Balance the Body Through Taste
by Barbara MezaSummer is fully upon us, complete with muggy buggy days and sticky nights. During the heat of the summer months, many people experience seasonal swelling of the extremities: rings will not slide on (or off), footwear is suddenly too tight, clothes are snug or the face is a bit puffy. The root of the discomfort could be lymphatic stagnation, which may be addressed by hydrating and knowing what tastes the body craves.
The extra expenditure of water from sweating in the summer eliminates necessary electrolytes like sodium and magnesium, required for several processes in the body. If the body is not supplied with enough clean fluid and electrolyte replenishment to maintain cellular hydration, it will quickly dehydrate and overheat. The lack of fluid also clogs up the circulatory and lymphatic systems, creating a body bog of wastewaters trapped between body tissues—which we experience as swelling.
Simply drinking water may not replenish the fluid balance. Those minerals lost in the sweat must be replaced to provide traffic control of fluid in the cells, keep the blood cool and flowing, and the lymphatic fluid watery.
With a focus on clearing heat and restoring hydration, one approach to maintaining seasonal balance is through taste. Each flavor category has an association with a particular organ system, and balance is attained when they are working together. Dietary examples through taste include:
Salty flavor supports the waterways, holding water within the cells and flushing stagnation. The affiliated organs are the kidneys and bladder. Healthful salty flavor may be acquired through good quality sea or Himalayan salt, seaweed, shellfish and nettles. This flavor supports hydration and reduces swelling.
Sour flavor promotes a sense of calm within the body and reduces irritability by supporting liver function. This may be incorporated with a cold infusion of hibiscus, lemonade, kiwifruit, fermented foods or a dash of vinegar.
Bitter flavor clears heat from the body, protecting the heart and circulatory system. Greens like arugula, broccoli rabe or Swiss chard and fruits like ripe red watermelon or grapefruit can help to cool the body and replace minerals including potassium and magnesium. Green tea, mint and chamomile are also included within this category.
Sweet flavor supports digestion and assimilation of food and fluid. Sweet corn, grains, juicy peaches and other seasonal fruit could be the key to keeping the spleen happy.
Putting these flavors together, some great summer dishes full of balancing flavor might include:
- Grilled fish and a peach/red onion salsa and steamed chard
- Water with cucumber or mint leaves
- Vegetable roll of romaine or collards wrapped around mint, cucumber and shredded carrot, served with a tahini dip
- Virgin watermelon margarita with a lemon/salt rim
Barbara Meza, owner of Conscius Vita and The Meandering Herbalist, located in Yardley, is a licensed massage therapist, lymphatic drainage therapist, cupping therapist and holistic health practitioner integrating the benefits of bodywork and complementary healing arts. Connect with her at 201-978-7335, ConsciusVita.com or TheMeanderingHerbalist.com. August 2015.