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
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.