Keeping the Fire element cool is a Summer challenge worth taking
I think I have Summer-itis. Like senior-itis, except I’m not coming to the end of anything so important as my childhood. But around this time of year, I lose interest in pushing myself to extremes. Over-achieving is so ‘last season’.
Right now, my body says “slow down, it’s Summer”.
Everybody has their season. Summer people are the ones who feel invigorated and energetic right now, you could even say ‘in their element’. Of the 5 elements that Chinese theory uses to explain how human behavior relates to the cycles of nature – water, earth, fire, metal, wood – Fire is most in line with the hot Summer season.
That makes perfect sense just from a simple ‘Fire is hot, Summer is hot’ perspective.
Balanced [healthy] Fire personality types love the heat, get creative and motivated in the Summer, and are fun to be around. The Chinese associate this element with the Heart, so when you meet someone who is especially ‘warm-hearted’ – they give more than they take, feel moved by compassion and empathy toward others, and speak/listen with a gentle kindness – they’re a classic heart-centered person. These are the two ends of the healthy spectrum for Fire types.
Sometimes, Fire gets out of balance, from extremes of hot weather, life events or unhealthy lifestyle practices. The warm-hearted person becomes too empathetic, failing to practice healthy boundaries and taking on too much of everyone else’s stuff. They’ll caregive 24/7 for a sick loved one without reasonable time off, then find themselves in the hospital with chest pains.
The creative, bubbly personality becomes almost manic, starting several projects in a short time but leaving them all half-done. These people are the life-of-the-party, whose loud laughter carries across a crowded room, all red-faced and sweaty. They can be hot-headed with an intensity that practically burns, or ‘air-headed’, ungrounded, with lots of ideas and passion but not much follow-thru.
Think about how Fire ignites in a dry environment with a tiny spark of energy and a puff of air. It doesn’t take much to set off a Fire element person.
The flames of fire glow mostly in a spectrum around the color red, and red is associated with the season of Summer and the Fire element. Facial and skin redness, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine equates with the presence of heat, can point to a predominance of the Fire element. Think sunburn, hot skin eruptions, even a racing pulse, pounding heart, or insomniacs who can’t shut their minds off (we say the mind houses the spirit of the Heart).
If you’re like me, Summer makes you lazy, but happy. I’ve been shivering all year and this is my time to bask in the heat, power down and get rested up. But that’s another element for another blog…
Looking for some cool ways to nurture yourself?
TOP 5 WAYS TO PUT OUT YOUR SUMMER FIRE –
- Get some light exercise in the cool part of the morning
- Load up on watermelon and summer fruits, which keep urinary tract problems under control
- Better get Bitters – the bitter flavor helps cool, detoxify and improve digestion (think lemon, artichoke leaves, coffee in small amounts)
- Go jump in a lake – the Water element nourishes and calms our Summer fire. And it just feels good!
- Siesta! Take a short nap (20 minutes) in the hottest part of the day
Problems that tend to worsen in the Summer like urinary urgency and burning, indigestion, heartburn, and insomnia get quick relief from herbal medicine. Is your Fire burning a little too hot? Put it out with a Quick Stop 15-minute Assessment – only $20 plus herbs.
Call 402-933-6444 or email info@NaturalHealingOmaha.com to schedule an appointment today.
Fresh goodies from your farmer’s market tempt tastebuds
Why don’t more people shop at farmer’s markets? Heck, why don’t I shop there more often?
After last weekend, I’ve concluded that the only possible answer is this: habit. I’m just not in the habit of stopping at more than one place for groceries.
The thing is, the food at these neighborhood markets is so ridiculously cheap and fresh, I almost feel like I’m cheating someone. But really, I’m only cheating myself by not taking advantage of it more often.
Every time I walk into the deep freeze they call a grocery store these days, I wonder why I didn’t start at the market.
White and red radishes for 75 cents a bunch, spinach for $1, huge bundles of turnip and mustard greens for $1 (don’t know what to do with them? Click here for a photo and recipe).
Here’s what I discovered about the farmer’s market this weekend:
7 BEST THINGS ABOUT YOUR LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET:
1- You can find a farmer’s market almost every day of the week somewhere in your city [Omaha peeps, scroll down for a listing].
2- A $20 bill gets you enough veggies and meat protein for two people for at least 3 days.
3- Talk to the guy/girl who grew your food. It’s almost a little humbling to realize how much we depend on these gracious growers.
4- Eat your groceries while you’re still shopping. That’s how we discovered the white radishes are less spicy than the red ones.
5- You find out what’s in season, and discover that seasonal eating is healthier eating. [Here’s a link to a recent blog explaining why]
6- Fresh-picked food (within 2-3 days of market) has SO much more taste/flavor than supermarket food. Hands down.
7- Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll be entertained. Street musicians, crowds of interesting people and pets, and displays of local crafts made my visit last weekend SWEET!
And now, here’s a listing of Omaha area farmer’s markets. Go get some fresh food today!
- May 18 – September 14, Washington Park on Franklin Street at West 20th Avenue, Bellevue
- May 4 – September 28, Military Avenue at Maple Street
- July 10 — October 2, 2915 Grant Street
- June 2 – September 29, 9102 North 30th Street
- May – September, Corner of 9th Avenue and South Main Street, Council Bluffs
- May 5 — October 20, 67th and Center
- May 4 — October 19, 11th & Jackson Streets
- June 5 – September 18, 1st Street Plaza located off 84th and 1st Street in Downtown Papillion (New Location in 2013!)
- May 1 – September 25, Parking garage next to Wohlner’s at 33rd and Dodge
- May 4 – October 5, 168th & Dodge
Summer berries eaten in season offer the most health benefits
My guest blogger, Jen Allen, shares what she discovered about herself, and primitive man, when she started eating seasonally. If you’re a fan of summer fruit, her blog will give you even more reason to load up on seasonal delights like strawberries. Now’s the perfect time!
For most of my adult life I knew that eating seasonally was a good idea to save money at the grocery store. It wasn’t until I took a series of classes with a local nutritionist that I learned the real magic of eating seasonally through the lens of Chinese medicine.
Eating seasonally gives the body the right nutrients in one season to help prepare it to be healthy in the next season. It offers the right organs a rest in one season to help prepare those specific organs for the next season. A year of eating seasonally provides whole body health improvements that you may have been struggling with otherwise. That perspective gave me a whole new appreciation for the delightful early summer treat of strawberries.
Strawberries are the first fruit that appear on the landscape in early summer. If you’re eating seasonally, you’ve just come out of a “fruitless” winter and a spring where salad greens and asparagus have dominated your plate. Your first bite of a ripe strawberry tastes like a sweet dessert! And that’s quite a miracle considering that strawberries rank at the bottom when it comes to sugar content.
Anthropologically, the strawberry is meant to be the gateway to a summer of slightly higher sugar content than the other seasons due to the continual supply of seasonal fruit like watermelon and raspberries and ending with apples in the fall. It prepares the body to handle just a few more carbohydrates in preparation for the coming winter. Anthropologists believe this helped the body put on a little extra layer of fat to help paleolithic man get through winter without freezing. Winter was a time of scarcity during which that little extra layer of fat meant the difference between survival and death.
Fortunately, surviving the winter is less of a concern these days, but a healthy body and strong immunity are not. When you take a closer look at the nutrition profile of a strawberry, you’ll find that just 100 grams contains 98% of your recommended amount of vitamin C. Based on serving size, only blackberries and walnuts contain more antioxidents.
Here are my tips for maximizing your strawberry experience:
- Only purchase strawberries when they are in season, which is the month of June in the Midwest. They taste the best and cost the least.
- Purchase organic strawberries when possible because conventional strawberries rank among the highest in pesticide residues.
- Grow a little patch of strawberries in a sunny spot in your yard. They are easy to take care of, and freshly picked strawberries contain the highest levels of nutrients.
- Think twice about U-Pick strawberry farms. Be sure to ask them about the pesticides they use. It’s hard to manage acres of strawberries without them, and gorging on their strawberries can give you a high dose.
What about strawberry recipes, you ask? Nah, just eat the strawberry. Whole. Savor the taste. Appreciate the season. Share a bowl with a loved one that doesn’t mind your company with strawberry juice dripping down your chin. That’s the best strawberry recipe!
Jennifer Allen is a local food rights advocate and food educator. Her passion is helping to connect consumers with farmers. I’ll update you on her new blog when it’s released later this year. In the meantime you can find her at www.meetup.com/realfoodomaha and https://www.facebook.com/omaha-paleo#!/groups/whole30omaha/.
A gentleman brought his 94 year old mother to me asking for help with her 4 months of bowel incontinence, which was making her miserable and exhausted, not to mention the loss of dignity that goes with that sort of thing.
Her doctors had prescribed all sorts of medications, but nothing worked and she was getting weaker every day. In my office, she covered up with her winter coat, looking frail and pale, but I could see the feisty woman she really was underneath the weariness.
A warmer diet for a weakened person can make all the difference
One solution jumped out at me right away, but I questioned whether her caregivers at the nursing home would get on board.
I suggested the staff hold off on serving her fruit juices, cold fruit, iced tea and cottage cheese, all of which are known to contribute to loose stools and digestive problems for those with the TCM pattern of Spleen Qi Deficiency.
It’s a clinical term that describes a pattern of disharmony in Traditional Chinese Medicine. People with this pattern have sometimes been weakened by a long period of stress like an illness (my patient had suffered a stroke), or excessive cold, damp foods, or both. In her case, a very long life even by today’s standards, contributed a large degree to her deficiency patterns.
A week later, the patient’s son called to say that even before starting the course of herbs I recommended, she was 50% better. The staff was shocked at how much just a simple diet change, including warmer foods, soups and hot teas, did to improve her quality of living.
Holistic healing isn’t always about taking an herb or supplement. It takes into account everything from lifestyle factors to diet and even spiritual practices. Even a minor adjustment like the temperature of your food can make a big difference in the whole you.
Could there be one simple practice that needs a tiny little turn-of-the-dial in your life or the life of someone close to you?
Healthy cleansing can be the push you need to better health
Below is a guest blog that started as an enthusiastic email from a friend who was tired of being ‘stuck’ in her old patterns, and found a way to break through after a couple weeks of seasonal cleansing. With some light editing of exclamation points, I’ll let her tell the story…
I was recently guided to attend one of Mo’s classes – a Spring cleanse. What a good idea, I thought. Get a little healthier, feel a little better, you know…the usual. Little did I know that this 2 week cleanse would completely change my life – healing my unhealthy patterns at a very deep level – and giving me a renewed sense of self.
The class turned out to be a cooking class, meant to prepare us for this 2 week, nearly vegan life-style. Mo, by showing us the actual “to-do’s”, empowered us to go find the healthiest foods we could, and re-engage with our kitchens. And her enthusiasm and commitment to each of us was contagious.
It was tough, but because I’m married to an amazing man who also loves to cook (and who realized quickly that life was simply going to be easier by getting on board with this one). We made our collective way through it. I won’t give the details of everything this diet pushed us through in this blog (but perhaps over a healthy lunch??) but on the other side of 2 weeks….here’s what we are experiencing: my diarrhea (my companion for the last 20 or so years) is completely gone. We’re both sleeping through the night (rare!). My husband’s snoring….gone. He’s lost 13 pounds, I’ve lost 7, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Seriously, the energy that we are experiencing and the way our new bodies feel has changed us. We can never go back to drinking wine nearly every single night. Miracle of miracles, the desire is gone! Who knew? And who wants a huge chunk of beef in their stomachs now? Not us. Of course, we’re enjoying these things again, but in moderation as opposed to gluttony. We’re the “all in” types….enough said. The way our bodies feel now has actually become our dietary compass, and it’s joyful!
Last but certainly not least, because I’m getting a full night’s sleep, I’m getting up earlier, finding time for breakfast again, and have gotten back into a morning meditation practice – something I haven’t had in my life for years.
We are changed…
Carolyn and Kurt Johnson
Seasonal cleansing is a gentle and safe way to bring about subtle (or in Carolyn’s case, not-so-subtle) change when you’re feeling stuck or stagnant. It could turn out to be just the nudge you needed to break a bad habit and start some new ones. Take cleansing to a holistic new healthy level – schedule a personal visit with me 402.933.6444 or gather a group for a class at your school, church or workplace. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Take a detour to natural health and get out of your comfort zone
When was the last time you took a new route to work or changed the part in your hair? Did you decide a really long time ago you didn’t like a certain food, like brussel sprouts, so you never, ever tried it again?
It’s easy to to make a habit of behaviors that feel comfortable, flow smoothly and only require occasional minor adaptation. Routines provide a safe feeling, you know what to expect, and you come to identify with the person you see in the mirror.
Granted, there’s something to be said for making a habit of regular dental hygiene, for instance, or driving to work using a route with predictable stoplights and traffic patterns.
That’s part of the benefit of habits – they become so much a part of you that you can funnel less mental energy into them. And that frees up your mind for creative thoughts, like ‘what’s a seven-letter word for organic fertilizer?’
The flip-side of routines is this: after a while, we pay so little attention that sometimes we don’t notice a problem until it’s a BIG one. In our bodies, minor annoyances become chronic pain, insomnia and outright misery because we follow the same patterns day to day despite that tiny warning light that says ‘stop and check engine’.
While I struggled to recover from the depleting drugs and the emotional drain of chemo, it frustrated me that habits which used to comfort me – eating sweet, rich food, drinking coffee to wake up, and even complaining, and blaming other people for my problems- didn’t satisfy me anymore. My habits had formed a roadblock to healing.
Having a health problem or crisis has a way of making you re-examine how you do just about everything. That’s how I discovered the truth about this old maxim – if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
When it comes to health care, we’ve been trained to get results without requiring a change of patterns, habits, or ways of thinking. A pill or surgery gets the depression, the pain, or chronic irritation to stop bothering us. But this approach often masks the real issue, and we end up having to go back to deal with the core problem later.
There’s no way around it. Getting genuinely healthy means making permanent CHANGE. And there’s no time like the present to start. My life coach calls these ‘small, sweet steps’.
- Start by observing habitual behavior, like midnight snacking, mindless refills of coffee all morning, or even checking and re-checking email, twitter or Facebook 14 times a day (the national average for smartphone users).
- Decide ahead of time what you’ll do when faced with the temptation to snack, fill up your cup or tap into social media to fill space in your day.
- Be specific, then write it down. “I will only check my [insert social media platform] twice a day at [insert actual times].
- And then stick to it. Give yourself a week to catch on. And eventually you’ll get un-stuck, lose weight, sleep better, feel less pain, be less stressed out. And happier.
Every now and then, it’s healthy to fluster and confound your brain, shut down the cruise control driving those habits. Make new connections.
Like freshly hiked paths, these brain connections have to be ‘trod on’ over and over until the new behavior/thought is learned and becomes the new routine. That takes some work. It will frustrate and irritate you and tempt even the strongest of you to slip back into old patterns.
Without a plan, I always fail at this. I’m a genius at coming up with excuses for unhealthy behavior – the best one is “I don’t really have PROOF that this is a problem for me, so one more [insert behavior] won’t hurt.”
By mapping out my detour, I know where I’m going and what success looks like. At the new destination is a sense of accomplishment, pride, and a more flexible, creative me, with brain connections that lead to crossword answers like ‘compost’ [raise your hand if you got that one 🙂 ].
Lunch on a cleanse is tasty and appealing
Lunch during a Spring Liver Cleanse can be as easy and filling as this quick blend of asparagus, onion, portabella mushroom and carrots over long grain and wild rice. There’s no need to starve yourself or drink slimy beverages that make you gag.
We’re all short on time to take care of ourselves, and the first place we seem to skimp is in the kitchen. We rush through cooking, or substitute processed and fast food for real, fresh ingredients. Healthy cooking is worth a few extra minutes, especially when the result is a happier, lighter you.
This quick, healthy cleanse meal took barely 30 minutes to prepare, start to finish. I served it for dinner with oven-broiled red snapper, then brought the leftover to work for a yummy light lunch. [Yep, that’s two meals in 30 minutes!] And it didn’t leave me with that familiar afternoon sleepy feeling like a heavier lunch can.
Come back later this week for more colorful and tempting photos of my cleanse dishes. Something tells me it’s time for BEETS! Stay tuned…
Get out of your rut by adding some healthy Spring cleansing practices
In Chinese medicine, we understand that a healthy Liver means more than a nicely ‘detoxed’ body. It also holds the key to the free and healthy expression of emotions, like righteous anger, sadness, fear, and even the need to be creative.
When we are robbed of the ability to express ourselves and our needs freely and appropriately, we get stuck. We stop growing, we lose the courage or resolve to change and evolve. Our sense of direction and drive to excel at what we do just peters out.
If you feel stuck, directionless, or without focus or inspiration, maybe your Liver could use a cleanse. What better time than after a dark, cold Winter to wake up your body with lighter, greener foods?
For millennia, cultures around the world have formed detoxing or cleansing rituals around certain seasons or spiritual practices. Consider the use of sweat lodges in Native American cultures, European healing spas, Ayurvedic Panchakarma, even the Catholic Lenten season of fasting, prayer and alms-giving.
Get inspired with a healthy Spring Cleanse. Love your Liver, which the Chinese say is most active in Spring, and your whole body will thank you. Watch my blog and Facebook page for pictures of the delicious and filling foods I’ll be eating this Spring. For personal guidance on how to conduct an effective, healthy cleanse this Spring, schedule a visit with me today at 402-933-6444.
Look to Nature for natural healing from seasonal misery.
Does the sight of a Spring flower give you mixed feelings? You find the color refreshing after a long, gray Nebraska winter, but your head feels attacked by the onslaught of sneezy, drippy, itchy misery that Spring pollens bring?
Would you be interested to know that Mother Nature herself has given us really simple, effective remedies for this seasonal misery? On the one hand, she delivers a nightmare of nasal nastiness, and then she provides a gift that calms, soothes and relieves it all. In fact, she’s got a whole bag full of tricks to relieve your Springtime blues.
Some of my favorites:
*Nettle leaf tea – stinging nettle leaf, when it’s collected at the right time, dried and infused in hot water, provides gentle relief for mild allergy-related symptoms like itchy, watery eyes, sniffly nose, headache pressure and other minor irritations. It also just happens to be a superior herb for the kidneys, primarily because it’s chock full of minerals and vitamins that nourish our tired adrenals. And that means your immune system will love it, too! This simple ‘weed’ has tremendously powerful rejuvenating properties.
*Eyebright tea or tincture – guess what part of the head this one’s perfect for? When you find your eyes tearing up and watering, reach for eyebright. Got itchy ears or tired eyes? Eyebright tea. Here’s another tip: for red eyes that itch like crazy, make yourself a cup of eyebright tea, soak a wet cloth in the tea and apply the cloth directly to the eye. Usually one application is enough to relieve the irritation. This works with an ordinary green tea bag, too!
*Pe Min Kan Wan – do your allergies have a tendency to become sinus infections? This Chinese herbal ‘teapill’ works wonders. At the first hint of sinus pressure, congestion or pain, or when mucus and phlegm make it hard to lay down and sleep, Pe Min Kan does its magic by preventing infection and clearing up your head without drying you out like anti-histamines can.
*Local Honey – granted, a once-daily teaspoon of local honey isn’t likely to clear up this season’s symptoms, but if you stick to it, by this time next Fall or Spring, you could be tip-toeing through the tulips with a clear nose. Local honey is incredibly good at ‘innoculating’ your immune system in small doses over a long time, giving it a fighting chance with local plants. And it’s anti-microbial, making it a soothing, healthy treat in your morning tea or straight up!
How about scheduling a Quick Stop, 15-minute visit this Spring? For less than most co-payments, visit me for a simple solution to your seasonal challenges! Call 402.933.6444 to set up your Quick Stop appointment soon. Only $20 plus herbs.
Getting grounded in old growth lends new perspective – photograph by Erin Horner
My 15-year old daughter and I couldn’t decide what to do for Spring Break this year, so we compromised. She wanted an ocean and I wanted trees. A tall order for a land-locked place like Nebraska. So we recruited her buddy to join us, found a couple cheap flights and spent a week with some old friends in San Francisco, one of my all-time favorite cities.
Since we’re city people, after 4 days of driving the twisting, turning highways of Northern California, a trip to Muir Woods, named for naturalist John Muir, seemed like a great escape.
The two girls giggled their way down the cool path of this awesome redwood forest, snapping Instagram pics and pointing like the rest of us at mammoth trees the width of small houses and ‘approximately the height of a six-foot person stacked head to toe 45 times’, according to the National Forest Service website. It was as easy and natural as if we were walking Omaha’s own Fontenelle Forest on a Sunday morning.
You don’t have to vacation a thousand miles away to get that lift of spirit that vacations bring. But it helps. Standing next to a couple of these trees, nestling up against their surfaces worn soft by the touch of visitors through the decades, none of us wanted to move anymore. We could have stayed there all day, soaking up the quiet, solid energy that made us all feel so grounded. Knowing those trees were hundreds of years old put our own few years of life into perspective.
I wish I could personally thank John Muir for making it his mission to preserve Muir Woods for my daughter and her kids and grandkids. It made me wonder if I’m doing enough to keep something I treasure safe for generations to come. Heavy thoughts for a Spring break getaway. But hey, I did get my trees.