By now you all know that Chinese Medicine recommends avoiding raw foods due to their tendency to over-cool our digestive system. However summertime is one exception. To counter the hot weather outside, I advise eating about 40% raw foods this time of year (as opposed to 5-10% in the winter). The best way to do this is by eating dishes such as Salad Nicoise, which combines cooked ingredients (potato, green beans, tuna and hard-boiled eggs) along with raw (tomatoes and lettuce). I also recommend avoiding eating too close to bedtime. After eating, your metabolism temporarily increases, raising your body temperature just a bit. Cool temperatures are best for restful sleep.
A few more food tips for summer:
- Drink Barley Tea if your feet and hands tend to swell in hot weather
- If you find yourself dehydrated, instead of simply pounding liters of water, eat something too! This replaces electrolytes and re-hydrates you sooner. If food isn’t an option coconut water is best.
- Get popcicle molds and make one-ingredient pops, with just pureed watermelon! A great treat to have on hand for when you’re trying to cool off after your long commute home.
- Avoid foods which warm the body: excessive beef, shrimp, spicy flavors and alcohol.
In Chinese Medicine each season has an associated element. For summer, it could only be the Fire Element! The Fire element is associated with the emotion of joy and the ability to feel a connection with others. If you have been feeling unusually withdrawn, fearful or apprehensive acupuncture can help via stimulating points along the heart meridian (which also corresponds to the Fire Element).
More exercise and activity during the warmer months just feels natural! The fire element previously mentioned has characteristics of movement and activity. However I recommend doing more vigorous exercise first thing in the morning to avoid overheating, and staying in the shade whenever possible. This schedule also helps with our sleep-wake cycle. When people feel groggy first thing in the morning, often they are lacking in the normal rise of cortisol which helps us to wake feeling refreshed. Exercise stimulates a gentle cortisol release which over time your body will learn to naturally produce in the mornings.
Have you heard that humans are really supposed to sleep and wake with the sun? While we may wish we had time to go to bed at 8:30 (but not so much wishing to wake at 5:30am) it is worth noting that naturally we go to bed the latest this time of year. Getting 8 hours of sleep is still essential, however our bodies are naturally wired to sleep a little less during the summer.
Another important note is not to over-cool the bedroom or sleep with a fan blowing directly on you. This is because wind and cold can enter the energetic pathways of your body (also called meridians), creating stagnation. The most common way this shows up is waking with a stiff neck- a phenomenon which translates as “Fallen Pillow Syndrome” in Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you wake with a stiff (or totally immobile) neck at some point this summer, come to see me immediately! The sooner you get treatment, the more acupuncture can help.
Don’t fear the sun! I am not about to tell you to slather on SPF and hide in a cave. Summer is a wonderful time for us northerners to replenish our Vitamin D levels through moderate sun exposure.By getting just 10 minutes of sun exposure a day on your arms and legs, your body naturally boosts Vitamin D production. My recommendation is to wear hats and protective clothing while avoiding the peak sun-intense hours (10am-4pm). If you are at the beach or otherwise will be in the sun for an extended time, sunscreen is mandatory. However remember that not all sunscreens are created equal. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens to find one with safe, nontoxic ingredients. Stick with mineral based, not chemical based protection. See below for my recommendations.
For Sun Protection: I love Badger Sunscreen. It’s mineral-based and the unscented formulation has a very light cocoa smell due to the cocoa butter. It does go on a bit thick so for a more easily absorbed lotion, try Alba Botanica.
For Mosquito Bites: Unfortunately I am an expert on this one; they love me! A few years ago I found out that just a dab of Lavender Essential Oil instantly soothes the bites and decreases redness and swelling within just a day or two.
For Feeling Fresh and Non-Grimey: Herban Essentials Towlettes are wonderful for freshening up after being outside all day, or let’s face it, just commuting on the subway! They are simple and smell delicious- scented only with essential oils. My favorite is the Lavender.
Lightweight, Elbow Length T’s: These do double-duty: sun protection and mosquito protection. I am obsessed with this one from J Crew– I have 2 so far! It’s truly light enough to wear on the hottest days.