We in the northern hemisphere are in the full swing of summer, the season of greater yang in traditional Oriental cosmology. The June solstice was the moment of utmost yang, and since then we are in an imperceptible crawl back down toward fall and winter–but the blazing rays of the sun easily blur that reality!
Traditional Oriental Medicine emphasizes the maintenance of health. A major component of that lifestyle is the simple principle of staying in harmony with the seasonal energies. An ancient classic states:
“Now, when drugs are employed…after a disease has become fully developed…this is as if a well were dug when one is thirsty….Would this not be too late, too?”Huangdi Neijing Suwen, chapter 2, Unschuld
Like gray coals that give off no flame yet are hot enough to easily sear a steak, July and August are months of yang heat (combined, depending on where you live, with either humidity or dryness) even though each passing day is a slow crawl away from the summer solstice. Now regarding health, when seasonal yang is exuberant it makes sense to balance it with yin cooling energies in order to maintain balance, avoid imbalance, and navigate the season at an optimal comfort level. Some tips:
Stay hydrated! Water is an archetypal concept for yin, along with night, the moon, the female.
Reduce refined carbohydrate intake. While this certainly makes sense all year round, it is especially timely during the summer months. Habitually excessive sugar intake (this includes refined grains as well) , especially when coupled with a lack of exercise, can lead to chronically elevated blood sugar levels (hyerglycemia). Chronic hyperglycemia is associated with an increase in inflammatory signals in certain functional compartments. The word inflammation is related to the words flammable, flames; thus it is a situation of heat. The use of synthetic sweeteners may be problematic, with documented reports of certain types of weight gain and pathological organ changes present in the scientific literature. Think of it as reducing heat by *not* feeding the fire.
Increase intake of fresh fruits and fresh or lightly cooked vegetables. Fruits and vegetables in their raw form are, generally speaking, cooling in nature according to the principles of Traditional Oriental Medicine (dietary therapy is a distinct specialty within that medical tradition, wherein the taste, energetics, and channel/organ resonances are all recognized; those interested in the topic may refer to Healing with Whole Foods, by Paul Pitchford). Fruits are naturally sweet, and most contain fiber which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Be sure to expose yourself to different foods on a rotating basis, as opposed to habitually reaching for the same favorites over and over. Organic, seasonal, and locally grown are ideal.
Certain raw vegetables with thicker cell walls (broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale) may, in those with weaker digestive systems, be an undesirable system burden. Shredding or julienne-type prepping, using appropriate amounts of salt and/or acid (lime, lemon, vinegar) to soften the cell walls, and chewing the food slowly and thoroughly before swallowing can help improve the digestibility of these foods.
Avoid excessive consumption of warming foods. A hearty, slow-cooked beef-root vegetable stew and hot mulled apple cider are examples of delicious foods/drinks that are warming in nature–and thus are unsuitable to consume in large amounts during the summer. Generally speaking, the longer a food is cooked the warmer its nature becomes. So a raw carrot, for instance, is cooling, but that property is diminished in proportion to its cooking time. Fried foods, grilled foods, beef, chicken, lamb, and shrimp are also warming in nature. So enjoy the grilled goodness of burgers, ribs, veggies, etc. if that’s your thing, but ensure cooling foods are present in right proportion.
Avoid overheating the system with vigorous outdoor exercise in the direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. Traditional Oriental Medicine recognizes a disharmonious dynamic of extreme yang forcibly entering yin. An applicable example here is an ambitious monster workout (yang ambition, exertion) under the blazing sun (yang sun, heat) without proper hydration (insufficient yin water giving rise to yang excess) leading to our hypothetical trooper collapsing from exhaustion (a forced yin state of rest). Plan workouts for earlier in the day, later in the day, shaded areas, &/or air-conditioned places. Do regular self-check-ins to determine whether you need to take a break.
Connect with the yin aspect of the natural world. Visit your local park or forest and enjoy a leisurely hike under the shade of trees. Walk barefoot in the cool morning or evening grass. Where possible, spend time by the ocean, river, stream, lake, or pond. Tune out from the phone/tablet/TV and reconnect with the environment. As I write this post under the shade of my trusty purple beach umbrella, the cool south wind blows on my cheek, with the sights, sounds, and feel of the Atlantic Ocean a much-welcome preventive medicine.
Hope you’ve found this short piece informational. Feel free to leave a comment!
Copyright (c) 2020 Justin Jaucian