How to Stay Cool in the Summertime with Traditional Chinese Food Therapy

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The ultimate goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to bring the body, mind, and spirit back into balance and harmony. There are 2 main concepts in Chinese medicine that help to explain how we can be in better balance with the natural world.

The first is Yin and Yang. What exactly is Yin and Yang? They are the 2 opposing and complimentary forces that make up everything in the universe. Yin and Yang are in constant interplay within everything. The concept of Yin and Yang can best be explained by giving some examples. Below are just a few examples that may help you to understand these concepts:
• Yin is the feminine, dark or shaded, the moon, passive, cold, solid, earth, night, etc…
• Yang is the masculine, light or bright, the sun, active, hot, hollow, sky, morning, etc…

The second concept is the 5 elements. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are 5 seasons throughout the year: Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Fall, and Winter. Each season corresponds to a particular element of nature:
• Spring – Wood
• Summer – Fire
• Late Summer – Earth
• Fall – Metal
• Winter – Water

The human body, being part of the natural world, is no exception to being influenced by Yin and Yang and the seasonal elements. Since Summer’s element is Fire, which is Yang in character, during the summer months when the weather is the warmest, our bodies may have a tendency to become overheated, or too Yang.
Heat increases bodily activity, and can appear in many forms. Common signs of having too much heat in the body include: red face and eyes, fever, anger and irritability, sweating, sore throat, thirst, dark urine, constipation, and itching and redness of the skin. Many skin disorders have distinct heat signs. These disorders include eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, rosacea, and acne. Any prolonged redness and inflammation on the skin is a sign of excess heat, or too much Yang.

Heat in the skin is also a sign that the skin is being affected by toxins. Summertime is the best time of year to detoxify your skin and your entire body. When you detoxify the skin, the redness will clear up.
Diet profoundly affects the body, including the health of the skin. Many foods can either cool (detoxify) the body, or create more heat.

Foods that should be avoided if you have too much heat include:
• Spicy food (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, hot peppers, garlic, onions)
• Tropical fruits (especially mango, pineapple, papaya)
• Red meat (beef, lamb)
• Nuts
• Dairy products (especially cheese)
• Alcohol
Foods that can clear the heat from your body include:
• Watermelon
• Cucumber
• Lettuce
• Carrots
• Kale and other leafy green vegetables
• Pears

Stress also causes more heat to be generated within the body. Activities that can help to decrease stress, such as taking some slow, deep breaths, doing yoga, tai chi, meditation, getting plenty of sleep – these are all Yin-type activities and can counteract the excess Yang in your body.
Try to experiment with living with the seasons and eat according to your symptoms. Food can be powerful medicine, and the choices you make can help to heal your body.

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Teresa is a California licensed acupuncturist in San Francisco, CA

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