Indian Summer is a short season mid-August to the Autumn Equinox and is correlated with the Earth Element according to the TCM Five Elements theory. Nature is rich and full. It is a tranquil, and flourishing time, and these qualities are reflected in your life. The earth sustains you, and represents your support and solid roots.

Your ability to feel stable, grounded and centered, and your capacity for steady perseverance can be greatly enhanced during this time. Unity, harmony, and the middle way reflect this element. These qualities are needed now more than ever with the pandemic and all of the unrest in the world.

You are affected and influenced by nature. Each season and its related element plays a role in specific disharmonies in body, mind and emotions. Your health is determined by the interaction of many different influences. Your body is continually adjusting to fluctuations of the external environment.

Being out of balance during this season can cause fatigue, many digestive challenges, blood sugar highs and lows, brain fog, excessive worry, and more.


The earth element rules the spleen, stomach and pancreas, the organs responsible for the digestion and distribution of food and nutrients. Issues can be more intensified during this season.

Your spleen stores blood and distributes the energy obtained from food throughout the body; stomach takes the energy from food for the spleen to distribute; pancreas secretes hormones into the blood and regulates the body’s use of glucose; secretes pancreatic enzymes into the small intestine.

Imbalances in these organs may show up as chronic tiredness, muscle pain, nausea, eating disorders, slow metabolism, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, blood sugar imbalances, colitis, IBS, overweight without overeating, ulcers, food sensitivities, candida, viruses, and bacteria, and more.

Your body, mind and emotions are not separate

They are always adjusting to each other. Each aspect continually communicates to the others keeping them aligned with good health and happiness, or sickness and unhappiness.

Emotional states do not simply come out of the blue. They are related to specific health imbalances created to a great extent by the foods you eat. Weak digestive organs are weakened contribute to worry, anxiety, over-thinking, resistance to change, nervous eating, and forgetfulness. You may feel stuck, frustrated, insecure. Strengthening your digestive health will greatly improve these states.

An important first step in healing is to eliminate foods that are contributing to your problems, and replacing them with whole, unrefined foods appropriate for your condition.



Raw, iced, and cold foods including juices and smoothies create too much internal moisture that extinguishes the digestive fire of the spleen-pancreas. This can result in indigestion, distended abdomen, IBS, colitis, loose bowels, and other digestive disorders. Feelings of heaviness, especially in the lower body, sluggishness, chronic tiredness, and weakness in arms and legs can occur. Raw foods cause internal coldness which slows your metabolism. Your body’s systems and organs need heat and energy to function optimally.

Too much internal dampness often migrates to the large intestine and lungs especially in the fall where it is stored and congeals to mucus. Dampness causes stagnation which includes distention of the upper abdomen; uncomfortable feelings of fullness in the chest; and bowel issues.

Cow’s milk products including yogurt, milk, ice cream, and cheese are very difficult for humans to digest. They are linked to diverticulitis, gastritis, IBS, and other health challenges. Excessive meat and eggs are also mucus forming foods that stress digestion.

Sugar passes quickly into the bloodstream shocking the pancreas and stomach leading to blood sugar imbalances. It propagates yeast and fungi; creates an acid condition which causes loss of minerals. Sugar weakens digestive system causing food to not be digested or assimilated properly. Too much of it causes poor memory and concentration, fatigue, and negative thoughts and emotions.

Refined foods are highly processed foods that have been stripped of their original nutrient content, including fiber, vitamins and minerals. Nutritional values are eliminated, and refined foods interfere with good digestion. Please replace them with whole foods that come from the earth.


Sweet is the Flavor that nourishes earth element and related digestive organs 

This does not mean empty sweets. Refined and simple sugars damage the earth element organs and are addictive.

I’m referring to full sweets. Whole, unprocessed grains are nutrient dense complex carbohydrates. They release a steady stream of glucose and energy over a long period of time. Refined versions flood your bloodstream with sugar, causing spikes in blood sugar, weight gain, irritability, and many digestive disorders.

Your body’s greatest need is for energy from complex carbohydrates. These are considered full sweets and promote good colon health while providing energy and balanced emotions. Millet, amaranth, and brown rice are a few that especially nourish your earth element. Try my Corn and Millet Soup

The idea of whole grains has become skewed in our culture. Misleading advertising markets highly refined foods as whole grains. Refined cereals, flour, white rice, pasta, crackers, energy bars, and protein powders are not “whole” grains no matter what the label says. They lose nutrients and become congesting foods to the digestive system.

Some people have difficulty digesting whole grains because they’ve eaten so many refined versions for quite a long time. Many fads reject whole grains. Perhaps the refined versions should be shunned, but please don’t lump those with whole, unprocessed grains.

Mildly Sweet Foods

Include beets, rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, pumpkin, carrots, cabbage, corn, sweet potatoes, onions, peas, and squashes. Try my Beet Soup.

Tofu, and beans and legumes such as aduki, chickpeas and black beans are mildly sweet and are excellent plant protein sources. Cooking beans and legumes with kombu seaweed, bay leaf, and warming spices help you digest them better.

Seasonal cooked fruit is best for healthy digestion. Peach Crisp Recipe

Eating full sweets regularly will not only improve digestion, mood, and energy, but also eliminate cravings for simple sugars. Your sweet cravings are your body’s way of communicating that you need more complex carbohydrates.

Other Helpful Foods

Hard dark leafy greens are considered the bitter flavor which helps to dry dampness. They are too tough and fibrous to digest raw. Greens Recipes

Regularly include some enzyme rich foods such as miso, and fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut.

Culinary Herbs for Digestion

Many common foods that you have in your kitchen have beneficial therapeutic effects. Use these cooking herbs regularly in food, or have them as a tea.

  • Cardamom can help with a variety of digestive complaints, from slow digestion to gas to cramps.
  • Rosemary is useful for colitis, intestinal infections, stomachache, and gallstones.
  • Ginger has inhibitory action against pathogenic microorganisms. It helps to break down high protein foods such as beans and meats. It possesses anti-yeast, anti-viral, and anti-fungal activity. Ginger is very helpful for upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, aches.
  • Fennel, anise, fenugreek help indigestion, hyperacidity, and gas. 
  • Thyme destroys parasites and fungi, treats abdominal pain caused by coldness; has a tonic effect on digestion.
  • Chamomile provides soothing relief for the stomach. It can be used for intestinal spasms, mild acid indigestion and intestinal gas. 
  • Black Pepper warms the abdomen and treats diarrhea. It counteracts indigestion and food poisoning. Best to use a pepper mill with whole peppercorns.


Four habits that undermine your digestive health and energy

To help your digestive organs function at their best consider how you eat and not just the food itself.

Eating on the run, in the car, while standing or working

 Sit down when you eat. Relax and just eat, savoring the tastes and textures. Let go of the worries of the day and focus on being well-nourished. You’ll benefit by having more physical and mental energy.


Eating too close to bedtime 

Allow 3 hours between last food and sleep. You will wake up with more clarity and feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Sleep is a time your body restores and renews itself. When you eat close to bedtime your body’s energy will be used to digest the food.


Gulping food without thoroughly chewing

You will not digest and assimilate well. Your body’s energy will be used to do the job of chewing leaving less energy for you. Chewing and mixing food with saliva produces important enzymes. Eating consciously and mindfully with enjoyment helps you digest better. Intentional eating provides greater nourishment.


Skipping meals, then overeating

When you overeat, food stagnation occurs and your digestive system will not function properly. This can manifest as belching, regurgitation, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and more.

Build digestive strength by eating regular, small meals with simple ingredients. Allow a minimum of two hours between eating. Avoid grazing; your digestion has to work constantly leaving less energy for you.


Effective enzymes and herbal formulas that target the cause of digestive issues

Quiet Digestion – now in capsules – bloating, gas, abdominal pain, gastric hyperactivity

Enteromend – enzymes for gluten intolerance and other food allergies

Six Gentlemenfatigue, gas and bloating, nausea, weakness of the limbs, poor appetite

Astra 18 Diet – bloating, edema, erratic stools, clears dampness; tonifies spleen qi

Blood Sugar Imbalances – effective supplements

Greenexcellentreduces blood glucose, antioxidant, and more

Chiroinstimulates insulin function of managing blood glucose and lipids to normal levels; increases ovulation in women suffering with PCOS, cardiovascular health, and more

Astra Essence balances blood glucose; treats vertigo, hearing loss, dizziness, memory loss; reduces frequent urination and hair loss

Milk Thistle is useful for blood sugar imbalances, gallstones, psoriasis, liver disorders



“I sought your help for a host of problems including IBS, high cholesterol, arthritis and menopause symptoms. I followed your advice and it wasn’t long before I could stop prescription medications that I had been taking for years for intestinal cramping and diarrhea. Hot flashes stopped and joint pain continues to subside. My cholesterol is gradually decreasing with the foods and herbs you recommended. And an extra bonus is that I lost the extra 15 pounds I’ve been carrying around for years—without dieting.”  Kathy D., Pittsburgh

Consider some professional guidance for the right nutrition and holistic health plan for you. You can greatly improve every aspect of your physical, mental and emotional health with a customized holistic approach.  Schedule a Holistic Health and Nutrition Session with Deborah Barr, 35-year Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor. You’ll be on your way to better health. Sessions can be done by phone, zoom, skype, or at Pittsburgh office.

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