by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.
Paying attention to seasonal changes and altering your lifestyle to harmonize with the upcoming season is fundamental to supporting your health and healing. One important way to harmonize with the seasons is by supporting your Earth energy.
In Chinese Medicine, the digestive system relates to the Earth energy. It is especially important during the 18 day period between the change of every season to sustain healthy digestive habits and focus on healing the Earth element in our lives.
If we don't follow daily habits that support our body during seasonal transitions, especially taking care of our digestive system, health problems may develop in the coming season.
In general, seasonal imbalances prevent Yang Qi from ascending properly in the body. Ascension of Yang Qi is essential for proper metabolic and immune function.
Earth energy is about transformation and it is the movement of Yang Qi that allows for healthy transformation to occur within our body and within our lives.
In other words, we need proper movement of Yang Qi to facilitate the transformation of food into energy and raw material into structure, as well as to eliminate waste material. We also need Yang Qi to ascend and circulate properly to warm and nourish the exterior of the body and fortify the immune system.
The production of Qi energy is rooted in a healthy digestive system and a healthy diet. The organ that supports the production and ascension of Yang Qi is the Spleen which is the primary organ of the Earth element.
In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen organ function correlates with the Pancreas and the Mind so dealing with the management of blood sugar is critical for the production and movement of Yang Qi and a healthy functioning brain.
The Spleen ascends Qi and this action is fundamental to get proper movement of Yang Qi into the brain to bring the light of positivity into our lives so we don't get stuck in the darkness of negative thinking.
Essentially, if Yang Qi is not circulating properly into the brain, a person may suffer from poor concentration, lack of mental clarity, and depression.
The experience of brain fog is a symptom of Yang Qi energy not properly ascending into the brain and is often due to a physical terrain burdened by dampness.
What is dampness?
Dampness is the pathology that burdens the Earth energy because if the earth is too wet and soggy it leads to a fungal terrain in the body. So in terms of Chinese Medicine, dampness correlates to a fungal/yeast terrain that is commonly created from a diet heavy in sugar and processed foods.
Excess sugar in any form, including fruit and grains, contribute to the proliferation of dampness, or fungus, in the gut that can spread throughout the body.
Dampness in the joints causes joint swelling and in the sinus causes chronic sinusitis and allergies. In addition, unhealthy fats, dairy products such as milk, cheese and ice cream, processed foods, alcohol and the use of a variety of medications such as birth control pills, antibiotics, corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs all contribute to a fungal terrain that once established can be very difficult to manage or resolve.
In general, a person with excess dampness in his or her body will tend to feel sluggish physically and lack motivation mentally. This sense of feeling “stuck” is a result of metabolic “Yang Qi” being bogged down and stagnant due to a damp terrain in the body that interferes on a cellular level with energy production.
This stagnation of Qi is rooted in a gut overburdened with unhealthy bacteria, fungus and yeast creating the common condition known today as “gut dysbiosis”.
So how do we break this cycle of Yang Qi suppression and clean up the damp physical terrain that is underlying many of today’s chronic degenerative diseases?
Many health problems that are rooted in gut dysbiosis can be managed by simply changing the diet.
Changing one’s eating habits, however, can be a most challenging task because eating out is often a big part of many people’s lives and it can be very challenging to follow a healthy diet lifestyle while trying to function on a day to day basis. This is especially difficult in the corporate environment where sugary snacks and caffeinated beverages abound to placate the cravings of their over-worked and stressed out employees.
The practice of simply cutting back or eliminating sugar and grains and eating a more paleo-based diet high in vegetables, healthy fats and clean proteins will allow your body to slowly eat away at the dampness.
When a person is burdened with dampness they usually are also overweight with too much fat accumulation especially around the thighs for women and midsection for men. The importance of grain elimination is for this type of pattern.
If you tend to have hypoglycemia (with low blood sugar) and need to put on weight, then eating grains is fine as long as you are cautious of gluten intolerance. If gluten sensitive, eat only non-gluten grains including rice, buckwheat, quinoa and millet.
However, when a damp fungal terrain is of concern, reducing or eliminating grains is essential and carbohydrates are best consumed in the form of vegetables such as root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, winter squashes, lotus root, etc...
When carbohydrates are reduced in the diet, rather than burning glucose for fuel the body switches to burning fat for fuel. The process of burning fat rather than glucose for energy is called KETOSIS.
The process of ketosis is supported by the liver as it will convert body fat into energy molecules called ketone bodies. Intermittent fasting is a powerful way to induce this process of ketosis and is useful for many chronic diseases. One simple way to fast each day is not eating after 7 pm and delay breakfast until around 9-10 am. The longer fasting periods are best for people with more extreme conditions of insulin resistance, a condition often referred to as Syndrome X where there is excess belly fat or obesity, high blood sugar, elevated triglycerides and hypertension. This is the recipe, by the way, for heart disease. So this practice of intermittent fasting will reduce the metabolic imbalances creating the number one cause of death for most ethnicities in the U.S.
Healing your Earth energy goes beyond diet.
Healing your Earth involves more than just modifying your diet and reducing dampness as has been suggested. There are other dynamics of your life that relate to your Earth.
One essential aspect of every person’s Earth energy is reflected in their relationships.
Working on healing your relationships especially with your family is primary to have a strong Earth energy and to feel grounded in your life.
If you cannot heal a relationship that is causing problems, perhaps it may be best to create space so the harmful effects of these toxic relationships are not as present in your life.
Remember, you have the power.
You have the power to ‘let go’ in your heart the pains that have been rooted in bad relationships. This may require forgiveness, which is an essential part of letting go and moving on, especially moving on from being a victim in your life. It may not be easy, but it is essential to regaining your full power.
Your personal power is grounded in your solar plexus correlating to the area of your stomach. If you are having difficulty with digestion, take notice of what in your life may be stressing your nervous system and interfering with your ability to process not only food but certain aspects of your life as well. Regaining your personal power and restoring your digestion may require you to step away from a dysfunctional job or relationship.
If you feel you are not living life in your power, it may be time to free yourself of the relentless stress rooted in old emotional pain. This alone will free up a tremendous amount of earth energy power to help you cultivate healthy and happier relationships in your life.
Restoring your Earth energy may be challenging, but it’s indeed the cornerstone to your health and healing on all levels.
If you want your personal power to be strong and your mind clear to focus on your life purpose, it is within your reach with effort and determination.
The changes necessary to heal a wounded Earth system may require a sustained effort and the healing may take time especially if it has been a long term health problem. Persevere through the challenges that come with change knowing in your heart you will be rewarded for your efforts all along the way with more energy, clarity of mind and good things coming into your life.
Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder and Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine & Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare non-insertion form of Acupuncture. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.