Asian Medicine View of Digestive Health and the Earth Element

The transition between seasons, as well as the end of summer, are correlated with the earth element in Asian medicine.  The earth element represents what nurtures, cares for, and supports us.  It is associated with digestion- physically, mentally and emotionally.  It is the archetype of a mother, the great nourisher, and has its roots in the family.

If a person is deficient in the earth element they can have a weak digestion, chronic digestive issues, tendency toward loose stools, low energy, and more. They may also get sick every time the season changes. Often with the earth element imbalance will present with craving sugar and other foods that will tend to aggregate the earth energetics of the body. If the earth’s energy is weak, digestion can be easily aggravated by complex food combinations.
Another aspect of the earth imbalance can be excessive phlegm and/or dampness. This may present as weight issues, lung phlegm issues, and other digestive issues that are particularly aggravated by dairy, wheat, and sugar. These foods can be hard for anyone to assimilate if done in excess, but will especially aggravate a person with an earth imbalance. Emotionally, when the earth energetic is out of balance there can be a tendency towards over-thinking or excessive worry. If this imbalance is significant, the person may worry to the point of obsession.

When digestion is aggravated, it is important to avoid the following foods: spicy, greasy, peanuts, mango’s, raw, cold/or frozen, wheat, dairy, and sugar. Also, avoid complex meal combinations. It is a clear sign that balance has been restored when, after simplifying the diet for some time, trigger foods and/or complicated meals do not cause digestive upset and also when sugar cravings are absent or well controlled. A sign of emotional balance for the earth element is when a person can control the tendency to over-think or worry. In supporting the earth element energetically, it is important to nourish your body, home, and cultivate family/ community.

If the digestion is out of balance, acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas can be essential to help rebalance the digestive health. Foods that balance the earth element are: orange/yellow foods & bland foods, as well as meals that are deeply warming and also simple and easy to digest, such as conjee or kitchari. It can be rebalanced to the digestive system to eat simply. This is especially important post- stomach flu, parasites, candida, or any other acute stomach upset. Probiotics are also essential when rebalancing the digestive system. It is important to get an enteric coated probiotic so that it gets to your intestines before it is assimilated. A non-enteric coated probiotic will be broken down by stomach acid, so much of its value gets lost. A non-enteric coated probiotic is ideal for suppositories, but that is a whole other topic.

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