SUMMER HEALTH TIPS

 

Dr. Miao 
 
by Dr. Miao C. Chiang
 
The Chinese medical classic, "Huangdi Nei-jing", indicted, "the summer Qi connects to the Chinese Heart organ." However, in traditional Chinese medicine, the summer season includes a "late summer" period, which usually occurs in the June of the lunar calendar and approximately relatives to the late July and August of solar calendar. It rains very often and is very humid in the late summer. As the medical classic goes, "the damp is related to the Chinese Spleen organ." The late summer Qi connects to the Chinese Spleen organ. Generally speaking, the summer is tending to be hot and humid. The health management at this time should follow the characteristics either in the weather or in the body, occurring in or appropriate to summer.
 

Tip one: avoid eating or drinking too much coldness.

In the hot summer, our pores of the skin tend to open, making easily for the perspiration and heat dissipation. The blood vessels running on the body surface spontaneously expand and the blood stream flows faster than in other seasons. The ancient Chinese physicians described these physical conditions as "yang wai" which means the inner yang Qi emerges to the body surface. Therefore the yang Qi inside our bodies becomes relatively insufficient in summer, comparing to the condition in winter or spring. The yang Qi has warming, moving and protecting function, to say the least. In other words, in summer our inner organs receive less protection from the warm yang Qi than in other seasons. If we eat or drink too much cold stuff, the chillness hurts our body to some extent, especially the digestive system. In a word, the appropriate diet in summer, including food and drink, should avoid taking too much cold stuff, especially icy foods or drinks.

 

Tip two: add warm condiments to season foods in summer.

In hot summer people like to eat or drink something cold in nature which can eliminate summer heat. And yet it is wise to add some warm condiments such as ginger, garlic or onion to season foods. Since most of the warm yang Qi travel to the surface of the body, the cold nature foods only benefit the surface of the body but go against the inner condition. And thus we need to take something warm in nature to protect our inner organs in summer. Adding some warm condiments can balance the chillness from the cold nature foods. Besides, ginger and garlic carry the functions of warming digestive system, aiding digestion, restraining harmful bacteria in the intestines and effectively prevent intestinal diseases. For these indications, the ginger should be peeled off the skin since its skin is cold in nature. And garlic should be eaten raw for preventing diseases. Three or four braids of garlic each time is a proper dosage for the prevention function. However, those who suffer from eye diseases had better avoid taking garlic since garlic can harm our eyes.

 

Tip three: Balsam pear is a seasonable vegetable.

Balsam pear or bitter melon has a nick name, the gentlemen vegetable. Although it is bitter in taste, it never passes its bitterness to other foods, while being cooked together in one dish. Some Chinese call it "red lady", because the orange fruits usually open at maturity to expose red-coated seeds. The bitter taste is linked to the Chinese Heart organ which is the dominate organ in summer. When we eat something bitter in taste, the essence of the food goes to the Heart as its first choice. Since the summer Qi connects to the Heart organ, the Heart Qi is easy to be excessive, leading to a pathological state of blazing Heart fire.

The unripe fruits of bitter melon look green, taste bitter and are cold in nature. It can help us pass the summer in a leisurely way with its heat dispersing function and clearing the up-flaming "Heart fire" which can upset our mind. But an excess of bitter food is believed to have a harmful effect on the functions of the Chinese Heart too. Thus we can also choose the ripe bitter melon which looks orange or light yellow in color and is warm in nature, carrying the function of nourishing the Chinese Spleen, Liver and Kidney organs. Besides, we had better soak the sliced green melon in hot water for one or two minutes before cooking. This way can reduce its bitter taste and eliminate the toxin. Moreover, bitter melon contains charantin which resembles insulin and has the function of lowering down blood sugar. Some people regard it as a star food against diabetes.

 

Tip four: use air-conditioner wisely.

It is very common to use air-conditioner in summer nowadays. And thus a new illness occurs because of improper use. It is called "the air-conditioner syndrome" with symptoms of dizziness, giddy head, languid mood and even low-grade fever.

Some people start their air-conditioners even when it hasn't reached a high temperature. It goes against the laws of nature and hurts the normal change of our physical condition. As summer advances, all things grow in nature and so does our yang-Qi. The Chinese medical classic, "Huangdi Nei-jing" advised that we should let our Qi out freely in summer. In other words, let inner heat diffuses spontaneously and do not impose upon the normal physical activities. It is the best condition to let the skin excrete sweat slightly and frequently in summer. In fact, normal perspiration is a natural therapy. Perspiration cools the skin in hot weather and eliminates hidden waste and toxins. If we always stay in a cold environment without perspiration, it confines the outward movement of inner summer heat, leading to general malaise, gradually increasing fatigue or a state of agitation.

Some people often make their air-conditioners work lower than the proper temperature, 25~26 degree Celsius. It seems very cool but is actually harmful to the health. The big difference between indoor and outdoor temperature upsets our heat-regulating function and makes us be easily affected by summer heat, leading to a heat stroke. And the abnormal low temperature hinders the normal perspiration and increases the opportunity to catch "summer cold". In addition, some women like to wear short sleeve shirts and short skirts. In this way, their joints of four limbs long expose in the coldness. The preexisting condition of the joints of four limbs is less muscle and feeble in protection. The coldness enters the body through the skin without proper protection and the weak joints finally develop into arthritis. Some fashionable dresses even expose the belly button in the coldness, leading to belly ache or diarrhea.

Moreover, it is better to open the windows for fifteen minutes to let fresh air come into the room and stale air go out of the room, after every three hours of running the air-conditioner. If we shut all the windows and doors for a long period of time, the stale air in the air-conditioning room can make us feel head-swimming or drowsy.

 

Tip five: use electric fan correctly.

Some people use electric fan to help pass the summer. Electric fan can help circulation of air and cut down expenses of electricity. But if it is used improperly, it can contribute to illness too.

Returning home in a hot day, some people immediately switch on an electric fan and expose into its speedy wind. In fact, it is inevitable to sweat all over in hot summer. While sweat exudes through the pores, all the pores are open. It is just like removing fence or protection from the body. If we let the strong wind directly blow upon the unprotected body, we tend to catch cold under such condition. It can even evoke a relapse for those people with heart or celebrovascular diseases. The proper way is to take a warm shower first after returning home. Then switch on the electric fan at medium speed and enjoy the refreshing and gently blowing breeze.

In addition, never let your back expose directly to strong blowing which can lead to common cold or headache. Before going to bed, we should put a timer and let the electric fan stop automatically at the moment of timing out. It is not a good idea to have the fan on for the whole night. Long and excessive blowing on the face while sleeping can evoke facial paralysis.

 

Tip six: take a nap in summer.

To take a nap in summer is more important than in other seasons since the days are longer. And people tend to go to bed late and get up early. Thus taking a nap can pay back sleep lost at night and charge up the energy for afternoon work. It goes against health to lie down right after the lunch. The napping time can start thirty minutes after the lunch and last half an hour or one hour. It is not necessary to follow any rigid and inflexible time, just to take what comes naturally. And yet to get up immediately at the moment of waking up without avidity is essential. Besides, while sleeping the belly button should be covered with blanket in case of being affected by coldness, leading to bellyache or diarrhea.

 

Tip seven: take warm shower in summer.

It is essential to take a shower daily and we need warm water for the shower in summer. Some people like to take a cold shower in summer, which actually goes against health. In the hot summer, our pores of the skin are usually open to excrete perspiration. The cold water shuts the pores and stops the perspiration immediately. At that time it seems very nice and cool. But afterward we will feel oppressed by the inner heat because the heat fails to disperse. Therefore, it is wise to take a warm shower which clean the waste of perspiration on the skin and let heat dissipation naturally. In this way, we can enjoy a lasting cool after the shower.

 

Tip eight: avoid sweet taste in the late summer.

The climate has a change trend from dry and hot to wet and hot in the late summer. In Chinese medicine, the humid weather which is regarded as "exterior dampness" or "pathogenic dampness" can be a pathogenic factor. As the medical classic states, "the damp is related to the Chinese Spleen organ." When the exterior dampness affects our health, it manifests as drowsiness, difficulty in excreting perspiration, muscle heaviness, no appetite and even diarrhea. It is the result of pathogenic dampness encumbering the Chinese Spleen organ, which usually happens to weak Spleen owners. Those who possess weak Chinese Spleen constitution usually suffer from the above mentioned symptoms in the late summer season. Some can have low fever or less urine which looks dark yellow in color. But most cases can be spontaneously cured without any medication after passing this season.

It is recommended to take a bland diet, subtle in taste, in summer, especially in the late summer. Avoid taking too much greasy foods and meat dishes. Abstain from sweet foods and fruits, especially weak Spleen people. Rich foods can sit on the stomach and may cause indigestion. Sweet foods and fruits carry the side effect of producing pathogenic dampness easily, leading to exuberance of interior dampness.

An herbal tea which helps eliminate dampness in the body can be taken as a seasonable drink. Put ten grams of cablin patchouli herb (广藿香) and fifteen grams of stir-fried germinated barley (炒焦大麦芽) into a vacuum cup which can automatically keep temperature invariable and fill in hot purified water to make a tea. The germinated barley should be made brown by stir-heating before making the tea. It is a daily dose and can be continuously taken thirty to forty days in the late summer season.

 

Copyright© Dr. Miao C. Chiang 2010

{The organ concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine do not exactly represent the anatomical, physiological and pathological organ concepts in modern medicine, but systematic groupings of physiological phenomena and functions. Understanding of their functions was derived from external observation rather than anatomical study and bears little relation to standard modern understanding.}

 

chineseHeart

"The Chinese Heart", a book on Traditional Chinese Medicine by Dr. Miao C. Chiang