Summertime and Chinese Medicine – How to Beat the Heat

Hi Friend!

It is finally August and we have made it to the height of summer. These long days are full of fun and excitement for most of us. My little family is packing in as many vacations as we can and spending dinners outside with friends until dusk. I love so many things about summer. Our fun gatherings, getting out in the sun, feeling the world come alive. It feels expansive and limitless with so much potential. The daylight is on our sides, encouraging us to pack a little more fun into each day.

Even so, by the time that August rolls around, I can feel a bit tired of the incessant heat. While I love to be active, I tend to fit more into these longer days than I should. Couple that with the high temperatures of August and I am left feeling drained and depleted. Not quite the summer fun I dream about in January. So how do we beat the heat?

One of the things I love about Chinese medicine is that it considers us humans as part of the larger whole of our environment.  We are connected to every natural process around us, so it makes sense that the longer, brighter, hotter summer days can affect our bodies, minds and spirits. Our environment heats up, nature itself is more active, and so are we. Living in sync with nature is ideal according to the Chinese medicine perspective, and adjusting to these changes can take some getting used to. Understanding how Chinese medicine views the season and the body can help us adapt to the heat of summer in a natural and balanced way. Why get beat by the heat when we can be refreshed and energized and take on all that summer has to offer?!

What Does Chinese Medicine Have To Say About Summer?

Ah, summer. Warm and active and bursting with energy. Summer is the most yang season of the year allowing us to shed our layers and come out to play. This is most vibrant, and fast-moving season. Everything is charged; plants are growing and people are buzzing. Think expansion, radiance, abundance, and joy!

Chinese medicine relates all seasons to a particular color, organ system, temperature, element, and more. For summer, we have the element of fire and heat and the color red. Makes sense, right?! Summer is the height of yang and outwardness and movement is prevalent. It is a time to venture outside and interact with the world around you.

We also want to consider the Heart and Small Intestine in summer. The Heart keeps our blood coursing through our body and allows us to be active. It is also in charge of regulating sweating – a big job in this heat! The Heart also houses our joy, dreams, and spirit in Chinese medicine. During times of excess, we can feel manic or agitated. When the Heart is undernourished, we can feel depressed or numb. Summer is a the time to pay special attention to the Heart as it may be challenged with the increased energy of the season.

The Small Intestine is the Heart’s pair and we know it to be very important in water regulation of the body. Our food and liquids pass through the Small Intestine to be sorted and much of our needed nutrients are absorbed during this process. We can also think of the Small Intestine as mental processing. We chew things over and parse through information, deciding what is important to us. For this reason, summer is a great time to step back and consider what is important to you. Where should your priorities lie for the rest of the year? Where will you spend your energy?

Summer Setbacks

Each season comes with it’s fair share of potential troubles. This will change for each individual based on your constitution and health history. However, due to the heat of the season and the increased focus on the Heart and Small Intestine systems, here are some possible weak spots to watch out for:
  • Heartburn, irritability, sleeplessness, restlessness, agitation
  • Depression, lack of motivation, feeling blah, sleepiness
  • Painful, scanty, or hot urination, sore throats, skin irritation, rashes
  • Feeling overheated, night sweats, hot flashes, nausea, diarrhea, odors

If you are struggling with some of these issues, or just want some help staying healthy this summer, book your acupuncture appointment to help your body adapt to the season so you can fully enjoy it!

Stay Cool This Summer

Understanding the nature of summer and how it affects our bodies can help us stay comfortable even on the hottest days. The key is to embrace the season and use this fun and vibrant time to fully engage with the special yang energy that this time offers. Read on to find out how to stay healthy, enjoy the sun, but keep your cool.

Embrace Yang

Yang energy is active – so this is a great time to start up a new exercise routine or spend a little more time outdoors. Light types of exercise, such as yoga, tai chi, walking, and swimming are ideal. You want to avoid overdoing it and don’t want to lose too much water by sweating excessively. If the heat of the sun is getting to you, hit the pool or do some stretching in a cool shady spot.

Spice Up Your Life

Getting overheated and feeling stagnant is no recipe for a good summer. Pungent herbs and spices can keep your digestive system working and help to encourage a healthy sweat. Many cultures that developed in hot environments have used this technique for ages; think of the spicy dishes of Mexican, Indian, or Malaysian cuisines. This keeps you nice and cool and prevents digestive sluggishness. Don’t overdo it and overload your system with heat– just an added hint of chile or a touch of cumin is all it takes.

Stay Cool As A Cucumber

In addition to adding in some extra spice, we want to load up on cooling and hydrating foods. This means lots of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, celery, and carrots. Fruits are a great way to increase your intake of water while enjoying a sweet treat! Melons are fabulous, especially watermelon. Strawberries, juicy pears, star fruit, dragonfruit, and citrus fruits are all good choices.

Here is a list of traditional foods in Chinese medicine that are known to have a cooling effect on the body. Add more of these into your diet in summer to keep cool:

Hi! I'm Angela

Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Integrative Wellness Consultant and Mood-Gut expert.

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  • Apricot
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Lemon
  • Peach
  • Cucumber
  • Orange
  • Asparagus
  • Sprouts
  • Bamboo
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Corn
  • White Mushroom
  • Snow Peas
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Watercress
  • Seaweed
  • Mung Bean
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Bitter Gourd
  • Wax Gourd
  • Lotus Root
  • Lotus Seed
  • Job’s Tears
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Duck
  • Fish

The Raw Debate

You might think that in summer we should focus our intake on raw foods, or load up on salads. While summer is the best time to eat more raw vegetables, Chinese medicine does not view raw foods as particularly helpful for most people – even in summer.

Too many raw and cold foods are quite hard for the body to digest and makes a lot of work for your digestive system. Over time, this weakens the system and things start to build up and get sluggish. This sluggishness causes bloating, belly pain, diarrhea or constipation, and can prevent you from getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Instead of switching to exclusively raw salads, you’ll want to prepare more steamed or lightly stir-fried foods in summer. Light soups, seafood, and tons of veggies are all great choices. This doesn’t mean you can’t have any raw foods – some snap peas for a snack or a salad with dinner is fine, but try to pair with some spices, a steamed protein, or a warm cup of lemon tea.

Hydrate Your Body And Mind

Staying hydrated is a big deal in summer. Drinking lots of cool (not iced!) water and snacking on fresh fruits is a great habit. Not only do we want to prevent heat stroke or dehydration, but we want to make sure our skin and organs are properly nourished. Summer can be hot and dry which can make our skin and eyes dry and prevent us from restful sleep. Overheated? Hop in a cool shower. If you live in a dry/arid area, make sure to keep your skin moisturizer as well. Coconut oil is a cooling and hydrating natural way to moisturize your skin and keep it glowing all summer.

Water is the opposite element of fire. It is slow, cooling, dark, and calming. This helps to counteract the rushing, hot, fiery force of summer. Use water to balance out the fire in your mind, as well as your body. If you live near the water, make time to stroll by the beach or journal by the lake to calm down a busy mind. If you cannot make it to the real thing, play some relaxing ocean or rain sounds while you’re cooking dinner or relaxing in bed.

Chill Out

Even though summer is this active, energetic time, we want to take time to slow down and rest. Chinese medicine physicians recommend waking earlier in the day and going to bed later, making the most of the sunshine available. But they also advised taking a midday rest.

This is particularly important if you are someone who is naturally pretty wired, going from one thing to the next. You are at risk of burning out, especially in summer, if you don’t take some time for rest. Whether it is a 20 minute nap, a midday meditation session, or an extra-long wind-down bedtime ritual, schedule in some chill time for these hot days. 

Sweet, Sweet Summer

Every season has it’s perks and things to look forward to – and summer definitely has its fair share! We often look forward to summer all year, just to get overheated and lethargic or overwhelmed once it’s here. Take charge of your summer this year and embrace the hot and radiant energy of the season. Keep cool and make sure to make time to rest from all your activities. Keep in mind that summer is the season for the Heart, and might be the perfect time to start to hone in on what your Heart really desires. With this active energy, it’s also a great time to make those first steps towards reaching your goals.

Stay in tune with the season and live this summer to the fullest!

I want to hear from you:
What do you love most about summer? Please let us know! Leave a comment below.

1 thought on “Summertime and Chinese Medicine – How to Beat the Heat”

  1. Great article! I love your summer food suggestion list :). Summer is such a great time of year to be outside more often, especially when it’s not crazy hot out!

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