Taking Care: Summer
AOMA’s recommendations for staying on top of Summer Heat
by Lauren St. Pierre-Mehrens
Summer in Austin is full of many wonderful things. Swimming at Barton Springs, backyard BBQs, free concerts at Zilker Park, and the HEAT. Well, for some the heat is wonderful; for most of us, it can be a challenge both mentally and physically. Summer Heat is one of the “six pernicious evils” in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory and is nothing to scoff at. Protecting yourself and understanding how to avoid dehydration and heatstroke are vital to making the most of your summer and protecting your body for the rest of the year.
Summer is yang in nature and a time of increased energy and expansion. It gives us long days to explore this yang nature, to be social and active. A wider variety of local seasonal food is available, and it’s a wonderful time to diversify our diets with fresh fruits and vegetables. Nature has harmony in mind when we look at the foods around us. What’s local during the summer months often is what we should be eating due to the cooling nature of the foods.
It is also a time that requires protecting our yang from damage. Nothing sounds better during a midday scorcher than an ice cream or downing a full cup of ice water, but in TCM, this damages your yang. Why does that matter? Our body is constantly trying to balance yin and yang, hot and cold, moist and dry. When we damage one, the other can become relatively too great, or unchecked. Simply put, yang is the fire in us while yin is the water. If you keep pouring ice water over a fire, eventually it will be too weak to burn. We don’t see the problem with this in the summer when all we want is to put that fire out, but as the seasons change, we will start to see digestive and circulation problems. Acupuncture, herbs, and qigong can help to restore balance, but why not prevent potential problems in the first place?
In Austin, we also have Damp mixed in with our Summer Heat. Austinites might experience more heavy sensations in the body, as well as fatigue, abdominal fullness, and digestive upset. All the more reason to get in harmony with the season.
What might Summer Heat look like?
The excessive yang nature of Summer Heat affecting the body comes in many forms. We often will see a very red face, bright red tongue with yellow or no coating, fever, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, constipation or diarrhea, elevated blood pressure, headaches, mouth sores, skin rashes, and acne.
Children and the elderly as well as those who tend toward excess yang, or heat, may find they are more susceptible to Summer Heat.
What can I do to support my body?
- Stay hydrated and avoid peak sun. In Austin that can be from 10am to 4pm, or later, given that we’re on Daylight Savings Time. Use good judgment and always carry water and a hat or umbrella with you.
- Use cool packs on your elbow creases and the back of your neck if you’re overheated.
- Increase these foods, which have cooling properties:
◦ mung beans
◦ peppermint or chrysanthemum flower tea
◦ lemon/lime and other citrus
- Moderate/avoid these foods, which can be too warming, if you’re seeing Summer Heat signs:
◦ anything spicy and/or fried
◦ red meat
◦ lobster, mussels, and prawns
Acupuncture and dietary therapy can be an effective way beat the heat, but watch for red flags of actual heat exhaustion or heatstroke and seek medical attention if they occur: fainting, dark-colored urine, rapid heartbeat, confusion, throbbing headache, and vomiting. Be safe, have fun, and come see us at AOMA for more personalized support.
About the author
Lauren has lived in Austin since 2006 by way of Lake Tahoe, California. While pursuing her MAcOM at AOMA she continues to work with The American Cancer Society as a cancer information specialist. She counts ATX as her home with her husband and two Boston terriers. http://www.earthspringacupuncture.com/