As we creep into mid-July, summer-time in Central Kentucky is in full-swing, despite the particularly soggy weather we've been experiencing. Traditional Chinese medicine attributes each season to specific organs & meridians in the body; there areas of the body more prone to illness & disruption, depending on the time of year.
Summer is unique in that it has 4 meridians - or channels - that can be easily compromised (most seasons have just two). Specifically, the Heart & Small Intestine (which share a paired relationship, which is not really important in understanding in this context) & also the Pericardium & San Jiao (Triple Burner). Organs & meridians are always paired according to yin & yang. The Heart & Pericardium are both yin in nature, meaning that they play cognitive & nourishing roles in the body. Both are very instrumental in maintaining good sleep & proper mental health. Insomnia, excessive/disruptive dreams (nightmares), sleep-walking, mania, excessive sweating, night-sweats, hot-flashes, over-thinking, & over-worrying are all conditions that can possibly be attributed to disruptions in the Heart &/or Pericardium. Because these are both considered yin, they flourish under cool & quiet conditions, but can become easily agitated & damaged when there is excessive heat (hello, SUMMER!). This is how weather can directly influence our well-being.
The Small Intestine & San Jiao (Triple Burner, Triple Warmer) are both considered yang. This means they are very active & warming in nature. In this case, they are not as easily damaged by the heat of summer as are the yin organs, but are not completely immune to its effects either. The function of the Small Intestine is very similar to that of Western physiology: it aids in break-down of food & the absorption of nutrients. Simply stated, it "separates the clear from the turbid", it assimilates what it needs from the food we consume & propels the rest to be expelled as waste. This can also directly relate to mental health in that imbalance in the Small Intestine can actually lead to difficulty making decisions & confusion (inability to separate the clear thought from the turbid thought). Disruptions in bowel movements such as diarrhea & constipation, urinary tract infections & other urinary dysfunction, can all indicate Small Intestine involvement.
The San Jiao is a bit of an ethereal term. It's not directly translated & it is best understood as being the warming & moving "engine" of the water of the body. Issues of swelling & edema tend to indicate problems with the San Jiao, as can excessive heat conditions.
All the above being considered, summer is an important time to soak-up the sun's rays & get moving! If winter is about hibernating & rejuvenating, summer is the exact opposite. It's important to get as much exposure to the sun as your skin can handle - without sunscreen & not behind any type of glass or window. Both of these block UVB rays, which while responsible for causing sunburn, they are also the rays that contain the Vitamin D we need & our bodies CANNOT synthesize. Depending on your shade of skin, the amount of exposure time will vary. This could be 5 minutes up to nearly an hour. The darker your skin, the more exposure time you will need & the sun is at its strongest between 10am and 2pm. It's important to then cover-up or get in the shade to prevent sunburn after you've gotten your daily sun-intake. Also, spend as much time without sunglasses as you can manage during the summer. This is very important to regulate our circadian rhythms to help promote a healthy sleep cycle. Healthy Vitamin D levels directly correlate to mental well-being & positive gut-health.
If you're experiencing any of the health challenges mentioned here, know that acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help balance your body during the summer & relieve any symptoms. Let me know how I can help! Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
About the Author:
Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist, currently practicing in the gorgeous, horse capital of the world: Lexington, Kentucky.