Baby, it’s hot outside, and some of my patients are starting to show the strain. Hot flashes are worse, people are hot and thirsty, and tempers are flaring.
Much of Chinese medicine is based on the idea that we humans are part of the natural world, and as such, we’re greatly affected by our environment. Seasonal changes and extreme weather can by physically stressful and wreak havoc with our health. Therefore, when it’s dry outside we get dry conditions, such as a scratchy sore throat, dehydration, and dry skin. When it’s cold and damp, achy joints and phlegm conditions flare. Windy weather can bring on colds, facial pain, and earaches.
In Chinese medicine there is actually a condition associated with hot summer weather, called Summerheat. One word and capitalized—Summerheat. It is caused from exposure to extreme heat and can make you feel seriously funky.
There are two kinds of Summerheat—the first looks a lot like heat stroke in conventional medicine. It’s characterized by a high fever, heavy sweating, exhaustion, and dehydration.
The second kind of Summerheat has a damp element to it. It usually occurs when it’s really humid out—the kind of weather when you feel like you’re covered with a layer of slime. When it gets hot outside, you generally get thirsty from sweating and drink to keep hydrated. However, drinking—or overdrinking—combined with the water in the air can cause Summerheat plus a waterlogged feeling, cleverly called Summerheat Damp.
I’ve seen patients with Summerheat Damp during the humidity of the past few weeks, and it isn’t pretty. Symptoms include a generally blah feeling, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and fatigue. It occurs primarily in people who spend a lot of time outdoors on those very hot, very sticky days of mid and late summer.
So, what to do for Summerheat? Well, some of the things you would instinctively do are the best. Slow down and cool off. There are also some foods that are energetically cool and full of fluids that really help if you’re suffering from Summerheat. Some suggestions:
- Boil Mung beans. Cook the beans in water according to the directions on the package. Use the liquid to make a broth—a little salt is not a bad thing in this case. You could add a little rice or a few vegetables, but keep it light.
- Try watermelon. It’s a great choice if you’re feeling hot and blah. It really works!
- Eat summer produce that is cooling and moist, such as tomatoes, cucumber, Mung bean sprouts (the big ones that come in your Pad Thai), summer squash, broccoli, and apples.
- If your stomach is upset, eat lightly and give your digestion a break. I like to make a congee (rice soup) when I’m under the weather. It consists of one part rice to eight parts water, simmered slowly until the rice is tender. Add seasoning and a small amount of protein, like chicken, egg, or tofu.
- Drink tea. Green, chrysanthemum, peppermint, or chamomile are all cooling. Use the hot weather to brew sun tea but putting some tea bags in a glass jar outside in the sun. In a couple of hours your tea is brewed, and you can refrigerate it or drink it over ice.
- Acupuncture is always a great option, too. Your practitioner will focus on clearing the heat, and if you have the damp type, they will also resolve the dampness and calm your digestion down. There are also some really effective Chinese herbal formulas specifically designed for Summerheat. So be cool and don’t let the hot weather get you down.