Summer is upon us and as the days lengthen and warm up, I’m seeing an increase in well-being and energy in my patients. Summer is a time for playing outside, camping and barbecuing, relaxing with good books and staying up late.
It may come as a surprise to you that it’s also a good time to support your health so that you can be well all winter. In Chinese medicine, we advocate living and eating in harmony with the seasons. Wintertime is a time of yin—internal and quieter—energy. We eat root vegetables and warm soups and take time for extra rest. In summer, we have a tolerance for more raw foods and energy to play all day and well into the sunlit night! To this I say “Yeehaw!” I often stay up all night on the summer solstice, celebrating the longest day and shortest night of the year.
But . . . these frolics can take their toll and need to be balanced with a little bit of that winter energy. Otherwise, we tend to burn out our batteries a little too much and pay the price in the wintertime with a compromised immune system. So how to fully embrace the summer season of JOY and FIRE while keeping a little leftover for support during the dark days?
Take care of your digestive system.
Sure, warm days call for ice cream, popsicles and watermelon; raw salads and smoothies. I recommend indulging in cooling foods in moderation, but keeping your digestive fire alive with regular meals, warm cooked foods at least once a day and avoiding too many icy drinks. Take your inspiration from tropical cultures with their fiery curries and spice mixes—allow the spicy to help you sweat out the heat. Think ginger, garlic, onions, coriander, cumin: spicy salsa and guacamole, anyone?
Of course you know this, but your body, mind and even your skin will thank you if you can stay well-hydrated. Lemon water is a great alternative to sugary lemonade. Insulated water bottles stay fresh in your car or backpack all day long—if you don’t already have one, it may be time to indulge in a water bottle that brings you some pleasure. (Zojirushi, HydroFlask and Swell are my personal faves.) I keep one in my car and it’s my goal to finish it every day.
Heal your heart.
Summer is the time of the heart in Chinese medicine. First, there is the physical heart and summer offers a great opportunity to eat heart-healthy berries and vegetables and also to get outside and exercise. It’s also a time to expand the “heart” energy in our lives. It’s a great time to connect with new and old friends and to make big life plans and goals that you can hunker down and work on in the autumn and winter.