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September - The Earth Element and Digestion

Despite no longer being in school, this time of year still gives me butterflies - apprehension is in the air as the height of summer begins its decrescendo.

This late summer/ not-quite-fall time is considered an entire season of its own in Chinese medicine theory. It is the fifth season, the harvest season, and it belongs to the Earth element. The Earth element corresponds with our digestive system (i.e. the Spleen and Stomach).

Not only are the Spleen and Stomach responsible for digesting our food, but they’re also responsible for digesting our thoughts and experiences. If this system becomes unbalanced, it can lead to digestive weakness as well as worry, obsessiveness and foggy thinking. This correlation mirrors the gut-mind connection evident in current research on the gut microbiome.

The “spirit” associated with the Earth element is the “yi”, or the intellect, which dictates thought and intention. This is the time of year to reflect on the harvest of your summer: What experiences brought you joy? What did you learn from? What else can you pick from the trees (literally or figuratively) to nourish yourself? Fall is a time of letting go of what doesn’t serve us before turning inwards in the wintertime; what intentions can you set in this transition from summer to fall so that you feel clear-headed and focused? How can you hold the joy of summer and the grief of fall at once? ~Earth wants us in community and with strong boundaries. It wants us to use our intellect while remaining grounded and clear.~

Seasonal tips: Strengthen your inner Earth

  • Chew your food. Try not to do anything else while you eat (I find this really hard! Note to self to follow my own advice.)

  • Spend time in meditation

  • Eat whole foods that are yellow and orange - root vegetables are great (sweet potato, carrots, squash, etc.)

  • Don’t skip breakfast (so important for hormone health, too)

  • Sing! - the sound/expression related to Earth. Belt it out in the shower.

  • Focus on warm and cooked foods over cold, raw foods

  • Think about your boundaries around social media, screen time and other things you mentally ingest

  • Come in for some moxibustion. Moxa is the practice of burning mugwort, a warming, nourishing herb that strengthens digestion and regulates menstruation

  • Cultivate community: have a dinner party with family/friends, join a new class, smile at that person on the subway

If you need support this season, acupuncture is superb at treating digestive disorders as well as anxiety and chronic worry. One biomedical explanation for this is its ability to regulate the vagus nerve and put our body into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest, as opposed to fight/flight/freeze). In this state the body’s functions are able to return to equilibrium, inflammation is down-regulated and happy hormones are secreted.


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