As we enter the hottest months of the year, something that tends to be at the forefront of the mind is how to keep cool.
Obviously, we want to enjoy these warm months of abundant sunshine, but we need to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated and healthy so we aren’t quick to succumb to Fall and Winter illness. One thing I recommend to patients is easy to incorporate, as we all need to eat- food therapy.
Even Hippocrates was aware of diet’s importance in healthy living: “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food”. Proper nutritional intake combined with lifestyle recommendations will keep you and your family on the right track for a happy and healthy summer.
Not surprisingly, in Chinese medicine, summertime is governed by the element of Fire (and its associated organs: the Heart, Pericardium, Small Intestine, and Triple Burner). We learn that because of this, the Fire energy is abundant in the summertime. Therefore, it is recommended that we refrain from things that will both add too much heat to our systems, and on the opposite spectrum cool the inside too much or cause us to release too much water.
It is a temptation to hide inside with the A/C blasting over our bodies while drinking ice cold beverages, but that is a temptation that is best left unindulged.
Why? When it is hot outside, and the Fire energy is high, our bodies allow our pores to open. This allows sweat to release but also leaves the body vulnerable to illness carried by cool drafts or breezes. Ideally, we all want to absorb the yang/Fire energy of the summer and also preserve the yin/Water energy for winter. If we sweat too much, the body is said to be weaker in the wintertime, since fluids are governed by the Kidney system (reaching its own peak in Winter).
These foods are usually very abundant in water (yin), are cooling, and highly nutritious. Watermelon/melon is wonderful for summertime, as it contains an abundance of water which will keep your body cool. However, watermelon is a diuretic; I have a friend from Taiwan that recommends eating watermelon with a small sprinkle of salt to keep hydrated.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but it allows you to keep your center warm and digestive system functioning happily.
Rather, make sure your salads include some cooked veggies, and your smoothies have cinnamon, ginger, or are followed by some warm tea. Keep hydrated with room temperature (or cooled) water; avoid the ice when possible!
Shade provided by trees or spaces near a flowing stream/river are great places to take advantage of this coolness.
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