Here we are just days after the solstice, at the height of the summer. Everything is at its zenith, it’s most expanded and it’s most open. In Chinese medicine, this is the time of the heart and the matching emotion of Joy. However, for some people this is the time of suffering, itching and weeping. I am talking about hayfever.
On the evening of the solstice I was in a hayfield having a great time eating an overripe, squishy punnet of strawberries and not drinking enough water, so an hour later had a massive attack full of red eyes, incessant sneezing and shortness of breath.
Oh dear physician know thyself… Hayfever is a very yang condition. All the energy rises upwards and even outwards if you are sneezing a lot. Eyes, nose and mouth become itchy and the skin can become red and hot. The best counterbalance for this Yang is Yin. Cold dark rooms work best but who wants to shut themselves away from the joy of summer. Sunglasses desensitize but I have found that there’s no instant cure for an attack except anti-histamine. I find these cure the attack in the short term, but they leave me exhausted and less resilient to allergens in the long term. So now I manage my body and its reactions by finding balance with food. I no longer pop the pills rather I look for yin and cooling foods that will soothe an overheated sensitive body. For more recipes to heal the body with 5elements use the cookbooks or join me online and we can learn together.
Yogurt with pineapple, plums, apple and honey
- ¼ pineapple
- 1 apple
- 3 small plums
- 2 tablespoons greek yogurt
- Drizzle of local honey
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
Mint is fantastic for the body in the summer. It cools and relaxes muscle spasms. Tests has been shown to inhibit the release of histamine within the body. Fruit especially in its fresh, crisp, raw state tends to be yin and will soothe, cool and bring moisture to the body. Fluids can be burnt off not only by the heat of a sunny day but by the internal heat the hayfever brings so drink plenty of water. The fruits, full of vitamin C will also reduce any internal inflammation of the arteries and mucus membranes so reducing blood pressure and shortness of breath. Pineapple contains bromine which is excellent for reducing swelling and inflammation and natural histamine which won’t affect hayfever sufferers but can affect some people with food allergies. Take note of your own reactions, know what works for your own body. It’s the same for yogurt which is very cooling especially for the mucus membranes and the lungs. However if you eat too much it can create excess phlegm and cause congestion. So be a sensitive soul, know you are unique and work out what suits you. Just looking at this dish makes me glad it’s summer, hayfever or not.
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Time to follow up on the last post from the lady who wanted help with dizziness but forgot to ask. There are many causes for vertigo, weak heart blood being one but as she forgot to ask that falls under Stomach/ spleen as these organs govern the power of mental recall.
If you imagine the body as a computer, the heart is the main hard drive of the body, the stomach/spleen is the operating system. All the information is contained within the body but if stomach/spleen is weak we have trouble accessing the memories. I see this in myself, as a mum cooking the dinner, supervising homework, emptying lunch boxes and dealing with hamster accidents I often forget my children’s names and have to go through each one of them before I get lucky. In Chinese Medicine, Mother is the archetypal energy of stomach/ spleen. Its flavour is sweet and it has the ability to comfort and satisfy. The sweet flavour in our society is synonymous with treats and “me time” – in balance this provides a feeling of support and abundance but if not kept in check can spiral into addictive cycles and a host of problems.
As the stomach breaks down food, the spleen extracts the food essence which together with the small intestine is used to make blood. Even though the flavour for Stomach/Spleen is sweet, too much of a good thing can weaken these organs and so the production of blood. We see this in western medicine as it is the spleen pancreas that is responsible for insulin production which enables the absorption of sugars/glucose into the cells of the body. Too much glucose remaining in the blood stream damages arteries which circulate and hold the blood. Glucose levels also affect the digestion of fats within the blood so it’s quite obvious how too much sugar weakens the blood and the body. This is nothing new and I’m not here to demonize sugar and a sweet tooth rather to bring balance to the body. Simply cutting out all sugars will not stop the craving. It is only by bringing balance to the body that we can support and take care of ourselves like a good mother should.
Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta give quick sugar hits but are missing fibre and minerals which will prevent sugar spikes and addiction cycles. So start with small steps – increase more wholegrain pasta and brown rice into the diet. Balanced protein intake will also stop sugar swings. A popular diet recently has been the Atkins diet which focuses on eating large amounts of protein. This will reduce cravings as protein take a long time to digest compared to carbohydrates. However this isn’t the balanced approach I’m suggesting. Large amounts of meat take their toll on their body and if not digested properly create toxins within the body. In Chinese medicine this can create obstructions and stagnation in the body. So focus on proteins from vegetables such as broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, mix them with grains such as quinoa and pulses such as soy beans. An increase of all these will decrease sugar cravings. The best protein by far is blue green algae such as spiriulina and chlorella or sea vegetables such as nori and dillisk. “According to standard nutritional tests, the digestive absorption of Spirulina and chlorella is four times greater than that in beef*” Not only will all this reduce sugar cravings it will increase soluble fibre and therefore reduce cholesterol. All round a happy healthy heart.
It’s not difficult to increase your seaweed intake but the first small step is to buy them. Make sure you have them in the cupboard and you will see how easy it is to them in everyday meals. Stir them into rice, sprinkle them on salads and add them to sauces. Here’s the simplest recipe I know using all the above elements. As traditionally chickpeas are especially beneficial for the stomach spleen, hopefully it’s a recipe you won’t forget.
- One tin of chick peas
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp tahini
- Olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Large handful of Dillisk/Dulse
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Rehydrate the seaweed in a little water for about 10 minutes then put all ingredients in a blender and blitz. If you like crunchy hummus keep back 1/3 of the chickpeas mash them with a fork and fold them into the creamy mixture. Eat this with oatcakes and carrot sticks for a complete, balanced, whole, healthy self.
For more information on eating for a Healthy Heart, I will be running a one day cooking course Saturday 9th August; see courses on the home page for more information
*Source – Healing with Wholefoods, Patrick Pitchford