Eating to Nourish the Earth Element
Late Summer calls us home to ourselves and our centres from the expansion of true Summer and the fire element. It’s often known as Indian Summer and the Earth Element in the Chinese Medicine 5 Element Wheel. It’s the golden stretch between Summer and Autumn…golden days are shortening with fresher starts & change is in the breeze. The colour is yellow reflective of the golden hues and it’s a time of balance, transformation and neutrality. It’s connects of the organ systems of the Stomach and Spleen/ Pancreas, is a time of ripening of the fruits symbolic of the ripening & and rotting of the digestive process within us.
It all starts with the mother..
The Earth is our mother, source of all life and nourishment and offers the qualities of steady, grounded, secure with the fruits of the harvest in abundance. From a Five Element Acupuncture perspective, Earth element emotional wellbeing and psychology connects us to our own mother dynamics, how well we were nurtured in early life and how well we nourish ourselves on all levels. Earth Element constitutional people will commonly carry ‘mother issues’ from early life more intrinsically than other elements.
Build your blood
The spleen is in charge of making our body’s Qi (energy) and blood which are vital to our health and especially fertility. It also holds the blood in the vessels and raises our energy so that prolapses don’t occur to major organs like the bladder and uterus.
Eating to connect to our centres
Peak digestive times are the hours of seven-nine for stomach and nine–eleven for Spleen. A strong appetite during stomach time is a reflection of strong digestive energy. Spleen manages transformation and transportation of the nutrient value extracted from food and liquids.
Keep it cool..
The stomach looks it cool and dry and is prone to overheating which leads to issues such as reflux, stomach ulcers, bleeding gums, bad breath, blood noses and a vivacious appetite which isn’t great if you’re trying to mange your weight. It’s good to moderate and be mindful of heating substances. The hottest are all spicy foods, red meat, peanuts, red wine, coffee, cacao, spirits and cigarettes.
And warm it up..
In contrast, the spleen likes it warm. The climate is humidity and dampness both of which can aggravate the stomach and spleen if there a weakness and imbalance in the system.
To avoid a sluggish digestion and carrying excess damp in your body ie feeling, tired, heavy, sluggish, unable to think clearly, bloating, water retention, excess vaginal discharge and mucous. Late Summer is the time to warm up!
Imagine your digestion is like a cooking pot where the stomach is the pot and the spleen is the fire beneath it. It takes warmth to process our food so it’s best to moderate or avoid cold raw food as this drains the spleen qi which can lead to a build up of excessive dampness, water retention of mucus and congestion. This saps our vitality, leads to low appetite, hiccups loose stools flatulence and a sluggish lymphatic..
Moderate or completely avoid cold foods including salads, smoothies & ice water. dairy, refined sugars, bananas, mangoes and fatty and greasy foods also contribute to dampness.
Find the sweetness in Life…
The flavour which connects to Earth is sweet stemming that of breast milk as our first source of nourishment and comfort. Craving sweet can be a reflection imbalance in the Earth Element and of not feeling connected to the sweetness in life..
Feed the mind..
In Chinese medicine theory, every organ ‘houses’ a spirit, which corresponds to a certain aspect of our psyche. The spleen connects to our thoughts and mental capacity, relate which is called the Yi (which translates to Intellect) and reflects the mind, gut relationship. The Yi influences our capacity for studying, concentration, memorizing, etc.
Don’t worry be happy..
Worry is the emotion associated with the spleen and as, the Yi is be prone to worry, anxiety, and overthinking. Especially earth element constitution will be more prone to being caught in this loop which can be exhausting to the Spleen resulting in digestive weakness, IBS, and fatigue. Mindfulness practices and meditation are of great benefit for both healthy and flowing stomach and spleen qi.
Stay phlegm free for Autumn…
Autumn is the next element on the wheel and staying uncongested and phlegm free is ideal! Having a damp, congested spleen feeds into having a phlegmy congested respiratory system.
In essence the energy that comes from the transformation of food feeds to our lungs which also creates ‘Wei qi’ which is our defensive energy that protects the body from external attack.ie Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness or commonly known as colds and flus.
Top tips for the Earth element:
- Eat Breakfast to energise and optimise peak digestive time
- Eat regular meals for good grounding and rhythm ie breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Be present when eating & chew well for optimal processing
- eating while working, driving, or standing, eating irregularly, over or under-eating.
- eating when worried or stressed or angry
- constant nibbling and eating too fast
- cold drinks and don’t drink with meals
- or moderate raw foods
- eating late at night causes the body to use it’s stomach yin energy
- foods that are too hot, dry, greasy & spicy which can overheat the Stomach
- refined sugars and artificial sweeteners weaken the spleen
- Love your food & ‘eat to live’ not ‘live to eat’
Foods that strengthen the Earth Element:
+ Barley, polenta, oats, rice, sweet rice, wheat, amaranth
+ Spinach, string beans, watercress, pumpkin, carrot, avocado, alfalfa, mung beans, artichokes, cabbage, celery, dandelion leaf, dark green leafy, kelp, shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, cucumber
+ Red apples, apricots, cherries, dates, grapes, peaches, pears, plums, figs, raspberries, strawberries ( all preferably lightly stewed where possible)
|Aduki, black bean & Kidney beans, mung beans|
|Almonds, chest nuts, black sesame, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sesame & walnuts|
|Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, oysters, octopus, salmon & mussels|
|Poultry, lamb, beef, venison,pork, bone marrow, liver, kidney or eggs|
|Room temperature water, non-dairy milks, non- caffeinated teas & bone broth|
Herbs & Spices
|Nettle, parsley, aniseed, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, vanilla, caraway seed, basil, black pepper, brown sugar (in very small amounts – excess sugar can cause dampness)|
Foods that drain dampness:
Foods that lower blood sugar & support pancreas
Foods that build blood:
Congee boosts the Spleen Qi!
Traditionally known as his-fan or ‘rice water’, congee is eaten throughout China as a breakfast food or a thin soup, gruel or porridge. Rice is a common grain and short grain brown rice can be used rather than white but millet, spelt, or other grains are also options.
Benefits of Rice
- Sweet and its temperature is neutral
- It promotes qi to travel upward and it’s benefits are to
- Generate Qi and promote good digestion.
- Quenches thirst
- Relieves mental depression
- Stops diarrhea due to weakness of the Spleen.
Rice congee benefits all
- Infants, babies, and the elderly
- Weak digestion
- Ill or recuperating from a prolonged illness
- Weak from overwork
- Chronic diarrhea.
Should be avoided
The basic congee recipe should be avoided by people who urinate too frequently, additional herbs can be added to assist this issue.
Add foods from the Spleen foods list above based on your needs and taste.
- 1 part polished white rice or brown rice (short grain brown & short or long grain white is fine)
- 5, 6, 7 or 8 parts water depending on desired thickness
- If you want to eat porridge, use 5 parts water.
- If you intend to poach an egg, or cook meat and vegetables, use 8 parts water.
Stovetop Cooking Instructions:
- Bring appropriate amount of water to a boil.
- Add the rice.
- Reduce heat to a slow simmer.
- Cook for 2-4 hours.
- Pre-soak brown rice overnight.
- Add the rice and water to the crockpot.
- Turn crock pot on simmer.
- Leave to cook overnight.
A Traditional Recipes
Ginseng & Poria Congee to Boost Qi (Shen Ling Zhou)
Fortifies the spleen and boosts the qi Assists: Qi deficiency, weakness, fatigue, pale face, poor appetite, loose stool, etc.
- (purchase at a Chinese grocer)
- 5 grams Panax Ginseng (Ren Shen) – Radix
- Panacis Ginseng
- 20 grams Poria (Fu Ling) – Sclerotium
- Poriae Cocos
- 5 grams Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) – fresh
- Rhizoma Zingiberis
- 60 grams White Polished Rice
- (Jing Mi) – Semen Oryzae Sativae
- Cut the Ginseng into thin slices.
- Pound the Poria into pieces.
- Soak the above two ingredients in water for 30 minutes.
- Decoct (Boil) the above two ingredients in water for 30 minutes.
- Pour off the liquid, reserve, and decoct again.
- Again, pour off the liquid and add to the first decoction.
- Add this liquid to the rice and cook into porridge as usual.
Wolfberry (& Chinese Red date) Fruit Congee
- ½ cup wolfberry fruits (gou qi zi)
- ½ cup of Chinese red dates (jujube)
- ½ cup rice
- 1 ½ tablespoons coconut sugar
- 5 cups of water
- Soak the jujubes over night and remove any pips.
- Wash the wolfberry fruits, jujubes and rice.
- Add them to a soup pot with the water.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least one hour, until the fluid becomes very thick.
- Add in the sugar. Mix and serve. This recipe makes one serving.