With late Summer underway here in the Southern Hemisphere, we are experiencing those last balmy bursts of sweet summer energy with the dampening effects of late afternoon storms and muggy weather. Within the five Element framework of Chinese medicine, late summer is associated with the Earth Element, Stomach, and Spleen. More so than any of the other five elements, the earth element or spleen season is one to put aside your strict diets, feel into your intuition and cravings, and not only prioritise but ENJOY your food. As TCM Five Element Food Therapist Kimberly Ashton puts it, "The theme of the Earth Element is enjoying the sweetness of life".
The easiest way to understand the Earth element and how we can nourish the Spleen is to look out into nature at the earth itself; Think, soil, microbiome, digestion. The way we eat in this season is pivotal for nourishing our core, bringing balance back into the digestive system, and cultivating an intuitive relationship with what our body wants and needs. Helping guide and inspire this intuition through the fabric of functional food therapy and Chinese medicine wisdom, we have Chinese Medicine food therapist Kimberly Ashton covering the energetics, foods, cooking styles and associated emotions of this season. Mason and Kimberly journey into this multifaceted, (both) sensitive and practical element and discuss how we can bring balance back into our lives and digestive system through the foods we eat and how we prepare them. Kimberly outlines the exact foods and flavours to welcome into the kitchen and why Spleen energy is all about relaxing, enjoying and embracing the sweet aspects of food and life. Tune in now.
"The spirit of the Spleen is the intellect and this idea that we think or we overthink. It is the mind and the brain itself, but it's definitely related to the state of our spleen. If the Spleen is happy and warm and functioning well, you're going to be very clear in what you want and what you need".
- Kimberly Ashton
Mason and Kimberly discuss:
- Food cravings.
- Spleen/Soil Qi.
- The Earth Element.
- Digestive imbalances.
- Foods for Spleen season.
- Warming foods for the spleen.
- Cooking styles for this season.
- Food Therapy for the earth element.
- Spleen energy: bonds and boundaries.
- Alleviating dampness and balancing digestion.
- Managing dampness within the body through food.
Who is Kimberly Ashton?
Kimberly Ashton is a Holistic Wellness coach that focuses on the 5 Elements, Food Therapy and Chinese Medicine. She spent over 18 years in Asia and Shanghai, 8 of which she co-founded China’s first health food store & plant-based nutrition cooking studio. Now back in Australia, she launched Qi Food Therapy in 2020, a platform offering e-books, online courses, and coaching for “balancing life energy” through food, food energetics & emotional wellness. In 2019 she published her second book “Chinese Superfoods” in Mandarin, which encourages new generations of food therapy enthusiasts to explore Asian traditional foods, everyday ingredients & get back in the kitchen. It has sold over 7000 copies in China. Her approach is centered on cultivating an intuitive relationship with food and helping people understand their energies through food choices, cooking techniques, the 5 Elements, emotional & energy practices.
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Hey, Kimberly. Welcome.
Hi, Mason. How are you doing?
I'm so good. Thanks for coming back on with me. We're getting through the elemental wheel slowly, but surely.
Yep. I love it and I love the earth element.
Well, I mean, it's the gateway. I think it's like the gateway element over towards Chinese medicine. I know for me it was. Well, it was the one that I didn't like the most when I was a raw foodist because it was the one that hit my ideology in the face the most with reality and therefore, I rebelled against it.
Yes. Actually, that's a good term. A lot of people will rebel on the earth element and then they find themselves with digestion issues and emotional issues and become very ungrounded. Yeah, we'll be covering a lot about the importance of the earth element, not just the organs or the season, but the element itself.
Do you want to paint a picture for us in your world, in your internal relationship to the spleen, the element that is the earth, just what it represents for you, whether you want to talk about the organs or emotions or how it impacts your life?
Yeah, absolutely. The easiest way to understand the earth element is if we look out into nature and look at the soil and the earth itself. When we grow our food, anything that's just above or just below the soil is really our soil and our centre, which I always like to compare it to our belly button and everything just below and above that. The importance of our core physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically is really the core and that is not just unique to TCM. You see that in Ayurveda, you see it in Japanese culture. They even have certain words for this element. It's funny because in Chinese there is words, but they're much more powerful in other languages. If you may allow me to bring them in things like hara in Japanese or agni in Ayurveda, like this digestive fire. They're really short, concise words and in Chinese, we don't really have anything which is one word or a short phrase. We have spleen-qi and digestion and spleen stomach organs or organ pair, but it's not as sexy as hara or Agni in my opinion.
No, I mean, I'm with you on there. Tahnee's got a big book at home called Hara Diagnostics and growing up with my dad doing in a black belt and Japanese jujitsu, we talked about the hara regularly. I'm much more connected there, but I guess it shows the translation. I mean, you're talking about in native tongue, but even for me relating to spleen, straight away it taps into my Western desire to relate to anatomical, Grey's Anatomy, separate, oh, that's that organ, maybe spleen, pancreas, organ, physical organ, and which it is representative of what we are talking about, but so not. It takes away everything. As you're saying this, it's much more than actually relating to the reality of it. It's hard when you're just saying the spleen-qi and doesn't represent the etheric reality that it is.
I think that is important for us. Like a few people have always told me, never just say spleen, say spleen soil, say spleen soil so that you don't get lost in that mental trap, not that it's bad to obviously go there at times. Bringing up soil, I think is another one. Tahnee and I always have a little fun back and forth about this because for me, it's soil, the element of soil, because the element of earth goes into a larger concept of [Pachamama 00:03:59], which is not a bad thing necessarily, but it's so impractical, I find, when relating to the earth soil within yourself and doesn't play into the analogy or metaphor or story that I think is more captured in soil. You can relate soil and water and soil and metal a little bit easier. Yeah.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I know that we're both big fans of nature and in Taoist philosophy and wisdom, it's always about that internal and external. When we start to see as the soil and you see that now on the last, I don't know, five to eight years, this in the Western wellness world, this huge growth in talking about the microbiome and the soil and food. The Chinese wisdom of the earth element, soil element has been there all along. If you don't have a strong soil earth element, that's it, your health won't be balanced. It's very hard to define balance in other elements if this element isn't strong and of course, the digestion is the key part.
You're bringing up agni is one that, yeah, it is beautiful to bring that agni fire into the fold because quite often people won't relate that fire with the soil, but yet as I think I've said quite a few times on the podcast, maybe even in chats with you, how that the kidneys are kind of like the pilot light for that light, for that fire of digestion [inaudible 00:05:39] to the spleen to be able to be turned on. But it is that spleen that is the actual fire that sits under the pot that is the stomach, which I know people are like, well hang on, no, isn't it soil and not fire. It's like, oh, okay. Yeah. We're talking about a yang function of that soil-qi. The goal posts keep on moving, but again, the beautiful thing is staying slippery because there is no goal post when it comes to health, there is no balance. You got to be able to dance in that harmony.
But then hara you bring up as well because the way my dad talked to me about my hara, relating somewhat to lower dantian-esk kind of like if not exactly that reality in the body, but he also always referred to it as the centre of my universe. I'd orient myself around that core as you brought up, which is something I guess I've just found myself not feeling when I do tap into that spleen soil-qi and I'm like, oh wow, but of course, it is that earth element that sits at the core of all the others and is the centre of the universe that there's an orientation around it. I mean, I just wanted to kind of like [inaudible 00:06:59] to that and bringing that up because that really helps me get a clearer picture on what we're actually talking about here with spleen.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I just mentioned the belly button because when I'm teaching kids and we draw, trying to learn the elements or apply them, even as adults we start with that middle line, that's the middle line of the earth and so that's where we're starting, especially when we're going to dive into food later in this podcast. I'll be talking a lot about that middle line and suitable foods because it's very logical. If we break it down, the five elements are really logical and this element is very easy to interpret in terms of foods and the energies purely by understanding that that middle line, middle ground and therefore, all the issues that we have with digestion or imbalances. I call them digestive imbalances. There's plenty. People will be very familiar with IBS and diarrhoea and bloating and all of that. You go to a acupuncturist or a TCM doctor and they'll be like, oh, usually they'll say something along the lines of spleen-qi and people go, what? What's that? But you can definitely eat really nourishing foods to build that and it's something that I love building and we can talk about that as well today.
Well, let's talk about the season as well because you're going to be talking to us about the somewhat of maybe the cooking styles of our kitchen maybe not completely at its core, but somewhat transforms towards a particular direction in terms of cooking styles, techniques, ingredients that are coming in, intention we're putting into our food to match the season and what's going on around us, which is late summer's something that in some areas it kind of feels like it's always late summer in other areas doesn't have any of those qualities. I'm interested to hear that and also point out that it might be that those ingredients and these insights that you use during this season, but this is probably the diet, and I'd to hear your thoughts, that is used therapeutically to heal most-
... for most people. Yeah. It's I mean [crosstalk 00:09:21] yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. As you said earlier, this fluidity is needed when we are approaching the five elements because it's not just five elements, five seasons and then there's lines and rigid boxes around them. We have to blend them and when we need them, we draw from the other elements even in this season. It's now late summer, the weather's changing, it's getting cooler. There's a little bit more rain. There's dampness and humidity typically. We need to modify the way we eat and cook definitely.
The key theme for the season would be to alleviate dampness and to balance the digestion. As you said, that can apply to a lot of people in other seasons, but also in Chinese medicine, in between the seasons, you can draw from this. Say, if it's spring to summer or autumn to winter and you get a upset stomach or you're feeling a little bit slow or you have some dampness or you're feeling lethargic or you have some bloating or diarrhoea, we can draw from this, the wisdom of the earth element and foods to come back into balance. It's always about coming back into balance in this element and this season, the earth element is about transformation, our ability to transform, our food, our thoughts, our energies to prepare us for what's coming. Like you said, we can slide that into really any time of the year when we need it and it's definitely the most healing, cooking and ingredients for anybody at any time.
Well, just because we get a lot of questions about the spleen. We talk about it a lot and there's many different ways to approach. It's intimidating in its simplicity. I think because it requires such practical transformational changes that are grounded in the core of your personal food culture or family culture and that can be confronting if we are really rigid in the way we're doing things. And our rigid patterns, personal habitual patterns, within the kitchen, food and emotions, a lot of the time as well are out of alignment. It's often quite confronting to admit that, which is I think something really is I just want to constantly extend my compassion, cheering everybody on that adventure, just go in nice and easy with a lot of empathy for yourself, which is a lot of like very spleen [inaudible 00:11:52].
Just again, little reminders that I think for emotional journeys for a lot of people, for me, the way that I relate to the spleen, there's several aspects of that element and that system within the body. One being the muscular system, seeing that there is the food that you're eating is building good high quality muscle and then the way that you're moving is going to help you develop appropriate high quality muscle. I feel it's really important to remember that as well as a huge part of the spleen being about creating bonds and boundaries and with soil, moving soil and creating boundaries that are organic and not superficial.
But I find a lot of people when they're really ready to go like, all right, I've got really poor boundaries or my boundaries are too rigid and I'm not able to create strong bonds with myself, a bond with earth or bond with my family and friends as to the depth I'd want, that's when the spleen really starts coming up as a theme. Or maybe you're just going, I'm just [inaudible 00:12:59] attracted to spleen friendly diets. Maybe just in correlation to that, there's maybe other areas perhaps would be of interest to you. I like throwing that in there and with that, I'd love to go on a deep dive with you and definitely going to be yeah taking notes myself today.
Yeah. It's funny what you just said. The spleen and this earth element, it's not just the spleen, but as you said, spleen stomach pair, will throw in the pancreas as well, so spleen, stomach, and pancreas, it's like the chicken and the egg. It's like, do we need strong nourishing foods then the muscles and then the emotions, but the spleen is so sensitive, well, the whole earth element is to the emotions. Maybe you're eating really well, but then you're bombarded with overwhelm and worry and anxiety, so it's which comes first. In my mind it's well, you got to have both. You can eat all the... I'm going to talk about millet and puddings a lot today-
... we're going to talk about puddings, all these foods, but if you're still having these emotions, it's really hard. You have to manage both and maybe people don't want to hear that because they want a quick fix or a easy solution or one food to help. I've got maybe top three to five foods for you today, but definitely the earth element is the most sensitive to those emotions, so definitely look at that as well. It also-
It also impacts our decision making ability. I said, worry and anxiety, most people who study the elements and the emotions in yoga and qigong, they're familiar with the emotions, but actually feeling them and embodying them is different. But decision making is a funny one, too. If your spleen is a bit weak or you're getting some spleen weaknesses or IBS of any sort that I just mentioned, your ability to make decisions reduces. Therefore, it's really hard, it's doubly hard to then know what to eat and then I see people who are a little bit lost and like, I don't know what to eat, I don't know what to eat. If we can have those simple steps and simple foods, a little bit of warmth, a little bit of getting that fire back in the belly, then you step up and you become much more grounded and calm. And then you can deal with the emotions and the diet and nutrition as well. It's a multifaceted element.
It's practical. It's real. It's not easy, but I mean, it has to be and I hope everyone loves as much as I do just how we can't not go into the reality of the energetics or the philosophy of the emotions, whatever you want to call it. Otherwise, we have bastardised and commodified the system in which this has emerged from. If we don't continue to come back to the essence, as you're talking about there, the anxiety piece. A lot of people would just go anxiety, heart [inaudible 00:15:55] disruption, but there's many so different shades of anxiety and there's lots of different types of clinical diagnosis on different types of anxiety. But even that for us to just be aware of like, oh, that's different shades of our own inner anxiety and perhaps one is over just ruminating and chewing, constantly ruminating and chewing, chewing, chewing, chewing, and not digesting a life lesson and therefore, not making a decision. That's going to just throw off your spleen-qi and then you can have a drip of millet just straight into your stomach and it doesn't matter. It's just like, it doesn't matter.
We should have intravenous millet drips. That would be amazing because not many people are familiar with it. But yeah, no, I'll mention some of the best foods and they're actually really yummy and delicious and as you said, quite simple, actually, if we take it back basics, but I thought I'd just quickly mention a few imbalances. How do you know if your earth element needs strengthening? Appetite, if you have a loss of appetite, if you have any of those symptoms I mentioned earlier, like diarrhoea, loose stools, bloating, anything really in that whole IBS, irritable bowel syndrome category, which doesn't really exist in those terms in Chinese medicine. Water retention as well, so there's a fluid metabolism effect that's important with the spleen, any kind of nausea, indigestion, anything to do with the stomach and the lower half of the body.
If you're feeling really lethargic and heavy in the legs or have edoema and swelling in the ankles, that's all to do with this system. Most people have a look at the list and go, yep, I can relate to one of those or many of those. It's important to know what we're feeling. And then the simple list of foods or categories anyway would be, what I call, ground and round vegetables. As we come back to that line in the soil, anything that's just above or in the soil itself, so pumpkins, sweet potatoes, onions are actually perfect example of the earth element. They're very round and they're got all this lovely layering and they're sweet. A lot of the vegetable that I just described and the flavour of this element is sweet. In that way, most people love the earth element.
As soon as you start talking about earth element, they're like, oh, I can have more desserts. I'm like, well actually, I do recommend and I prescribe desserts because we want to have this calm, nurtured, motherly love through this element. If you look in every food culture, there's always desserts and always sweets. Of course, I'm talking about not white sugar and refined junk, but using sweet vegetables, wholesome sweeteners, and condiments, fruit. We're talking pudding, but we're also talking pies and cakes, all this very, maybe even grandmother kind of warmth and love through our food. That's missing in a lot of modern day dietary habits. We kind of demonise dessert or sugar or sweet flavours when actually we need them.
Well, I mean, I feel, again, it's the pendulum swinging quite far, which I understand and went there, especially when there's that energy of like have a massive, I don't know, Sunday roast dinner and then put a big, heavy, overly sugary dessert on top of that and you can feel the dysfunction of your body just trying to compute digesting sugar, which is I think my friend [Sage 00:19:53] talks about. It's like a Ferrari in the digestive system, you put it on top of like a tugboat equivalent, something that's like a heavy protein that's slowly digesting. Again, it's a hard and fast rule, but I do prefer that Chinese medicine does bring in awareness of yeah, well, don't throw the baby out with the bath water because there's a lot of medicine in that.
Yeah. You could still have that roast. I mean, you could still have that roast and the dessert. The earth element's also related to not doing anything in excess, it's all about balance. Overeating, you can eat, earth element's all about the food and nourishing and having this beautiful satiating feeling after you eat. It's good to have a have that, for example, but not overdoing it. The boundary comes from most people just overeating, good food or bad food. The earth element's like, no, we find balance, we eat a little bit of everything. We have our roast, we have our puddings, we have our whatever it is, but in balance. But as I said, most people are missing the sweet, the naturally good sweet flavour, and by that I would prefer or rank very highly the sweet vegetables and some fruit and definitely more natural sweeteners and things like cinnamon, and cardamom, and all the sweet herbs can really help with this flavour and coming back into balance through our cooking and our food.
On that note, carbs are a good thing. The earth element is all about wholesome, happy carbohydrates. It's not about eating lots of too many pastries or white bread or white rice, but just having some good, wholesome carbohydrates, whether it's rice, white rice or sticky rice or brown rice or red rice, and then millet. Millet is the best friend of the spleen. If we're looking at the colour of the season or this element, it's a yellow or an orange or even like a earthy brown soil. Foods that come into that category and millet is really something that I share with a lot of people. I've worked with people who just they literally add more pumpkins, some sweet potatoes, some millet into their diet and depending what it is of course, but they start to notice their energy, their happiness. You just feel happy when you eat these nourishing foods and you feel comforted as well. It's very soothing to eat foods like millet.
If you don't know what millet is I highly recommend you look it up. It's a small, yellow, soft, sticky, mushy grain.
You can make it sweet and savoury. You could make it into a porridge with some milk, soy milk, some cinnamon, make it with nuts in like a breakfast porridge or you could make it with roasted vegetables and make it into more like a fluffy salad kind of like quinoa, but a little bit moister. Those would be my suggestions of just simple foods and then cooking styles for the season would involve a little bit more warmth, using your pots and pans and a little bit more moisture. Think soups, stews, casseroles that kind of texture and consistency. Texture isn't something we've talked about a lot actually, but for this season, it's a really nice one to bring in this soft, creamy, comforting flavour, whatever that means to you. I'm going to say pudding again, but it could be pudding, it could be pie, it could be crumble, a nice fruit crumble. Or even I start to crave in late summer and going into the colder months, more creamy beverages as well. I'm a black tea, green tea kind of girl, but when it gets cooler, we can start having some nice milk or soy milk or oat milk or whatever milk you choose. Start to bring that into your mornings as well.
Because I kind of always sense the question, I think I feel like I've asked quite a bit in terms of like recipe guides and that kind of thing. Have you got those on your site?
I do. I actually have an ebook for each element and the one for earth element's on managing dampness, so it's more specific to that, but yeah, there's other recipes for certain elements and certain seasons. I'm actually going to be doing a short course with beautiful recipes that I haven't written myself have enlisted some wonderful teachers and chefs in Australia and overseas and it's just purely on the earth element and it's about relaxation and food therapy. There's a lot of desserts and the idea of understanding how we can relax our body and our mind purely by looking after the earth element in late summer season because a lot of us that experience anxiety, worry, nervousness, tension, stress, it's all around the earth element. We can definitely reduce those symptoms and come back into balance with food.
I might just quickly ask some reiteration what I really there is like as you know, I've got a spleen-y constitution, which I think surprised me more than anyone, but it's actually not [inaudible 00:25:43] I'm like, oh actually it's not really that surprising. What happens because it's, I know, I don't know if you gone too much into this, but the personality or spirit of the spleen, the [crosstalk 00:25:55] so much about the intellect and from what I can tell or the way I'm relating to it at the moment is that aspect of somewhat reflection and intellectually taking stock of how are we going moving towards manifesting our visions? How are we going? Have we planned effectively? Are my actions detracting from one another? Has my timing been good? It's kind of the time to really take stock of how the harvest was that year and how we prepared going into winter.
I do have a tendency to overthink intellectually a lot and so quite often, because I have that proclivity to constantly ruminate, therefore when I start looking at the, not that these are laid down as rules, but I'll treat them as an intellectual rules of like, all right, this is cooking style, this ingredient, or can I do that ingredient? I'm like you, you said, quinoa and when my spleen-qi when not flowing, I can feel it go oh, gosh, there are people out there that are worried. Well, can I eat quinoa? Is that right for the earth season? It just goes around and around. I like for you then bringing up when we are cooking or eating or doing a dessert, the intention there just immediately takes me out of my mind is to bring that relaxation into the body and that feeling of nourishment and therefore, I go, okay, that's a real good guide for me. When I get into the kitchen, don't worry about the rules or remembering the ingredients and [inaudible 00:27:35] that are going what I'm bringing into... And I'm curious about the other qualities [crosstalk 00:27:40] that you're looking for and seeing in a recipe or ingredients like what the outcome is and using that as a lighthouse rather than getting stuck in the rumination for spleenies like me?
Yeah. First comment is you've probably got the spleen-y rumination going and then your metal element going, I need a rule or a recipe. The earth element is all about intuition and it's a very feeling, sensitive element. When we're in the kitchen, definitely, I always encourage people to look at the recipe or use it once or twice and then just throw it away or scribble all over and change it. I actually, really, this is a public announcement, I hate writing recipes. I hate it. I do it. I actually have to finish one more on the kidney and the water element at the moment, but because it is rules and it's rigid. When I cook, I don't use recipes and I know people need them and I understand that.
But what we want to cultivate on what you just said is to have this intuitive nature. If you wake up it's hot or cold, it doesn't matter what season it is or what podcast you've listened to, if you're feeling like eating salad, eat the salad or think about, oh, maybe there's a reason why I need to cool down. Same with the earth element, if you wake up and you're thinking, oh, Kimberly and Mason said I must eat more pumpkin and millet and this and that, but you're just not feeling it, there definitely isn't any reason to stress about it or overthink. But yes, the spirit of this organ is the intellect and this idea that we think or we overthink. It is the mind and the brain itself, but it's definitely related to the state of our spleen. If it's happy and warm and functioning well, you're going to be very clear in what you want and what you need.
Can you talk about warmth there, the importance? I feel like I think we've hit it several times, but I can never get enough reminders, especially coming from the raw food circles.
Yeah, yeah. The idea of the spleen or the spleen-qi is to be able to regulate the upward and downward energies in the body, whether it's food, emotions, everything, how we're feeling and thinking. I always think of it as like, if you have your spleen, which it is a small organ in Western anatomy and it's not considered if much importance, but in Chinese medicine, it's very important, up there with the gallbladder, both very small, but very powerful and important. When we pour lots of cold water on the spleen, we lose that fire, we lose that even zest for life. We lose a lot of upward energy, potential, and warmth. In Chinese medicine, the, I don't want to say, rule, but the guiding principle would be to have more warm foods than cold and to avoid ice.
I personally love a good ice cream in summer on a hot day, no problem there, but I always tune in and think is my spleen okay with this today or if I have it three days in a row? A lot of the traditional food cultures and wisdom will say not too much cold and to have warm foods, especially in the morning. If you're a smoothie or raw person, no problem, but not ideally first thing in the morning, so have something like a ginger tea or a warm porridge or a tonic herbal drink, something warm first, and then start your day. That's just a long term health thing to cultivate the energy of the spleen and not just put that fire out constantly.
Yeah, I mean, I feel there's a real maturity coming about now in terms of Chinese medicine's having been having to hold in the west, especially, such a strong place and maybe sometimes a rigid place of just being like, no cold, no raw. A lot of practitioners who maybe are really good in their treatments, but maybe not good at communicating nuance, even though they embody it and so there is just this kind of like, just stop doing all this bloody smoothies and raw foods and juices. I think now there's more of a nuanced integration, a colouring of that conversation coming up, little distinctions, like well, your spleen element might not necessarily care that you move to Bali and Hawaii and the weather's always warm. You maybe think you've tricked the system and you can always do tropical fruits and cold drinks because you're in that environment, but your organs maybe don't want to be long term stationed in that environment or even if you live there, maybe they still want to have a bit more respect and honouring. I think that's definitely happened maybe even an overcorrection away from raw foodism and veganism and that kind of thing. But then the other one is the cold plunging that is now probably the biggest, such a huge, awesome practise, but [crosstalk 00:32:57]-
I think they all are and they all have their place. I'm a very modern, flexible five elements practitioner, so I will never say you can't have ice cream because I quite enjoy good quality, personally vegan ice cream, but any ice cream for those. The ice baths, the smoothies, there's a time and a place. For some people, they actually probably are craving that for a reason. It's when that happens and then you start finding you get diarrhoea or digestion issues that you might feel really hot on the outside, on the external layers of your body, but your inside, spleen, intestines, for women, even the uterus, if there's cold, or kidneys even, on the inside, you just need to balance that out. Some food, some herbs, some acupuncture, get back to balance.
I have a teacher who's always said, "We should technically be able to eat anything." If we have a strong earth element, an ice cream here or a cold bath there or whatever is not going to cause you that grief or pain, but when you do it and you're out of balance in the first place, you're just going to overburden the system and make it harder to come back into balance one day when some other condition or illness will manifest and that does happen. There is a time and place for cold things, absolutely. Just know what it is and when your personal level or limit has been reached. I mean, the other thing I do is I play with it, I experiment. I'll have ice cream and then I'll have a ginger tea and I feel the effects on my body or I'll have a ginger tea knowing I'm going to have ice cream tonight.
You just self-experiment, you really test the feelings and the energies of the food, knowing full-well the properties of it. That's fun, too. Or you can use [moxa 00:34:50] as well sometimes, but I definitely notice the difference when I eat foods that my spleen doesn't like. I feel it the next day, whether it's brain fog or an upset tummy or dampness, I feel it. But yeah, maybe it's the sensitivity or the awareness, but then the beauty of the five elements is you can always do that balance. You can use food, you can use cooking, herbs, acupuncture, moxa is fantastic. Not that I'm suggesting you eat ice cream and use moxa, but you can bring warmth to your body in other ways.
Yeah. I mean, that's like qigong, like it's all on offer and they all kind of integrate.
Yeah. The ancient wisdom was all about balance. If you are staying in balance, you can come bring yourself back to balance and the earth element is all about that. As long as we nourish it and have these foods on a more daily basis, then you can challenge yourself or challenge your spleen in small ways. I mentioned ginger, let me just add a few more foods for everybody. I mentioned those round and ground vegetables. Don't underestimate onions for their sweetness, carrots, parsnips, turnips, for the vegans and vegetarians red beans or adzuki beans are really good for the spleen, the spleen-qi, the spleen energy, also our blood, chickpeas and lentils. When I was living in China, my TCM doctor would recommend for everybody, meat eaters and vegetarians and vegans, for everybody having lentils, sweet potatoes, also artichokes. They have a spleen-qi quality to them to enhance our spleens. That's something just to note. If you're a meat eater, then absolutely a little bit of meat will help with the energy of the spleen, keeping it strong and robust.
Any particular meats for this season?
Meat's a funny one because with each food chart that I find in Chinese medicine, there are some books, not many, but in terms of food energetics, chicken's a funny one, for example, because some people will put it in the wood element, which is spring, and some people will put it more in autumn and winter. It's a tricky one, but one of the charts that I have for the five elements, because you can apply meat and any food to each element, one that I found that most people agree on would be duck, pork, salmon, tuna, mackerel, so some of the more oily fishes as well, they classify them in this element or in the season. Again, that comes back to charts and tables and recommendations, but seeing how you feel would be my suggestion. But as a comparison, a lot of what Chinese medicine would classify as warmer meats, such as lamb, would definitely be more in winter and then more seafood and fish in spring and summer. You can experiment with meats for sure, just as you can experiment with vegetables or even beans or pulses in each season. There are definitely different ones that are more suited.
Yeah. I'm actually going to make a chickpea pumpkin stew this weekend. That's a very earth element, roundness. If you're a meat eater, you could put some meat or fish with that as well. That nice, creamy, rich, hearty kind of stew is what we're looking for.
Yum, happy spleen [inaudible 00:38:52]
Yeah. Are you sometimes fascinated by how much notoriety damp spleen have these days in the health world?
It's like the one thing that's permeated purely Western orientations. It's like someone who's like [inaudible 00:39:11] a full pelt keto, they're just talking about ketosis and talking about all those other areas of fat metabolism, but then they'll bring up spleen dampness just out of nowhere. It's like, I don't know, instinctively the spleen's just going like, dude, please, please, please can we not be so rigid? [crosstalk 00:39:35]-
... keto can definitely fall into the same category as a therapeutic diet, just as a spleen friendly diet can become a therapeutic diet and then people fall too far into ideology around their therapeutic diets, which is spleen friendly, keto. And then thinking that that can become a holistic approach to life dietarily when this doesn't quite work like that. Again, it's another maturity or [inaudible 00:40:06] that we need more maturity and conversation and making a distinction. I'm going to start and then I'm going to hopefully create this result and then I'm going to be able to slowly integrate further back into one more full spectrum, integrated, elementary, romantic, lots of laughter, lots of fun, different aspects of different organs and virtues and nourished at different seasons or different times of my life. We need to just remember that, so we don't get stuck in trying to find the right diet.
Absolutely. Yeah, variety in every season would be key and definitely in the earth element finding those sweet qualities, creamy, nourishing and go whatever ingredients you want just within that framework and enjoy it. This is the time, this is the where the foodies live or the earth element people are. They prioritise their food because they feel it and they enjoy it. Taking pleasure from our food would also be my suggestion for this late summer earth element and throw away the rigidity. Bring that back in metal, bring that back in autumn if you want, but just let it go and relax, chill out for earth element. Have some pie and just life's okay. You don't have to worry so much because that also comes into this element, this overthinking. We're worrying like, oh, guilt and all of this in there and it's no fun. This is a season to enjoy. It's also in the 24 hour cycle we didn't talk about that, but it is in the afternoon. This is afternoon tea time. This is when people want that sweet piece of cake or pie or cookie, muffin, whatever, energy ball. This is the time to respect that, honour that and yeah, you have my permission to enjoy afternoon tea.
That's good therapy. It's good therapy [crosstalk 00:42:07]-
Yeah. Yeah. I think we've got a pretty great community and I think a lot of people have gone through that stage of going, I can't do this anymore. I can't do this rigidity. I can't do this feeling dirty if I have something that's not in my mental scope of the right thing to eat. Again, it's just like that doesn't have to be come your whole life as well. Going no, I just need to enjoy, that can lead to, gosh, what's the word I'm looking for, that can lead to a, not gorging, but just like never stopping chasing that sweetness hit versus going, there's a season or a time of day where it could be nourished and then not dominate everything as well.
Yeah. The sweetness of life. That's the theme for the earth element, definitely.
Beautiful. What's the best way currently for everyone to make sure they're in touch with you and your work and all your future, I don't know if it's a surprise yet, of what you're bringing out in the future soon, but things that people should be aware of and be able to hear about?
Yeah, well definitely with the earth element would be this relaxation in food therapy short course that's coming out very soon, Hopefully around the time that this podcast is out and qifoodtherapy on Instagram or qifoodtherapy.com. I've got some eBooks, online courses, fantastic online summit coming up soon, and I'd love to connect with anybody who wants to talk about pudding or desserts or cooking.
Love it. Thank you so much again for coming on and helping keep everyone's spleen soil nice and dry and fluffy. I mean, that's another one I want to [inaudible 00:43:56] like, really, if you go away from even a really Disney style of imagining of what that earth looks like internally and allow it to break out into a real gritty, grounded reality of soil, imagine yourself grabbing soil and if you're grabbing that sloppy too wet soil, it doesn't have many worms, it doesn't feel great. Verse, when you find a really nice, fluffy, aerated, rich, aromatic soil that you can smell, it's alluring. It smells like life itself. Imagine, oh, I'm going to [inaudible 00:44:36] and I'm going to ease myself over in that direction of having that quality and feeling when I relate to my spleen. Thanks for holding that space for everyone getting there.
My pleasure and yeah, fluffy soil, I just wrote that down. Brilliant.
Lots of good work gets done when we're in our chats, doesn't it?
Lots of good insights.
Thank you much.
Beautiful. Have a great weekend and looking forward to jumping on with you again next time.
Thank you. Bye.