Keep Your Cool This Summer with Wisdom from Chinese Medicine
Though we had a cold and breezy spring this year, summer in Philly never disappoints in terms of its sweltering temperatures, steamy sidewalks, and heat-induced malaise. In Chinese Medicine, “summer heat” merits its own category as one of six external factors that can attack the body when temperatures run too high.
The symptoms of what Chinese Medicine calls a “summer heat attack” look a lot like heat stroke. If you find your pulse racing, are dizzy, feel super flushed, or if you stop sweating, seek medical attention right away, as extreme cases of summer heat are serious and require immediate medical attention.
If you’re feeling the heat, or just dreading the heat, this summer, here are some tips to help you get your game on for the summer heat season and stay cool.
1. Skip the iced coffee (or ice in general). Though it sounds counter-intuitive to avoid ice in the hot temperatures (and even to avoid ice in general), ice in Chinese Medicine is generally a no-no. This is specially true when you’re feeling overheated, as ice will throw your body into another extreme.
While ice will provide temporary relief when you’re feeling hot, it ultimately puts a damper on your digestive system and over-cools your stomach so that your body has to expend more energy and work much harder to heat your stomach back up so that it can process your food. Your stomach in Chinese Medicine is like a little cooking pot, and throwing ice on the fire will mean that everything gets sluggish and heavy and bogged down, the exact opposite of how you want to feel if you’re already struggling with rising temperatures.
2. Choose cooling foods. Food in Chinese Medicine has an energetic temperature, in addition to a literature temperature. When we talk about cooling foods, we’re talking about energetically cool foods here. Most of us already intuitively experience the energetic temperature of foods. You’ve probably noticed that foods like dried ginger and cinnamon feel warming and circulating when you taste them on your tongue.
On the other end of the spectrum, watermelon is a classic cooling food that’s in season during the peak of summer, nature’s way of helping us regulate our temperature during the long, hot days. Other cooling foods include: tofu, melons, strawberries, spinach, watercress, swiss chard, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, seaweed, yogurt, sesame oil, soy sauce, green tea, and peppermint.
3. Take refuge by seeking out water. Summer is the season of the “Fire” phase in Chinese Medicine. Winter, the opposite of summer, is the season of the “Water” phase. Don’t neglect the cooling properties of water during the summer time. It’s important that you drink enough water to avoid summer heat from overcoming you. You will naturally sweat more during summer (nature’s way of cooling you down), so it’s important that you replace that lost fluid by staying hydrated.
You can also take advantage of water at home or in nature to help you stay cool! Run a cool bath or take a cool shower. Let the water cool you down and balance all the fiery heat that’s blooming outside. This is also an excellent time of year to take a dip in a local swimming hole to help you beat the heat. Here’s a list from Philly Mag within 2 hours of Philly. Or, stay ultra-local, and check out favorites like Devil’s Pool in Fairmount Park, which is accessible by public transit.local, and check out favorites like Devil’s Pool in Fairmount Park, which is accessible by public transit.