Holistic Living: Food

Chinese medicine and nature are uniquely intertwined. This is mostly due to the influence of Daoism and how the laws of nature are true to our body because ultimately we are a product of the earth and susceptible to the same changes and forces of nature. With that in mind the following are suggestions for living in the hot months of summer to ensure healthy living during the season and inevitably a happier and longer life.

First, we should think of the basic nature of summer. With the intensity of heat and sunlight there is an effulgence of life. It is when fruit and vegetables come to life and produce their food. Everything is growing and in Chinese Medicine there is the idea Yang energy releasing outwards. To stay healthy we should allow for the expression of this Yang Qi to move outwards and be creative and active.
Chinese Medicine will also tell us to not overdo it. To protect our Yang Qi from burning too bright, so it may burn for many more years to come. So with this in mind what should we do to preserve our Qi and live according to summer?

Regulating Daily Life Habits
The growth of summer is abundant everywhere and it’s the easiest time for Yang Qi to release outward from the body. In keeping with the seasons we should stay up later and rise early and not be afraid of getting a little hot in the summer, embrace the season and enjoy the outdoors. Go to the mountains and enjoy the cool, fresh air. Jump in some water to cool down when you are too hot. Get into nature.

Regulating Emotions
Summer relates to fire and fire relates to the heart organ. The emotion that correlates with the heart is joy and laughter is its expression. Therefore, we should try to have a little more fun and do the things that make us laugh in summer. When we get too hot this may cause anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and general uneasiness. Try to cultivate a peaceful mind and treat the world around you calmly and do your best to avoid being angry.

Regulating your Diet
In keeping with the season we should eat more fresh food. Vibrant fruits and veggies should comprise a large portion of the diet. Vegetables should be chopped in big chunks and lightly steamed, grilled, or stir fried to preserve freshness. Also bitter foods can help regulate heat in the body.
Try a salad of bitter greens and cucumber can be helpful to maintain your cool.
Spicy foods are often eaten in hot climates to produce a sweat. The aftermath of a spicy meal can leave you a little cool, but it’s not really advised as a regular food prescription in Chinese medicine.
If you are a tea drinker, green tea is most appropriate to drink during the summer. Green tea has a slightly cooling nature opposed to the more warming oolong and black teas which can make us a little irritated during the summer.

Exercise
Try to exercise in the morning or later in the day. During the hottest part of the day relax indoors or in the shade.  Working too hard during the most intense part of the day can injure both Yin/substance and Yang/Function.
When we live in disharmony with the summer we can cause illness in the fall and winter.

Socialize
Being social helps us in so many ways. Social people tend to laugh more and in general live longer, more fulfilling lives. Go barbeque with your friends, take up a game of pick up basketball, go to the water park, whatever it is for you. Go out and do it.

Hydrate
There is a lot of debate on how much water we should drink and when we should drink it. Do you add salts or buy sports drinks with electrolytes? I am of the opinion that we should drink when we are thirsty. I also think it’s a good idea to drink a large glass of water right after we wake each morning. I feel like this is a good way to start the day hydrated. Beyond that I think it is best to listen to our bodies needs. If you feel thirsty drink water. If your urine is darkening drink water.

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