In Chinese Medicine, summer represents energy, movement and activity. It’s the most yang of the seasons and is associated with heat and the element fire.
Life is blooming with flowers, fruits and vegetables. The color of summer is red, the organ is the heart and the emotion is joy.
The legendary Yellow Emperor, who ruled in 2697 BC and is believed to be the founder of Chinese Medicine says:
In the three months of summer, there is an abundance of sunshine and rain. The heavenly energy descends, and the earthly energy rises. When these energies merge, there is intercourse between heaven and earth. As a result, plants mature and animals, flowers, and fruit appear abundantly.
One may retire somewhat later at this time of year, while still arising early. One should refrain from anger and stay physically active, to prevent the pores from closing and the chi from stagnating. Emotionally it is important to be happy and easygoing and not hold on to grudges, so that the energy can flow freely.
The sun gets a bad rap: skin cancer, premature aging and sunburn. While excess sun exposure can certainly be harmful, the sun is a life force. It grows plants, fruits and vegetables and limited exposure is good for us.
Ten to 20 minutes of sun per day without sunscreen between 11am to 1pm is beneficial. The body takes a few hours to produce vitamin D so avoid showering for a couple hours after sun exposure.
Put your face in the sun and close your eyes. The sunlight will travel through your eyelid to the Pineal Gland which produces serotonin. At night, this turns to melatonin which helps us sleep well and wake up rested.
In old times, the peak of the day was a time to rest and avoid the heat of the sun. If your schedule allows, take an afternoon nap or if not, try a 10-minute meditation break. There are many guided meditation apps like Waking Up.
If you decide to stay in the sun, use a natural sunscreen that contains mineral protectants like zinc and titanium dioxide. Mineral sunscreens sit on the top of the skin and deflect damaging UV rays away from the skin. Avoid highly questionable petrochemicals which can cause endocrine disruption.
In the summer months, we need to make sure we are balanced and hydration is a huge part of offsetting the heat. At a minimum, we need to be drinking half our body weight in ounces. For every cup of alcohol or coffee, add 2-3 more cups of water. For example:
120 lbs 1.7 liters
150 lbs 2.2 liters
175 lbs 2.6 liter
190 lbs 2.8 liters
230 lbs 3.4 liters
Drink water 30 minutes before a meal to avoid diluting digestive enzymes.
In traditional Chinese Medicine, each food has a temperature property. In summer, we eat cool foods that have hydrating properties to help offset the heat. Raw foods are considered cooling.
These delicious fruits, vegetables, and herbs are perfect for summer:
If we follow these principles during the summer, our body will naturally detox because we are more active and perspire more, drink lots of water and eat raw foods. For these reasons, it’s not the best time to do a kidney or liver cleanse.
When our bodies absorb sunlight we have better digestion which increases our nutrients.
We can also take fewer supplements, as we get more of these naturally from the healthy food we eat.
Avoid heavy meats. The best summer protein is fish. Wild Alaskan Salmon is rich in Omega 3s, B vitamins, Potassium, Selenium and the antioxidant Astaxanthin which helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Since red is the color of summer, foods like cherries, beets, tomatoes and watermelon are particularly good.
Summer is the time to get out and be active. Hike, bike, walk or garden. If you work in an office, take a walk break. Research shows just a 10-minute walk has health benefits. Take advantage of the earlier sunrise and the later sunset.
Summer is the time to nourish ourselves. When our hearts are balanced, we sleep better, feel more rested and experience joy. Travel, explore and be with your friends. If we are out of balance, we may be feeling a lack of joy (depression). This is a great time to heal emotional wounds.
We have at least another month of social distancing. I know many of us are struggling with the disruptions to our lives.
If you are feeling disjointed, here are a few strategies to help you cope during these trying times:
Forty-seven percent of Americans report experiencing higher levels of anxiety than the prior year.
The human brain is wired to experience anxiety when it signals something is not right and can help us avoid a dangerous situation. But persistent anxiety that disrupts our lives can signal an anxiety disorder. One-third of adults will grapple with this at some point in their lives.
When we experience anxiety, the brain signals to our gut we are under stress and a combination of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol are released. This can affect us in different ways. Common reactions to anxiety are heart palpitations, knots in the stomach or dizziness and light-headedness.
While encountering a saber tooth tiger may not be a problem these days, there are many less-lethal stressors that affect us today.