Summer heat can feel great; or, sometimes it can be a bit much. If you’re feeling cranky, exhausted, lethargic, yucky-all-over, or just plain too hot these days, you’re not the only one! Try these suggestions for keeping you happy, healthy, and cool when it’s hot and muggy outside:
1. Check out the list of cooling foods below, and incorporate them into your diet (watermelon is actually listed in ancient texts as a medicinal substance for a condition called “summer heat,” which is similar to sunstroke or heat exhaustion).
2. 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: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/06/cucumber-yogurt-soup-recipe.html. — it incorporates several of the cooling foods listed below. Or surf around and find a recipe for gazpacho, minted pea soup, or chilled avocado soup. Let me know what you find!
3. 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.
4. Get up earlier, stay up later, and rest at midday if possible (you can tell your boss I said so!); Chinese medical texts suggest this as a way of living in harmony with the season. (Countries that do afternoon siestas are way ahead of us on this one!)
5. 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.
6. An ice pack behind the knees can do wonders to cool the whole body; one of the main acupuncture points for clearing heat is located there Just make sure you wrap it in cloth so you don’t give yourself frostbite (this has happened before!).
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine are appropriate if you’re still way too hot after trying these things; if your mood, sleep, appetite, or energy is significantly affected; or if you have health conditions (such as headaches, digestive issues, skin rashes, or dizziness, for example) that get much worse in summer. A large part of Chinese medical diagnosis centers around the balance of heat and cold in the body. Treatment can help cool down an overly-warm constitution, making you healthier and more comfortable.
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.