We love our Summer and sunshine here in Boise.  It’s time to be in the garden, rivers and mountains.  From late Spring into early Summer the temperature can swing nearly 40 degrees between sunrise and sunset.  And then there is that spell in July and August where it hangs out above 100 and never seems to cool off—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.  Likely you’ve experienced it from long day at the pool or in the garden.  And for those who have suffered from either extreme summer heat or reoccurring summer heat, you are likely more prone or vulnerable to it. 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

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

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

Summer heat is an exterior pattern, meaning it will come on quickly.  However, the presence of certain interior heat or yin deficiency patterns can make a person more susceptible to exterior summer heat invasion.  These patterns can include–menopause or any pattern with hot flashes, high blood pressure, anxiety or any pattern of 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 sweat—keeping heat locked in the body.  Running into a house that is 40 degrees 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–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 light shirt.

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 lovely picture in the drink is a mix of lavender, lime and hibiscus.

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 is cooling and fine in this case unless you have a very compromised digestive or immune system.  Still try and eat foods cool or at room temperature- not ice cold.

Cooling foods include

In case you noticed, 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