Qualities of the Fire Element
When we have reached maturity in our lives we are more self-sufficient, and our identity becomes determined exclusively by ourselves. Allowing us to open our hearts more freely and love unconditionally. The health of our relationships can be a gage into the health of our internal fire and well being. When our internal garden is not blooming we feel like we have no joy or compassion to share. We have fear of rejection in our hearts and minds and may feel sexualy inhibited, shy, emotionally cold, sensitive, or overly dependent on others. Not knowing who we are and our inner strengths makes it hard to express our true selves.
The transitioning environment can be the cause of an excess or deficiency in the body. Fire deficiency will manifest in body with symptoms of chills, numbness, impaired blood and fluid circulation. Or menstrual, urinary, and sexual dysfunction. The lungs can suffer from poor oxygenation which can lead to coughing and nasal congestion. As well as sluggish digestion, abdominal pain, diarrhea, that can lead to poor assimilation of nutrients and which can manifest into more health issues.
Excess fire energy leads to symptoms such as inflammation of joints, hyper sexuality, chronic infections, dry lungs, inflamed throat and sinuses, burning diarrhea and urination, or constipation. When it affects the heart it can lead to anxiety and sleep deprivation. Too much heat can lead to drying our internal systems. Too much fire can also lead to extreme personalities like being stuck in over expansion, too hot, to much clowning around, always laughing, always being on, leading to burn out.
Summer Foods for Balancing The Fire Element
Gardens are starting to flourish and produce vegetables and the trees are beginning to set fruit. There is a lot of fresh foods to eat in the summer. And when it comes to eating in the fire season you want to make sure your internal flame is a blaze and burning at a steady pace. If your internal fire is burning too much or not enough it will create imbalances that can lead to disease if it goes untreated long enough.
Summer provides us a bounty of colorful fruits and vegetables. Get creative with the colors and flavors by designing beautiful meals and food displays that you can share with others. Keep the meals light with a little spicy and pungent kick.
During the hotest of days cooling fresh foods can be made. Like salads, sprouts, fruit, cucumber, tofu, and sun teas with chamomile, mint, hibiscus, and chrysanthemum. To many cold foods in the summer heat can slow and weaken the digestive organs. Iced drinks and Ice cream contract the stomach and stop digestion. It is better to have foods that are quickly cooked on high heat with oil and only a little salt.
It is important to keep the internal fire burning with a little hot spices like hot peppers, ginger, horseradish, and black pepper. Adding a little of these warming foods help bring body heat out to be dispersed. So a little bit of heat helps keep our systems temperature cycling in a healthy rhythm.
Heavy foods like meat, eggs, nuts, grains, seeds can cause sluggishness and lack of flow through our internal system. Which can lead to heat disturbances. Imbalances with the heart which can affect our mind and calcium metabolism.
What Heart Imbalances Look Like
Traditional Chinese Medicine texts say that the heart, small intestine, and pericardium is where the fire element manifests in our body. This is also known as the three burners which is responsible for regulating our bodies temperature.
Symptoms of heart mind imbalances look like scattered/confused thoughts, excess or no laughter, ruddy or pale face, speech problems, depression, mental illness, memory loss, poor circulation, weak spirit, heat avoidance. Too much coffee, alcohol, tobacco, refined salt, sugar, protein, refined flour, aluminum pesticides and marijuana can interfere with calcium absorption. These are warming substances that deplete the yin. Which can lead to heart disease and osteoporosis.
Heart imbalances are often caused by deficiency and in Chinese Medicine there are many organs that are treated to help re-nourish the heart. Treating deficient kidney yin to improve heart yin is one way to help with heart deficiencies. Meeting with a expert practitioner will help if you are feeling any of these symptoms.
Bitter and Sweet
Bitter flavor helps clear heat and clean arteries of damp deposits of cholesterol and fats associated with lower cholesterol. Foods like celery clear stagnation and oils heat in the liver caused by overconsumption of rich foods. Trying adding alfalfa, lettuce, rye, radish leaf, scallion, turnip, white pepper, amaranth, papaya, quinoa and vinegar to your summertime meals. Herbs like dandelion, burdock, yarrow, chamomile, hops, valerian, chaparral, and echinacea can be used for imbalances and damp conditions as well.
Sweet foods can be used to help mask the bitter flavor. Apple, apricot, cherry, date, fig, grand;e, olive, peach, pear, strawberry, tomato, beet, mushroom, cabbage, carrot, chard, cucumber, eggplant, potato, squash, sweet potato, beans, peas, lentils, almond, coconut, sesame seed, sunflower seed, walnut, honey, molasses, rice syrup, unrefined cane sugar are all great additions to a summer diet.
Summer recipes that I keep on rotation include stone fruit porridge, vegan gumbo, beet burgers, lentil and summer veggie curry, quinoa salad, savory or sweet rye toast, mushroom sandwiches, vegan caesar salad with tahini dressing, ratatouille just to name a few ideas. And they all use some of these nourishing fire energy ingredients. I hope this guides helps you pave the way to a healthy and tasty summer feast. Enjoy natures abundant summer bounty!
To help keep track of what you are feeling throughout the seasons I highly recommend starting some 5 element journals. One you can designate for each of the 5 elemental seasons. Journaling what you are going through emotionally, the transitions you feel in nature and in your body, downloads you receive from meditation time, dream time, goals, aspirations, botanical drawings, poetry and any other thing that resonates with you. This helps you really connect to the seasons around you.
To learn more about the seasons and the 5 elements check out the other eating guides: