We love our Summer and sunshine here in Boise.  It’s time to be in the garden, rivers and mountains.  However, from late Spring into early Summer the temperature can swing nearly 40 degrees between sunrise and sunset.  By July and August we enter a spell where the temperatures rise above 100° during the day and never seems to cool off at night – ack, melt.

Occasionally, we spend too much time in the sun, or the season changes so rapidly that we have problems adapting.  You may experience a little summer heat invasion.  One of the 6 Pernicious Influences of Asian medicine, Summer heat occurs when the weather changes too rapidly becoming hot or you’ve been out in the heat for too long. Your system simply has problems trying to handle the excess heat. In an extreme form, summer heat can lead to what western medicine calls heat exhaustion or heat fatigue and in severe cases – heat stroke.  Likely you’ve experienced a little heat fatigue or sun sickness from a long day at the pool or in the garden.  Those who have suffered from either extreme summer heat or reoccurring summer heat are prone or more vulnerable to it until we stabilize their system. Speaking from experience here, yes, you can recover and help make your system more adaptable again, but prevention measures are always encouraged. Be sure to take the time to help your body ease into the season. Here’s how you can tell if you have summer heat.  PS. if you have a sun burn…you have some summer heat.

Summer Heat symptoms

Summer heat invasion creates a pattern of chaos – hot and cold intermingle.

  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Chills and fever – this is a pattern of flux between fever and chills but the skin will usually feel hot.
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Dry skin
  • Excess or absence of sweating
  • Exhaustion or restlessness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Sun burns
  • Thirst

Asian medicine practitioners –  look for a rapid, superficial pulse and red tongue indicating heat in the body.

What to do to handle summer heat

Get out of the sun and slow down and cover up – Find some lovely shade and cool off – but not too much.  The nature of cold is to contract and tighten down. Too much cold too quickly will contract the pores and stop sweating which will keep heat locked in the body.  Running into a house that is 40º colder than the outside temperature will shock the system further.  Set your house temperature so it’s not so extreme a swing from the outdoors – it’s better for you and the environment.  If this isn’t an option, cover up a little more in doors. If you stay outdoors, cover up with a hat and shirt to help keep the sun off you.

Hydrate with water – Drink plenty of cool or room temperature water.  Try to avoid cold or iced water. Excessively cold or iced drinks will chill your delicate tissues throat and stomach too rapidly, and, again, can contract the pores.   Your body will have to generate more heat to warm the water for absorption…thus heating you up more.  Use water or light teas and avoid sugary or syrupy drinks that will dehydrate you further.  You can accent your water with cucumbers, hibiscus, lemon or lime, rosemary and mint to help replenish and refresh. The drink pictured in this blog is a simple mix of lavender, lime and hibiscus with a kiss of honey.

To Sweat or Not To Sweat – Most hot climates use a fair amount of pungents or spicy flavors to help the body sweat and move excess heat out of the core. Think of Indian and spicy Asian foods. If you aren’t sweating use a few mild pungents to start sweat: cayenne, cinnamon, curry, pepper.  A little goes a long way.  If you are very thin and dehydrated, don’t go overboard. If you already sweat a lot (as in cases of menopause or hot flash) or have bled a lot, DO NOT induce more sweating.  You are losing too much fluids and we need to hydrate and maintain moisture. The ideal therapy would not be to drain out more fluids.  For this reason, I do not recommend hot yoga for Yin deficient women.

Cooling Summer Heat with Foods – Include foods that specifically counter Summer Heat. Raw food at room temperature is cooling and fine unless you have a very compromised digestive or immune system.  Why did I say room temperature? Food fresh out of the fridge is a few degrees above freezing and nearly 45-50° cooler than your body. More if you fighting heat. The body will have to generate a lot of heat and use a lot water to bring it to temperature and digest it.  Still try and eat foods cool or at room temperature. A little ice or frozen foods here or there can be fun in the summer, but too much will burden the system, especially if you are treating an acute pathology.

Know yourself – Summer heat is an exterior pattern, meaning it will comes on quickly from exposure to heat. However, if you already have existing heat patterns or fire pathologies in the body, summer heat will make them worse. There are several organ systems that are very susceptible to heat and Yin (lack of fluids/cooling) deficiency.  Let’s take a quick look at a few common patterns.

Yin deficiency – Also called false fire, this isn’t a true heat pattern, rather it’s a deficiency of Yin and Fluids so it can’t keep heat and yang in check. The most common patterns of this include menopause and ‘wasting and thirsting syndromes’ like diabetes and tuberculosis.

Heart – Too much heat affecting the Heart will cause anxiety, nervousness, stuttered or slurred speech, restless dreams. You may also see high blood pressure and hypertension. The very tip of the tongue will be very red.

Liver – Look for anger, aggression, increased blood pressure, ringing in the ears, red eyes, headaches, hypertension.

Stomach – Stomach fire manifests as bleeding gums, ulcers, halitosis and a gnawing and burning sensation in the stomach – ouch.

Any excess heat can make existing hot patterns worse or cause fire to flare up. 

Cooling foods include

Did you notice? There are no animal foods on this list.  Flesh is warming, not cooling. So, no, the bbq chicken won’t cool and hydrate you. Read more about Summer foods.

Avoid Heavy Foods

Heavy, greasy or fried foods will weigh down your system making you slow and sluggish and stagnate the Qi.  Watch out for too many nuts and seeds as they are dense and heavy – just a sprinkle here and there.  If you’ve been out in the heat too much pass on the burger and head to the salad greens and melons.  Excess sweets, meats and oils will stagnate the Qi in the body. Basically, they are like an anchor in hot weather…tugging the energy down – ooff.

Get Amma, Acupuncture or Herbal and Nutritional Help

Treatments are specifically focused to what the client has going on – in this case, release heat.  Points, therapy techniques and recommendations will focus on helping the body’s Qi move properly to adapt to the heat and to release excess from the system – ahhh…  We also have some fantastic little formulas like Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Wan,  that treat summer heat invasion beautifully.  If you are prone to summer heat, stock up now.

Keep cool this summer!

April Crowell  Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN