Traditional Chinese Medicine rests on a framework of five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. According to the Five Element Theory, all living things, and the world at large, are comprised of these basic elements.
A balance of the five elements in the body promotes good health. Each element is associated with specific meridians and organs. The Stomach and Spleen are represented by the Earth element; therefore, supporting its balance can support digestion and gut health.
A balanced Earth element is thought to promote kindness, stability, and reliability. Individuals with a strong Earth element tend to be grounded. It rules digestion, which according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, also favours routine and stability.
When the Earth is treated well, it bears fruit and nourishment. When it's out of balance, an individual can become creatively blocked, and digestion can be compromised. An imbalanced Earth element can lead to over-nourishing, both emotionally and physically.
The following suggestions may be helpful for balancing your Earth element:
- Eat meals on a regular schedule. Eating erratically – whether it’s due to skipping meals because you don’t have time or picking at food all day – upsets the Earth element. Creating a structure or a set time of day to stop and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner can nourish it. This doesn’t have to be rigid – the goal is to aim for consistency. Planning ahead, meal prepping, sticky notes and calendar reminders are all great ways to bring more structure to meals.
- Encourage small portion sizes. The Earth element likes balance – it doesn’t want all or nothing. To nourish the Earth element, eat until you’re satisfied, not full. If you’re also working toward eating regularly scheduled meals, you can eat mindfully with the confidence of knowing when you’ll have your next meal – so you don’t have to load up on food to tide yourself over for a long period of time.
- Create a calm environment for meals. The Earth element is nourished when meals are treated as sacred ritual. Eating while driving, working, watching TV or running errands, for example, all work against it. When it’s time to eat, the focus should be on the food and nothing else. This is something we all know, yet it can be so hard to implement!
- Avoid a diet that consists mainly of cold and uncooked foods. These types of foods can aggravate the Earth element. Warm and cooked foods are believed to nourish it.
- Incorporate just the right amount of natural sweetness into meals. This can be done by adding fruits or sweet vegetables, like yams and carrots, into meals. Vegetables with an orange and yellow colour tend to be sweet. Grains, almonds, and coconut are also considered sweet. The Earth element loves sweet foods, but too much isn’t good either.
- Spend time in the garden and in the kitchen. Both gardening and cooking are nourishing activities that connect us to the earth and the Earth element. Anything that connects us to the ground or harvest builds the Earth element. Being closely involved in food preparation also helps us prime our digestion through activating our senses and digestive juices.
What one change can you make to your diet today, to improve your gut health by using the tips above?
For more tips on looking after your gut, try these blogs.
For more information on the Power of the Five Elements, you may be interested in this book by Charles A. Moss.