On September 22, the sun will shine directly on the equator creating nature’s day of perfect balance. This autumnal equinox is when days and nights are extremely close to being the same length. It is the day of balance between light and dark – 12 hours each of daylight and darkness all over the world. Pretty cool!
In the fall, the equinox alerts the northern hemisphere that much of the sun’s energy will soon wane, therefore it is time to harvest and prepare for the ensuing colder winter months.
During the spring, or vernal, equinox the opposite occurs. The northern hemisphere is assured that the sun’s energy will bring new life, food, warmth and longer days in which to enjoy, create and prosper.
Join me as I lay out a plan to lock in the benefits of summer, take advantage of the health opportunities this fall, and most importantly, start preparing for winter!
Summer’s Take Away
We call summer the pitta season as it is, of course, the hottest season of all. The sun’s energy provokes growth, making a variety of diverse nutrients available to us all summer long. At the end of summer, the harvest of these nutrients abound as does the last dosages of the vitamin D-rich summer sun. Hurry, because it all ends on Halloween!
Take Away #1
Do your best to get 10-15 minutes of direct midday sunlight during these last sunny days of summer and early autumn. We all need a vitamin D supplement come winter, but there is nothing like filling your vitamin D tank now with nature’s very own supply!
Take Away #2
Macronutrients and micronutrients are abundant in gardens this time of year. It seems we can’t eat them fast enough. Because these summertime foods are “cooked” on the vine all summer long, they are very easy to digest, and don’t require as much of the stomach’s digestive heat to process. Remember, as an attempt to dissipate heat from the body, the digestive fire is weaker during the summer and stronger in the winter months. It’s important to get as much fresh food as possible from the garden this time of year.
Fruits Are Back?
Fruits are getting such a bad rap these days from all the Paleo Gurus. I find it hard to follow a diet that doesn’t recognize the natural world’s bounty. For example, if I was a hunter-gatherer and I stumbled upon an apple tree or blueberry patch in season, I would likely gobble up as many as I could!
When fruits begin to ripen they emit an ethylene gas that triggers all the fruits on the tree or bush to ripen in one big ripening frenzy. Most animals can smell this gas from miles away – humans cannot! So, chances are, by the time humans got to these trees, many of the fruits were already eaten by birds, bears or whomever. The fruit-eaters would then fly or wander all over the forest eliminating and spreading fruit seeds – which would insure the fertilization of fruit trees throughout the forest.
My point is that there were no manicured acres of fruit orchards, and it was more difficult than we think to get an abundance of fruit, but when we did, we pigged out on them.
Translating this into an Ayurvedic eating rule, fruits are fine to eat, but they are best in season and eaten all by themselves. Eat fruit alone – make it a meal.
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After the fall equinox, the earth’s tilt takes the northern hemisphere further away from the sun. As the sun’s energy towards us lessens, the body responds by increasing its digestive fire. Having a stronger digestion in the winter allows us to consume harder-to-digest and more dense foods such as root vegetables, meats, grains (yep, even gluten), nuts and seeds. This is a major principle in Ayurveda where the seasonal harvest antidotes the temperature of the season. For example, we harvest higher fat and denser, protein-rich foods in the fall to be eaten in the winter. These foods require a stronger digestive fire, which naturally occurs in winter when the sun is less intense.
While this may seem counter-intuitive, it is another example of how nature is constantly balancing extremes. One would think that during the winter the whole body would become colder, but in fact, during the colder months, in order to digest the more dense foods that provide needed insulation in the winter, the digestive fire responds by becoming stronger. Likewise, in the summer less digestive fire is required since the seasonal foods have been somewhat pre-digested by the sun’s heat and energy when ripened on the vine.
In nature, we watch the leaves turn red and fall as an example of nature’s natural detox cycle. In Ayurveda, it is said that the accumulation of heat at the end of summer causes the heat to rise in the trees, thus drying out the leaves. As the metabolism of the tree slows down in preparation for winter, the tree naturally sheds, or detoxifies its leaves.
Humans are also preparing for winter provoked by the abundant fall harvest and lower temperatures, and need to detox. If we only ate the seasonal perishables that are being harvested in late summer and stored the foods like nuts, seeds, grains and roots for winter eating, we would trigger quite a natural cleansing response.
Ayurveda took this concept a little further by understanding the subtleties of the harvest. Apples dissipate heat, scrub intestinal villi and act as a natural detoxifying diuretic; watermelons are diuretics, while pomegranates are liver and blood cleansers. When studying nature’s harvest carefully as Ayurveda does, it is quite clear that at the end of summer, the liver, gallbladder and intestinal tract yearn for a good cleansing. The liver loves good oils like ghee, and also greens and bitter roots that are harvested this time of year.
If these natural laws are not followed, the heat of summer will dry out the body and along with the dryness of fall and winter the body’s delicate mucus membranes, where the good immune-boosting microbes live, will also dry out. Dried out mucus membranes can kill our beneficial bugs and make way for a proliferation of the bad, cold and flu-causing critters.
Take Away #1
I like to think of Halloween as the “cut-off day” between switching from the summer to winter diet. Before Halloween, eat from the Summer Grocery List, and after Halloween, start eating from the more dense Winter Grocery List.
Take Away #2
Before you start eating the more dense foods of winter, take advantage of the opportunity to cleanse and create balance with the support that the equinox time of year provides. Consider trying our simple, 4-day Short Home Cleanse or the 2-week Colorado Cleanse. You can download the Short Home Cleanse eBook for free and start right away.
Don’t Mess With Your Microbes – Eat Seasonally
Because most of us do not only eat the foods harvested in that season and wind up eating heavy ice creams, barbecues and pastas in the last days of summer, we often overwhelm the digestive system. Remember that the digestive strength is weakest during the summer months, and when the diet should be the lightest. The microbes that should be repopulating the gut with the change of seasons from summer to fall to winter simply don’t happen when we eat foods that are not in season.
In my blog that referenced the book, The Forest Unseen, we learned that if a deer ate out of season, it could disturb it’s microbiology to such an extent that it could die from indigestion. (1) We do not realize the power of eating with the seasons, but this is something I discuss thoroughly in my book, The 3-Season Diet. (2) We are now discovering what Ayurveda has been saying for thousands of years: eating out of season will cause digestive ama (toxins) that compromise immunity, disturb the mood, energy and all aspects of health. While they did not discuss the microbes thousands of years ago, they understood the deeply sensitive and subtle nature of human health.
Take Away #1
Consider rebooting your digestive strength this time of year. With winter and holiday foods just around the corner, this may pay healthy dividends in terms of your immunity, weight-management and mood this winter. Please read up on how to do this in the Digestion and Elimination section of articles and videos on my website.
Take Away #2
Consider joining us, and hundreds of others for the Fall Group Colorado Cleanse, which is our deepest and most effective detox and digestive reset. It is a simple, 2-week seasonal detox of the lymph, liver, blood and fat cells with a comprehensive reboot for all aspects of the digestive system. Learn more here.