Breakfast: Fresh blended juice or smoothie with organic fruits and veggies.
Lunch: Garden salad with gazpacho (it’s summer; too hot for soup!)
Dinner: Mint and melon fruit salad, chicken pasta salad
Dessert: Vegan chocolate ice cream
Sounds like a pretty healthy eating plan for a hot summer’s day, right?
But according to TCM, this menu is a recipe for digestive disaster.
The reason why starts in the Middle Burner…
What Is The Middle Burner in TCM?
The Middle Burner or “Middle Warmer” is the digestive powerhouse of the body. Comprising the Stomach and Spleen organs of TCM, the Middle Burner likes an environment that’s like Miami in summer, hot! In fact, this region of the body should be the equivalent of a low-grade fever, approximately 100 degrees.
It’s very tempting to consume cold, raw foods like salads and smoothies in the summer. But doing so puts a big strain on the Middle Burner’s ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients. And when digestion is compromised, food is not properly transformed into Qi (energy) and Blood. (In TCM theory, Qi moves the Blood.)
Also known as the middle jiao, the Middle Warmer/Burner is part of the Triple Warmer/Burner, which divides the body into three main regions. All three regions play a role in how energetic you feel after eating. For instance, the upper burner includes the Heart and Lungs. It may not seem like these two organs would be involved with nutrient assimilation. But after the Spleen “processes” pure elements of food, the Lungs use these purified nutritive substances to generate Qi, while the Heart uses pure building blocks of food to generate Blood.
Meanwhile, the lower burner comprises the Kidney, Intestines, Liver and sexual organs. The Intestines receive impure food elements and direct them into elimination. Moreover, the lower burner needs Qi and Blood from pure food substances to produce Jing, the body’s vital essence.
Middle Burner: The Cooking Pot Of The Digestive System
One of the best analogies in TCM relates to the Middle Burner, which is often compared to a stove. The physical organ of the stomach within the Stomach channel is the pot on the stove while the Spleen is the fire under the cooking pot.
To have strong digestion, you need to have your Spleen fire burning brightly. But in the summer, many people consume too much soda, cold juice, beer, ice water, ice cream, salads and other raw foods.
If you’re subsisting on romaine lettuce wedges and other cold veggies in the summer, it’s like pouring ice water on the digestive fire of your middle warmer. This will result in improperly digested food components being transferred from the stomach to the spleen. As a result, your other organs will be lacking in Qi or Blood (Qi and Blood Deficiency, as the term is called in TCM).
If you’re subsisting on romaine lettuce wedges and other cold veggies in the summer, it’s like pouring ice water on the digestive fire of your middle warmer.
Symptoms of Middle Burner Dysfunction
You don’t have to be an expert in TCM to know what will happen if your Middle Warmer isn’t, well, warm enough. You’ll probably experience bloating, fatigue, water retention, and constipation.
This is not to suggest that you have to eat hot and spicy foods at every meal in the summer. (Eating too many spicy foods can damp heat which can cause loose stools.) However, it’s better to eat lightly cooked foods and take it easy on cold drinks. Instead of drinking ice water, drink room-temperature water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Over time, when the fire doesn’t burn adequately in the Middle Warmer, fire from the lower burner is drawn upon. As a result, the Kidneys become depleted, which not only impedes digestion but also negatively affects mood and spiritual harmony.
How To Support the Middle Burner In Summer
Some people would rather risk putting a damper on their Middle Warmer fire than having to eat hot food and drink hot liquids in the summer. But there are some simple hacks you can do to keep your Middle Warmer burning.
For example, add fresh ginger to your morning juice, smoothie or salad entree. Ginger is a warming ingredient, which is why it’s added to sushi. In addition, cinnamon, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and dried fruits have warming properties, according to TCM theory.
You don’t have to be extreme with avoiding cold foods. In fact, you can enjoy seasonal fresh berries, but instead of eating them straight from the fridge, allow a serving size to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before consuming them.
Moreover, you can eat cooked foods with cool or neutral properties to support your Middle Burner. Good examples include quinoa, rice, and other grains. The same goes for lean protein sources like chicken and fish.
Consuming cooked foods, especially veggies, is easier on your digestive system than raw foods, even if they are just slightly cooked.
Eating chilled, raw veggies cools the digestive fire of the Middle Burner. But when you eat cooked veggies, it’s like consuming pre-digested food; it’s easier on your Middle Warmer. As a result, your body, mind and spirit will benefit.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the healthiest foods to eat in the summer, from a TCM perspective, are cooked foods and room-temperature drinks. It’s up to you if you want to enjoy a frozen daiquiri from time to time. Just don’t be surprised if you feel a little funny in your Middle Warmer later.
If you need to spark the fire in your Middle Burner, ActiveHerb.com offers TCM digestive support formulas, including MidWarmer and SpleenVigor.
Suggested Reading From The ActiveHerb.com Blog:
Beat The Heat And Keep Your Cool
Avoid a Damp Heat Invasion in Summer Using TCM