Beat the Summer Heat with Traditional Chinese Medicine!
As most of the country is in the middle of a heat wave, with temperatures here in the NYC area expected to hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend, I'd like to describe some ways that you can stay cool and safe in the heat.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a specific illness we call Summer Heat Syndrome which is essentially the same as what Western Medicine recognizes as either Heat Exhaustion (milder) or Heat Stroke (more severe). Symptoms of Summer Heat Syndrome may include: excessive thirst, nausea, fainting, weakness, fatigue, muscle aches or cramping, heavy sweating, dizziness, headache, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever. Anyone is at risk for heat-related illness when the temperature and humidity rises, but especially anyone who is engaging in any physical activity outside. The young and the elderly are also more likely to be affected by extreme heat. Thankfully there are many ways you can protect yourself from developing Summer Heat Syndrome, as listed below:
It is very important to stay well hydrated, especially if you are spending any time outside or are very active.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, both the fruit (Xi Gua) and seeds (Xi Gua Ren) of watermelon are used to clear Summer Heat from the body and increase body fluids. Because of the high water content in watermelon, it is a great choice to both prevent and treat dehydration and Summer Heat Syndrome.
Another Traditional Chinese Herbal remedy for Summer Heat is to consume a hot cup of Chrysanthemum flower tea. Chrysanthemum (Ju Hua) is an herb which is considered to be very cooling and helps to clear heat from the head and chest, as well as benefiting the eyes and skin. And when you consume a hot beverage, you have the additional cooling benefit of increased dilation of the blood vessels, which leads to increased sweating and sweat evaporation, which helps to cool the body further. In the summer time in China, Chrysanthemum tea is ordered widely in restaurants and tea houses, both hot or iced, since many local people swear by this remedy.
It is also recommended to replenish electrolytes, especially if you find yourself perspiring heavily. Coconut water is an excellent natural choice, since it contains a good balance of electrolytes and is free of artificial ingredients and added sugars. I also really like Nuun hydration tablets which contain electrolytes and minerals which are lost when you sweat. They are easy to carry with you in a purse or gym bag to use on the go, and are very low in sugar compared to regular sports drinks like Gatorade.
Try to stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day, and if you must be outside working or exercising be mindful of how you are feeling, as heat-related illnesses can set in quickly. If you find yourself dizzy, nauseous, unusually lethargic, or if you stop sweating entirely, please get out of the sun and stop exerting yourself immediately.
Find a pool or beach to beat the heat! Swimming is fantastic exercise and can help cool off your core body temperature. Why not try swapping one of your runs for some laps in the pool this week?
If you are susceptible to Summer Heat Syndrome, talk with your acupuncturist for more recommendations. There are a few extra acupuncture points that we can use for you at your next session as well to help with this syndrome.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and the excuse to eat as much watermelon as possible for the next couple months!