Dog Days of Summer

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 In General

Hello Austinites.  It’s that time of year again.  We’ve had, what, 50 days of triple digit weather thus far, right?  It’s the middle of August and we can likely guarantee at least one more month of intense heat.  For many of us, this is a challenging time of the year.  Heat affects our body and emotions; we may start to feel irritated, have trouble sleeping and risk dehydration, among other things.  Luckily, there are many ways to stay cool during this time.  Let’s take a look at why this heat causes so much trouble and what we can do to feel great during this time.

First off, let’s examine why it is the heat affects us so strongly.  According to Chinese medicine, the summer is of the heart/fire element, a yang phenomenon.  The heart is responsible for helping us to find our purpose in life; it is the vehicle for expressing what’s on our minds and the emotions we’re feeling.   This is the time of year where our energy is at its most outward expression as the heat encourages us to expand, to reach out.  We are sweating more, out at gatherings, celebrating life and making new connections.  This requires our bodies to work hard.  Emotionally, we have a lot to process if we are so busy in life.  This can put incredible tension in the body, especially if when we experience conflict in our life.  This conflict creates friction in our body, causing heat to generate in our body (irritability, restlessness, steam coming out of your ears).  It can be very easy to add fuel to the already burning fire of summer, which puts a lot of tension on our bodies and spirit.

Fortunately, there are many ways to combat all of this heat.  Below are a number of tips to help beat the heat and stay cool and calm.

1. Stay hydrated.

This is really common knowledge.  As you tend to sweat more in the summer, you need to keep hydrated so you don’t dry out.  Some will say you should drink a gallon of water a day.  That way you have the fluids available to flush out any toxins the heat tries to push out of your body.

If you drink a lot of water, you still might not feel like your thirst is quenched.  The first step is to keep an eye on your mineral/electrolyte intake.  Gatorade is the common one, but there are many healthier (and tastier) options out there.  Coconut water is very popular these days.  You can also buy a trace mineral mix that you can add to your water bottle daily.  Watermelon is a great way to stay hydrated.  Be sure to eat the white part as well, it will prevent you from losing too many fluids.

Herbs can also be extremely helpful if you’re dehydrated.  Aloe Vera Juice is an easy and effective first step.  If your dehydration has a lot of other effects, like headaches, dry red eyes, dry skin/skin eruptions, then you might choose to consult your acupuncturist/herbalist.  Chinese herbology offers many specific ways to both address the side effects of heat and properly hydrate the body.

2. Eat cooling/moistening foods.  Start to cleanse your body.

A lot of foods in the American diet have the effect of heating up our body.  This includes rich, greasy and spicy foods.  Alcohol is also very warming.  It is essential to eat as many cooling foods as possible during the summer.  This includes most fruits and vegetables.  Salads, fresh juices and raw foods are good options at this time of year.  As far as cooked foods go, eat less fried foods (even sautéed) and lean more on steamed/lightly cooked foods.  This would be a good time to lessen the amount of animal proteins in your body, as they tend to have a warming effect.  Beans, nuts, some soy (Tempeh has a nice texture for those more accustomed to meat) and legumes are good alternatives.

Cooling foods:  Most fruits and vegetables, especially watermelon, cucumber

Moistening foods:  Most fruits will moisten the body.  Watermelon is the best.  Cucumbers, olives, avocados, and unprocessed oils (coconut, olive oil, etc.) are also great choices.

In addition, this is a good time of year to cleanse.  Your body naturally desires to get rid of all toxins in the summer; any way you can make this process easier will make your life a lot easier.  Cleansing starts with healthy eating patterns, but you may want to explore a master cleanse/juice fast, especially if your body if feeling very reactive and stressed.

3. Allow yourself time to cool and relax

Traditionally, people had long, restful and reflective winters to balance the busy time of summer.  Modern life makes it difficult to find those restful periods of balance.  Here in Texas, we usually choose to enjoy our mild winter weather.  As such, it’s essential to incorporate yin time into our summer life to keep cool.  An easy way is to get in some nice cool watering holes.  Also, we should take it easy, and feel free to take a break from people.  Too much interaction with the world is an easy way to overheat in the summer.  Give yourself some reflective alone time.

4. Get Acupuncture

If you find yourself struggling through the summer time, acupuncture is a great way to make your life a lot better.  You will feel more calm, balanced and able to deal with the complexities of the world you are living in.  My patients often report a feeling of the heat leaving their body as they receive treatment;  they also notice their sleep being much better and feeling more refreshed.

There are some ways to stay cool.  If you incorporate the suggestions listed above, you will notice a definite difference in your disposition.  You will likely see the heat affecting people around you, having people act a little more crazy, but be able to witness it all without getting sucked into the madness.  Stay cool and be well.

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