Stay Cool and Healthy: Summer Advice from Chinese Medicine

August 19, 2009 at 10:16 am 1 comment

Well, summer is definitely here. There’s been an explosion of heat, haziness, and summer activity: there are kids on bikes everywhere, the local pool and the parking lot at Walden Pond are packed, and the neighborhood smells like barbeque all the time. Today I saw someone riding the T with a lap full of new window fans from Target. It’s a bit intense, but I say soak it up while it’s here — and try these suggestions for keeping you happy, healthy, and cool when it’s hot and muggy outside:

  1. Try eating cold soups.  I’m a new convert to this one — they’re light, cooling, and a great way to get vegetables when you finally get tired of salad.  Try the cucumber-yogurt-walnut soup here: — it incorporates several of the cooling foods listed in the sidebar.  Or surf around and find a recipe for gazpacho, minted pea soup, or chilled avocado soup.  Let me know what you find!
  2. Who can resist ice cream? I can’t.  But do try to keep it reasonable, especially if you tend to feel nauseous, stomach-rumbly, foggy headed, or heavy and lethargic in this weather.  Ice cream is a triple whammy for your Spleen — it’s cold, sweet, and dairy-based.  All three of those things (which, admittedly, are the whole point of ice cream) are hard on the Spleen and make it more difficult for your body to cope with the humid weather.  The same goes for those latte-like frozen concoctions from Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
  3. Sleep cool. Even those of us who love the steamy weather have trouble sleeping in it.  If you have air conditioning, night is the time to use it.  If not, make sure you close windows and blinds during the heat of the day, and use window fans to bring the cooler night air in when you go to bed.  A cool (not freezing cold!) shower before bed can also help.  If you’re desperate enough to sleep with an ice pack, try putting it behind your knees — it’s a great point to clear heat from the body. And make sure you wrap it in cloth so you don’t give yourself frostbite (this has happened before!).
  4. Drink lots of water.  You know this, of course, but it’s easy to forget to do it.  And, go easy on alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, which are dehydrating.
  5. Headaches in this weather? A recent study found that the likelihood of getting a headache goes up by 7% for every 5 degrees of temperature increase (this probably isn’t news for those of you with migraines).  Try this home remedy:  1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in an 8-ounce glass of warm water helps balance electrolytes and fluids to get rid of a headache.
  6. Take care of yourself in air conditioning.  As lovely as it feels, it can be shocking to the body to go back and forth between hot and cold air — especially if you’ve gotten sweaty outside.  According to Chinese medicine, cold can invade your body through your open pores, causing colds, headache, neck pain, and muscle pain.  Try to keep indoor and outdoor temperatures as similar as possible, transition gradually if you can, and keep a sweater handy so you don’t get chilled.
  7. Get in your favorite summer activities.  We got a late start on summer weather this year, so make sure you make time for what you want to do.  A beach day? A picnic at sunset?  Fried shrimp and onion rings on the boardwalk?  Hosting a barbeque? Playing croquet? Swimming across Walden Pond?  Outdoor concert? Whatever says summer to you, getting it in will make August more fun and make you more ready for fall when it comes.  (But if you tell anyone your acupuncturist told you to eat fried food, I’ll deny it!)

Cooling Foods for Summer

These foods, according to Chinese dietary therapy, help cool your internal body temperature and lessen the impact of hot weather.  Most of them are in season now; I suggest stopping by your local farmer’s market to get the freshest and tastiest available.

  • Apricot
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Lemon
  • Peach
  • Orange
  • Asparagus
  • Sprouts
  • Bamboo
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • White mushroom
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Watercress
  • Seaweed
  • Mung beans
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dill

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