Summer Tips According To Chinese Medicine
Written by: Laura Clark L.Ac. Pharm. D., Generations Acupuncture Inc.
Summer Is In Full Swing!!!
Summer is a season of joy, health, lightness, outward activity, creativity, and vitality. It’s a time when we are able to blossom and expand like the world around us. Ever notice how quickly children seem to grow in the Summer? It’s the energy of luxurious growth surrounding us right now! The energetic organs related to the fire element include the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, and the Triple Heater (San Jiao) systems of the body. This article will summarize how to properly eat with the season we can reap the benefits that Summer has to offer.
Summer Heat according to Chinese Medicine
Summer heat is characterized as a Yang pathogenic factor in Chinese Medicine. Major symptoms of summer heat are excess body heat, profuse sweating, parched mouth and throat, constipation, and heart palpitations. If someone affected by Summer Heat is not treated, symptoms progress and we will see high fever, burning heat sensation of the skin, irritability, concentrated urine, and a forceful and/or rapid pulse. If Summer Heat invades the head, we would expect to see dizziness and vertigo. When summer-heat combines with dampness, it produces abdominal pains, vomiting, and intestinal spasms.
The hallmark symptom is a core body temperature above 104 F, but fainting may be the first sign. Heat Stroke is a medical emergency and you should call 911 immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing Heat Stroke. Other symptoms include: throbbing headache, dizziness and light-headedness, lack of sweating despite the heat, red, hot, and dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea or vomiting, rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak, rapid, shallow breathing, behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering, seizures, or unconsciousness.
Tips for Eating Healthy this Summer and Beating the Heat
HYDRATE–It’s a fire and water thing (Yang vs. Yin). When there is more heat or fire in the environment it will dry up Yin (fluids and water) in the body, which can lead to a myriad of health issues. So remember to keep up your water intake–and, yes, water is truly the best option. Drink it at room temperature or slightly cool. Skip the ice! Water that is too cold will contract the tissues of the throat and the stomach and require the body to generate more heat to warm it to a digestible temperature. Cold water can weaken your digestion, so skip the ice this Summer. Add in a slice of lemon, a cucumber, or a bit of mint for electrolytes and additional cooling. Your weight in pounds divided by 2 should give you an approximation as to how many ounces of water you need to drink daily to keep hydrated.
Example: weight: 150lbs. Divide by 2 = 75 ounces water per day.
Eat VARIETY–This is the season with the greatest abundance of foods, ready to eat right now. Enjoy the plethora of brightly colored fresh vegetables, greens and fruits that are available. Local farmers markets are a wonderful source!
Eat more RAW–Raw foods cool and clear heat, which can be a blessing in the Summer. If you have a relatively strong digestion and aren’t treating a health condition add some raw into your diet. However, don’t overdo it. Too much cold or raw foods will overly cool the digestive system causing spasms and contractions, and ultimately your body will have to work harder to try to warm your food up to digest it. According to Chinese medicine, your Stomach and Spleen (the major organs of digestion) are like a cauldron and too many overly cold foods will put out the digestive fire or vitality, causing digestive issues. Throughout the world, even in the hottest of climates cooked foods and soups are eaten in the hottest months to prevent digestive issues–they are just adapted with the seasonally available foods.
EAT LIGHTER–Heavy, greasy, fried foods, or too many nuts and seeds cause dampness to accumulate. Dampness is a pathogen in Chinese medicine that weighs the body down and slows digestion making you sluggish. Rich foods also generate heat and create stagnation in the digestive system. Summer is the ideal time to lighten up and allow your body to let go of the heaviness (extra weight) that we often hold during Winter months.
EAT OUTDOORS and with FRIENDS–The season of Fire corresponds with all the organs that are involved in relationships! Summer is an excellent time to spend time cooking outdoors over the grill, with friends and enjoying yourself. Treat yourself to some grilled veggies and portabella mushroom burgers! Yum!
Summer cooking– Each season has food preparation and cooking styles that specifically benefit the season and our bodies. In the Summer, prepare food simply and quickly heat it by grilling or stir frying. Summer soups should be lighter and brighter than the heavier stew of Winter. Try Gazpachos, Avocado soup, or Borscht. Enjoy more raw and fresh foods, if you don’t have a particular pattern (Chinese Medicine diagnosis) that recommends you stay away from raw foods.
What to Eat During Summer
Veggies– Most of Summer’s vegetables are high in water content, so they nourish Yin (fluids). Be advised, they also don’t store well unless home canned, dried or frozen–they are meant to be eaten in the season as their nature is to open and expand. Peppers and other pungent vegetables like onions have spicy nature helps us adapt to heat by allowing us to sweat. The general rule of thumb is to eat whatever is in season right now. Peppers, tomatoes, and summer squashes should be readily available. We recommend cucumber, and eggplant in particular due to their energetic cooling effects.
Greens–Many of the spring greens have bolted or wilted in the summer heat or are just waiting for the weather to cool off enough to grow again. Summer, however, is the season that the heavier leaves come into glory. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, and spinach are all ready to be made into slaws, steamed, stir-fried, and sautéed.
Melons–Melons are very Yin energetically and are nourishing and sweet. Include melons to help replenish your fluids and as a refreshing, non-calorie dense food. Please be mindful of melons if you are diabetic due to high sugar content or have digestive problems. Watermelon is the melon of choice for beating the summer heat. If you are particularly warm, try eating the white flesh or even the rind as this is the most cooling part of the melon.
Roots–Beets, turnips, radishes, jicama, sun chokes, potatoes and carrots. Enjoy roots that are younger and smaller to keep energy in the body light and moving. Also, the more pungent roots like radishes and turnips will aid in moving energy. We recommend steaming, sauté, or grilling roots. Some roots can be eaten raw. Save the longer roasting and stewing of roots for the cooler months of Autumn when we need greater warmth deeper in the body.
Berries–Sweet and tart, berries help nourish and cleanse the Blood. Their rich color is an indicator of the high level of antioxidants they contain. Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries are excellent to eat during the summer months.
Fruits–Summer brings fruits in abundance, if you can beat the bugs to them. Enjoy a few more fresh fruits in season, but don’t go overboard. Fruit is sweet and has a high sugar content. When eaten in its most whole form–we’re talking eating the apricot right off the tree–the fruit is still bound to its fiber. This means it won’t create as wild or rapid of an insulin jump as juices will. Fruits tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides, so please get them organic. Tropical and citrus fruits will be more cooling than other fruits. Because fruits tend to be energetically cold in nature, be aware overconsumption may lead to digestive problems.
Meats and animal protein–As a general rule, the energetics of meat and all animal protein is warming and building. Animal proteins require the body to generate more heat to digest them. During the Summer months, reduce your intake of animal proteins and fats. When you do eat it, have smaller quantities, in smaller portions.
Grains–Another building and sustaining food–grains should be a regular part of our diet. Whole grains, that is, with their fiber still intact and eat a variety. Use whole grains like quinoa, millet and amaranth in salads or as side dishes. Watch out for the refined and processed grains and baked goods that can spike blood sugar and are lacking in vitamins, fiber and minerals.
Legumes—Excellent for their fiber and protein content. Each legume or lentil, when matched with the correct grain, creates a complete protein profile. Combine aduki beans or mung beans with barley, lentils and peas with whole-wheat berries, and black beans with whole grain rice are a few great examples. Enjoy them in soups, chilis, and dips like hummus or black bean dip.
Lemon Barley Water
Barley is versatile, you can add it to soups or salads and it is very easy to digest. It can help to reduce water retention. Remember to soak your barley before cooking to help with digestion and quicken the cooking process.
- 1C Pearl Barley (soak overnight)
- 4Liters Water
- 3 Pandan Leaves (can be purchased fresh or frozen at some Asian food stores)
- Sugar/Honey to taste
- Half a lemon
- Rinse the pearl barley well.
- Add pearl barley and pandan leaves into a big pot with water.
- Bring it to a boil for 5-10 minutes then turn it down and simmer for 75 minutes. Add more water during the cooking process as the water evaporates.
- In the last 10 minutes, add honey or sugar.
- Add lemon juice last and enjoy it warm or slightly cool with a few ice cubes.
Summer Heat Juice
This juice is simple and very good to drink during the summer months. The mung beans and watermelon skin may be omitted, but are very cooling in nature. We suggest you try it with all the ingredients first.
- 1 medium cucumber (skin on)
- ½ pear (skin on)
- 1/8 small watermelon (skin on)
- ¼ C mung beans (soak overnight)
- Rock sugar/Honey to taste
- Wash all of your produce! It’s good to get organic produce if you are eating the skin.
- Cut up your produce into small chunks.
- Add everything except the sugar/honey to your blender including the beans and blend until uniform.
- You can add the sugar/honey at this point and drink or strain out all the fibrous matter and drink. Enjoy the drink as is or slightly cool with a few ice cubes.
Written by: Laura Clark L.Ac. Pharm. D., Generations Acupuncture Inc.