I have not been very good about practicing what I preach. As an acupuncturist I have some additional insight on how the seasons and nature affect our well being and the ways to appropriate daily living to not only adapt but to thrive during these changes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the summer element is Fire and the organ associated with it is the Heart. When Heart Fire is excessive its manifestation has a strong resemblance to a person crazy in love. A restless heart, excessive perspiration, manic joy, and insomnia are just a few examples. When the fire element is in balance, the heart is strong and healthy, the mind is calm, and sleep is sound. To keep Heart Fire in check it is important to adhere to some specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to which I have rather blatantly ignored this summer. This blunder on my part has lead to both physical and emotional turmoil. A stiff neck, a slipped disc in my lower back resulting in a hospital stay, and an increased dose of anxiety has literally forced me to slow down and go back to Chinese Medicine 101 - the 5 elements of nature that govern our lives. Make sure to read on to the end of this blog for tips on how to tame your own Heart Fire, nutritional guidelines and how to prevent some common summer ailments.
Summer is about energy, abundance, and living life a bit more out loud but there must also be a damper to tame the fire from burning out. As summer activities can sometimes hijack our relaxation and meditative time, make sure to find a balance between action and being - an axiom I have not heeded very well. This is especially true midday when it's "heart time" on the circadian clock - a time best suited for rest, preferably outdoors where you can connect with the richness of nature and absorb the earth's energy. I, on the other hand, have been strength training usually right at midday, cramming in every chore and chauffeuring my kids to endless activities while running a business, treating patients and trying to maintain somewhat of a social life. Needless to say, my heart fire was a bit untamed. So although this abundant time of year affords us to do more and stay up a little later while rising earlier, this is also the time of year to go with the flow and take in the lush, rich cornucopia of life. A truism more easily said than done for most of us busy moms out there, but in order to maintain sanity one must adhere to the laws of nature! Trust me on this one. Make the time to enjoy this season of growth and maturation displayed by gardens bursting with flowers, vegetables and greenery. This abundance should be reflected in us as well - how we tend to our inner Fire will determine how brightly we illuminate our inner being. And believe you me, my inner flame was not much more than a feeble lantern until I made time to reconnect with nature.
There is a reason the heart symbolizes love and passion across time and cultures. The heart is an affectionate, passionate, extroverted organ that thrives on connections with others. The countless festivities and outdoor events testify to the extroverted exuberance of summer and why the heart soars during this time . This celebratory time of year and extra heat tempts us to stay out late and enjoy nightlife. But what happens when celebration borders on lifestyle and that excessive stimulation begins to melt the heart's many-splendored exuberance? You might find it hard to calm yourself down in time for bed, or suffer from insomnia on hot summer nights. Or due to modern technology staying up staring at our phone overstimulates the heart causing anxiety, agitation and feeling scattered. The heart is very concerned with your image, how others perceive you in society and social media can be the spark to start a wildfire. A person with a healthy fire is brilliant, charming and full of enthusiasm. A person with too much fire may be overly reactive, intense, egotistical or have a hot temper. And a person with very little heart fire may be apathetic and despondent. As much as I love celebrating with friends, my heart is quick to let me know when I've had enough. My patience thins and my emotions fluctuate erratically.
Tasmanian devil meets the Komodo dragon. Not my best self for sure.
Another important aspect of keeping healthy heart fire in check is appropriate diet and nutrition. Summer nutrition means eating in moderation and refraining from eating too many rich, greasy, grilled or fried foods that only stir more fire in the digestive system. And conversely over consumption of ice cold drinks and cold stagnating foods like ice cream and frozen treats can lead to indigestion, sluggishness and possibly diarrhea. Just ask my belly after a dose of Dairy Queen and the answer will be filled with unpleasantries. To my defense, my dietary choices have not been so much of an issue, rather the way I've chosen to eat is what has created an imbalance. Eating on the run, mindless eating in front of a screen or inhaling my food because of irregular meal times has fanned the flames of my digestive system producing more frequent heart burn and let's just say it - stinky gas. Mindful eating combined with cool yet nourishing foods will make for a happy heart and stomach. Eastern nutrition classifies food according to its energetic qualities of temperature, taste, and ability to moisten and strengthen the body. Food with cool properties can clear heat, reduce toxins, and generate body fluids. In general, cooling foods tend towards the green spectrum — the greener the better. And no, mint ice cream does not count. Sorry.
Tips for Summer Health
To prevent summer ills and remain in harmony with the environment of summer:
Awaken earlier in the morning.
Go to bed later in the evening.
Rest at midday.
Drink water with slices of lemon and cucumber and sip throughout the day.
Add bitter flavors and cooling foods to your diet.
Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered.
Connect with nature as often as possible.
These fruits and vegetables will help body adjust its temperature during hot summer days:
Cilantro / Mint / Dill
How to provide relief for insect bites and remedies for prevention:
Traditional Chinese medicine considers insect bites to be the result of fire toxins and therefore pain, burning, and redness in the skin. Preventative measures include eating a cleansing, detoxifying diet of fluid-rich foods, such as soups, juices, fruits, and juicy vegetables, as well as consuming moderate amounts of garlic, onions, and spices. Also, homeopathic remedies can prove to be extremely effective at preventing the bites. We carry many remedies at AcuBalance but you can find the ones listed below at most health stores or online.
One bitten, avoid sugars, heavy fats, red meat, and shellfish which can aggravate the immune system’s response to an insect bite and apply honey on the bite to prevent infection.
Ledum 200C taken once per week. Start it one week before going out into the forests or countryside and continue once per week until you’re back in the city, or there are no more bugs. You may still be bitten, but not notice the bites, or you are no longer bitten at all.
Pulex 30C is especially helpful for blackflies, in case the Ledum doesn’t have a sufficient protective effect. You would take it daily upon rising when blackflies are around.
Staphysagria 200C weekly can be an alternative for prevention of mosquito or blackfly bites, when Ledum doesn’t seem to protect sufficiently.
Apis 30C is among several homeopathic remedies that can be used as a first aid solution after someone has been bitten. It is recommended for really badly red and swollen reaction to bites, and should be taken every 4-6 hours at first and less as the person is feeling better.
Urtica Urens 30C can be used when someone gets an itchy nettle-like rash after they have been bitten. This remedy can also be found as a homeopathic salve to put on itchy mosquito bites.
Rhus Tox 30C is the remedy when the itchiness is especially bad at night in bed. It is also a remedy when there are flu-like symptoms, with aching all over that improves from moving around, or taking a hot shower. These symptoms may come on after a tick bite and together with Ledum, this remedy can be helpful in the early prevention of Lyme disease.
Homeopathic remedies do not interfere with any medication that you may be taking and are completely safe for people of all ages, including infants and elderly.
And lastly, for all of the allergy sufferers - relying on antihistamines and allergy medications will never fully address the underlying source for your ailments. Begin preventative measures before the weather begins to change, either mid summer or end of summer depending on the usual severity of your symptoms. Schedule acupuncture treatments, ask about homeopathic remedies and herbal formulas and begin a Tai Chi or Qi Gong routine to build your immune system.