anToday is a day all about transition. A hinging point between worlds: light and dark. It is a time of equal day and night; a time for balance. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this means we will slowly begin our transition towards shorter days and longer nights. It is the beginning of the autumnal season.
We have already begun to experience the shortening of days and cooler temperatures, while the leaves have begun to change and fall to the ground. The excitement of the summer has waned and we have begun to slow down in honor of the seasonal transition. If you are anything like me, you already feel the desire to slow down and spend more time indoors. With this transition, I have also found myself desiring to nourish my body in a very different way.
In the summer months I grew accustomed to eating on the go, whatever was easiest. At the end of summer I was in the middle of moving and training for the New York City marathon, while also balancing work, family, and personal activities. To say I was feeling ready to slow down is an understatement. I didn't realize how exhausted I was until after I moved and also realized how I was living was not serving me to the fullest.
I was reminded to return to what I have learned over the years and began to show up for myself in a way to foster and develop self love. I began to experiment more in the kitchen and strive to improve my relationship with how I fuel and nourish my body.
I never spoke publicly about this, but I struggled with an eating disorder as a teenager. I would binge and purge, and had some anorexic tendencies. It was a horrible way to live. I hated my body and fought for years against it. I would over indulge and then over exercise. These tendencies were closely related to some family issues I experienced growing up, and controlling my food and body became my way of processing what was happening.
I am fortunate that I also developed an interest in yoga and natural healing around this time as well, and spent many years exploring how to live a more balanced, harmonious life. Although I no longer struggle with that same level of disordered eating, I recently found myself neglecting truly nourishing myself. I was relying on easy food and was making excuses for myself, because it "wasn't that bad."
Recently I have also sought to dive even deeper into some healing work for myself, which brought some of these issues up to the forefront once again. If you have experience doing healing work, you may know that it can be likened to peeling the layers away of an onion. I have also heard that our core wounds never really leave us as they seem to repeatedly return. As we heal, we peel away more layers and dive deeper to the core. Recently I had an experience just like this, as I uncovered some of my deepest programming, even the programming that went into the very creation of my existence.
This past weekend I began to experience extreme stomach pain and I approached it with the perspective of gratitude. I could have easily been frustrated, wanted to get back to how I desire to live, because the issues I was having were "inconvenient." However, I knew my body was asking for something more. I decided to dive back into what I have learned as a practitioner, and turn to Chinese Medicine.
In Chinese Medicine, late summer is associated with the organs of the Stomach and Spleen, which not only help us digest food, but also help us to digest information as well. The Spleen in particular is effected by over-thinking and worrying; which can be due to ruminating about past events but may also be due to cognitive activities such as studying, memorizing, and learning.
The Spleen also plays a crucial role in the creation of Blood. This was also something I revisited recently: during my early teens I became a vegetarian, and refused to eat any animal products until almost my mid-20s, which is when I first began to learn about Chinese Medicine.
What I realized was that those years of restricting and abusing my stomach coupled with my lack of animal products, and combined with my overall constitution, led me to develop a Spleen Qi and Blood deficiency. I decided to embark on a journey to heal myself even more, but this time with truly nourishing foods. Here is my first go at sharing what I have created, and part of my story.
If you are feeling tired, depleted, and exhausted, or if you have a tendency towards having digestive issues, this oatmeal is a wonderful way to nourish your Spleen and Stomach in order to help you feel nourished and energized. As a side note, the season of Autumn is associated with the Lungs and the Large Intestine, which this recipe is also beneficial for as both of these organs like to feel and operate best when moistened.
If you give it a try, let me know, I would love to hear your feedback.
I hope you enjoy!
Warm Oatmeal to Build Qi and Nourish Yin
Warm Oatmeal to Build Qi and Nourish Yin
-1 cup water
-Sprinkle of sea salt (pink himalayan preferred)
-½ cup rolled oats (I used gluten free)
-1 ½ Tb chia seeds
-1 Tb flaxseed meal
-1 scoop collagen powder (bovine preferred)
-2 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
-1 Tb maple syrup
-Sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to taste
-Chinese Herbs to build Qi and nourish Yin
-Goji berries (cook with the oats to soften)
-Can substitute Da Zao (Chinese Dates) for Medjool dates, make sure to cook with the oats to soften
-Boil 1 cup of water with a sprinkle of pink himalayan sea salt
-Once boiling, add ½ cup rolled oats
-Gently stir the oats, once some of the water has evaporated, add the chia seeds and flaxseed meal, along with the collagen powder and herbs, Chinese dates, and goji berries if using
-After a few minutes, mix in medjool dates, blueberries and maple syrup
-Top with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to taste
-Enjoy while it's hot!
The nature of oats are warm and sweet; therefore, they are good at strengthening the Spleen as well as harmonizing for the Stomach and, thus, good for tonifying Qi. Chia seeds are thought to be good for nourishing the Kidney Yin while flax seeds have a sweet nature and can have a tonic effect when it comes to replenishing Qi and Blood. Note, if you are prone to loose stools and diarrhea, skip the seeds as both can help to lubricate the intestines and lead to an increase in bowel movements. On the flip side, if you are prone to constipation, incorporating these seeds into your regular diet is a natural way to stay regular! Collagen is the main structural protein in the extracellular matrix found in the body’s connective tissue. Due to its close relationship to bones, it has a direct impact on nourishing the Kidneys.
Chinese Dates are preferred in this recipe as they are good for strengthening the Spleen and tonifying the Yin as well as the Blood. However, I used medjool dates as they were what I had on hand, which are also good for tonifying Qi and Blood. If you have goji berries on hand, they are great for nourishing Blood and Yin and are also good for the Kidneys. Blueberries tonify the Kidneys, and nourish the Blood. Maple syrup is sweet, so it is appealing to the Spleen, but should be consumed in moderation as too much sweet can be damaging.
Lastly, cinnamon is warming so if there is any coldness in the body, it will be beneficial. It also helps to strengthen the stomach and can assist in stopping pain. Similarly, nutmeg is also warming and thus can help improve circulation. It is also helpful for the Spleen and Stomach. And, finally, ginger, which can help in reducing pain and inflammation, moves Qi, and assists in relieving any digestive discomfort and/or bloating. It also benefits the Stomach and the Lungs.
All in all, this is a wonderful way to enjoy your oats, especially if you are experiencing an upset stomach or are feeling run down during the seasonal change.
-The Tao of Nutrition by Maoshing Ni and Cathy McNease