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The Fifth Season - Late Summer

Kayla Perry, M.S.


Did you know that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there is actually a fifth season? The transitional period from the hot, active days of summer to the cool, quieter days of fall is categorized into it’s own season – late summer. During this time period, the late summer encourages us to focus on transformation and centering, reflecting on what should be processed, and what needs to be released. The fifth season begins towards the end of August and lasts until the Autumn Equinox, which this year falls on September 22nd.

Each of the seasons is associated with one of the TCM five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, or wood. In some five-element depictions, earth is located in the center with the other elements encircling. Late summer is the season linked with the earth element, and the TCM organs related to earth are the Spleen and Stomach. These organs are essentially our digestion system, allowing the body to process food and drink. While working on digestion is encouraged year-round, late summer is the most important time of year to focus on these organs before the colder months arrive. When the earth element (Spleen and Stomach) is balanced and healthy, the body is able to receive and transform nourishment.

Each of the five elements is also associated with a particular taste, and sweet is the flavor associated with earth. Sweet has the functions of nourishing and regulating the Spleen and Stomach. When our body is lacking, sweet foods can be used to strengthen digestion when used in moderation. Emphasis should be placed on mildly sweet foods while limiting excessively sweet foods.

Yellow (and orange) are the colors of late summer, like the warm hues of a sunset. During this time, foods such as apricots, yellow squash, carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes can be incorporated into the diet. As the weather turns colder, utilize foods such as ginger, garlic, fennel, and pumpkin to warm and nourish digestion. Other foods that strengthen the Spleen/Stomach include rice, oats, millet, quinoa, potatoes, and chickpeas.

Late Summer's "Good" Food List

  • Vegetables: Yam, winter melon, carrot, spinach, summer squash, mushroom, celery root, eggplant, zucchini, napa cabbage, fava beans, snap pea, corn, tomato, seaweed

  • Fruits: Watermelon, apple, berries, peaches, plums, prunes, banana, cranberry, fig, quince, coconut, pineapple, papaya

  • Protein: Lean pork, mungbean, azuki beans, coix seed, soybean, pistachio

  • Carbohydrates: Barley, rice, millet, oats, wheat

  • Herbal: Lotus leaf, lotus seed, tangerine peel, Qian Shi, Bai Zhu, Fu Ling, Sha Ren, hawthorn berry, mint

  • Foods To Limit: Iced beverages, fried or high-fat foods, very sweet foods, alcoholic beverages

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