I am a big promoter of and believer in seasonal health—adjusting our lifestyle to the year’s changes in the locale where we live. I see this as a key part of Preventive Medicine. Adapting and attuning to the Seasons was the subject of my first book, Staying Healthy with the Seasons (initially published in 1981, updated in 2003, and still a timeless health message), which integrates Natural, Eastern and Western medicinal approaches for optimal health. My recently published Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine is the next octave of integrating these three valuable healing systems.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Summer is associated with the element of fire and the color red, while the heart and small intestines are the organs that relate to this season. I explore these and many other correspondences in the book and I show how to make them relevant to your own health on a day-to-day basis.
The premise of eating seasonally is to re-attune ourselves to Nature, just as our ancestors lived harmoniously with what the Earth provided. The basic diet consisted of locally grown and gathered fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Fish and shellfish were caught and consumed around river, lake, and coastal communities. Where possible, livestock was raised for consumption and hunters brought home wild game for their families. Thus growing our own food and buying from local farmers are logical first steps toward seasonal eating while also investing in a more healthful future for our planet.
Two basic factors affect what foods are available to us. The first is the climate in which we live. Most of the United States has definitive seasons: cold and snow in the winter, and either hot and dry or hot and humid in the summers. The bounty of fresh foods comes from late spring into autumn. The west coast and southern states have longer growing seasons, less dramatic seasonal changes, and thus, more available fresh foods.
The second factor affecting our dietary habits is the light and dark cycles of Nature, i.e., the amount of sunlight and darkness within a 24-hour period. These cycles influence our activity levels more than any other factors and, in this way, influence our dietary needs. Outside temperatures also affect our food intake and exercise options. The basic instinctual and an energy tonic and stress protector, dong quai as a tonic for women, hawthorn berry as a good heart supporter, and licorice root will help energy balance and digestion.
The hot days are also a good time to use some "hot" herbs. Interestingly it is often countries with warmer climates like India and Mexico that use hot herbs and spices the most. Cayenne and Ginger stimulate digestion and elimination, while Turmeric is being praised as a wonder spice with many beneficial health properties. Try adding these to your summer diet. Salsas are a great addition to many meals, on top of an egg in an organic corn tortilla or a rice and veggie dish. I just love those hot spices and I think they protect the body from much dis-ease.
Summer is also the time for fruit aplenty, and Nature is certainly wise to provide us with these most cooling foods. With plums, peaches, apricots, and most of the berries and melons, it is definitely a juicy time. (Note: some people nowadays are limiting their fruit intake due to the glycemic or sugar load.) Enjoy lots of vegetables for salads or sliced up for dipping are also a good idea. In summer, it is wise to consume our heavier, cooked, or protein meals either earlier in the morning, or later in the day as the temperature cools down.
The long days, warmer weather and abundance of fresh fruits and veggies provides a great opportunity to do some summer detoxifying – another of my keys to optimal health. Extra exercise and sweating are also helpful as the skin is our largest organ of elimination. So why not try a fruit and/or vegetable juice cleanse for three to five days and see how much better you feel? This is the perfect time to try one of my favorite detoxes — there are several, including juice cleansing, found in my book, The Detox Diet. In the 35 years since I wrote and published Staying Healthy with the Seasons I have become even more convinced of the value of this approach. So much of our health is in our own hands and attuning our lifestyle to the seasons of our natural world is a great first step.For more information visit my website.
Elson M. Haas, MD
Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.
This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. His latest book is Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine which integrates Natural, Eastern, and Western Approaches for Optimal Health. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.