According to Chinese medicine, people can achieve good health with proper food, effective exercise, and a healthy mindset. The kinds of food and beverages people consume can either promote good health or cause illness. Exercise can, as well, make or break one’s health. Finally, emotional well being is another necessary factor for good health. In Chinese medicine, there are several recommendations in these categories for each season of the year, for the body needs special requirements for each one. In the summer, people must be mindful of the kinds of food they consume, the exercise they do, and the amount of sleep they get in order to maintain a positive outlook on life.
Summer, typically the hottest time of the year, is the season when people consume their energy the most. Thus, having a healthy spleen and stomach is crucial. People should pay attention to the “5 Lows Diet”, which is low salt, low fat, low sugar, low cholesterol, and low spicy food. However, people need to get enough carbohydrates to supply their bodies with heat and energy, and they need high-quality protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals.
When planning summer meals, people should get appropriate amounts of vitamins, water and mineral salt, and protein.
Getting enough vitamins. It is recommended that people eat more tomatoes, green peppers, Chinese winter melon, watermelon, bitter melon, waxberry, peaches, plums, mung beans, wheat, lotus seed, lily, bamboo leaf and Tuckahoe [a type of edible fungus]. Also, people should eat more millet, corn, beans, onions, potatoes, celery, asparagus, pumpkin, bananas, and apples. All of these foods can have the effect of nourishing the heart and mind. For example, watermelon alleviates depression, quenches the thirst, and removes heat from the body. It is good for difficulty with urination, sore throats, canker sores, and so on. (Cold watermelon is not recommended, however.) Cucumber is 97% water. Fresh cucumber has the effect of removing heat and detoxifying the body. It is good for people who have pain in the body, problems with their intestines because eating cucumber can relax the bowels, relieving constipation. Cucumbers can also invigorate the circulation of blood and prevent swollen problems.
Getting enough water and mineral salt. People should drink more plain boiled water. They only need to drink a little each time and try to drink it often. A good amount each time is 300ml- 500ml. However, drinking a lot of cold water or drinks with ice will damage the stomach and spleen.
Getting appropriate amounts of protein such as fish, lean meat, eggs [but less yolk], milk, and beans. They should also eat less heavily salted food, such as salted fish and salted meat. People should also eat less fatty meat and shrimp.
Moreover, people should watch how much they eat at any one time. Stuffing oneself will damage the spleen and stomach. People should eat less for a meal and instead eat more small meals each day. Also, keeping hydrated is important. That is, people should drink warm water, warm tea, mung bean soup, syrup of plum, mineral water and watermelon juice, and avoid drinking carbonated beverages and any drink including sugar if possible.
People consume their energy quickly during the summer, so they need to control the intensity of the exercise especially. When doing exercises, people should not overexert themselves. The best rule of thumb is to have only a little sweat afterward. Sweating a lot all the time will damage the heart. Also, for those people who enjoy getting exercise during the summer, aerobic exercise, such as jogging, swimming, walking, and doing Tai Chi, are the best choices. Of them, Tai Chi is a very good exercise to do all year round for people of all ages because it can exercise all the parts of the body.
Having a good night’s sleep is fundamental to good health. The following conditions should enable people to sleep well. First, it is a good idea to pay attention to indoor temperate and humidity. People feel the most comfortable if the temperature is 20-23℃ (68F-73.4F) and the humidity is 50%-70%. Below 20℃, people tend to feel cold, and above 23℃, people usually feel hot. Also, people need to open the windows and allow fresh air indoors every day. Second, the bedding influences the quality of sleep. The bed and blankets should have the right degree of softness or hardness, and the pillow should not be too high. Furthermore, taking an afternoon nap is a good alternative for people who cannot sleep well during the night. But the length of the afternoon nap should be less than one hour. Finally, in summer, it is not good to get up late, which can make people feel dazed.
Also, more and more people over 50 years old often get up too early in the morning in summer. Getting up early might be a sign of depression. What is called “getting up early”? Usually, it is widely seen with people who get up between 2 and 4 in the morning and cannot fall back to sleep. If people just wake up to use the restroom and then fall asleep easily again, this circumstance is not in the range of “getting up early” and does not typically signal depression.
However, if people wake up too early for no apparent reason and remain wide awake [a condition called insomnia], they may have many thoughts running across their minds constantly. Some people replay their memories, some make assumptions, and some rethink particular content over and over again. In a word, people “woolgather” [as is said in China], and the more they think, the hotter and more anxious they feel until daybreak. Due to ongoing, or chronic, insomnia, people often feel tired all the time. They may also feel frustrated and even bitter over their loss of sleep. Therefore, it may be difficult for them to concentrate and their lives may start to feel chaotic.
If people suffer from insomnia for a long time, they may develop heart palpitations, chest pain, mild lower back pain, abdominal bloating, and even eating disorders, like anorexia, and so on. As a result, people will find themselves in a vicious cycle, which can affect them physically and mentally. Thus, when people find that they have these symptoms, they need to go to see the doctor as soon as possible. In addition, according to most doctors in China and more and more American doctors these days, doing Tai Chi daily is one of the best exercises and medicines to cure insomnia, and improve the quality and quantity of sleep.
Preventing Winter Diseases During Summer
It may surprise Westerners to know that some winter-related diseases stem from food and exercise choices in the summer because summertime is hot and some diseases just hide inside the body. Once wintertime comes, the diseases will manifest themselves easily. Therefore, from the beginning of the summer, people should pay attention to the disease factors related to life habits to prevent illness in the winter.
People who always have joint pain and numbness during cold weather, often find that these symptoms disappear when the weather is hot. Thus, people with these problems should not take cold showers or swim in cold water in the summer. Also, they should avoid sleeping outside when camping, avoid sleeping on the floor at home, and avoid walking with bare feet on the cold ground or cold floors because all these things actions will add to the coldness inside of the body. (Also, the “bubbling well points”, which are on the bottoms of the feet, are connected to the kidneys. If the feet are cold for a long time, it means the kidneys are cold even though the feet may not feel cold to the touch, which can weaken the functions of the kidneys.)
Moreover, chronic inflammation of the trachea and asthma might either appear in the winter or disappear in the winter, or get worse in winter and disappear in the summer. In the summer, in addition to paying attention to the advice given earlier, people should eat and drink less cold food or beverages or avoid cold food and drinks altogether. This is bad news for most Americans, who enjoy ice cream in the summer!
Furthermore, chronic diarrhea, inflammation of the small intestine, colonitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and so on get worse during winter especially. These conditions always happen easily after mid-fall. Thus, people with these problems not only need to follow the recommendations above but also need to eat less fruit and melons, and avoid consuming cold food and beverages all year round.
There are many conditions that cause headaches. Among them, there is a kind called “intermittent headache” by Chinese medicine. Sometimes people feel a headache coming on when it is windy and cold. Thus, people with this problem need to avoid facing fans or air conditioning units directly on those hot summer days.
Some people always feel cold during the wintertime. No matter what has caused it, those people need to eat less raw fruit and avoid exposure to the cold like above. Also, they need to avoid sweating too much because it is not good for the heart.
Maintaining a Good Mood
Mentality decides everything. It is important that people feel happy every day! In the summer, many people cannot control their moods. According to Chinese medicine, every disease comes from one’s mentality. Thus, there is a big correlation between good health and a good mood, which further indicates people need to pay attention to their moods at the same time they pay attention to their health in the summer. A good mood nurtures good health.
Heatstroke is very easy to get during the summer. Among people, there are about 16% of them have “mood heat strokes”, which damage people’s health, especially for that of the elderly. Maintaining a calm, cool frame of mind is hard to do in the summer. When the weather is hot, people cannot help but to feel anxious and lose their tempers, which will make the body get hotter and easily cause heat strokes. When the weather is hot, people should find ways to calm themselves down and maintain a relaxed, tranquil mood. They should avoid feeling angry when things are not going well. It is better to think on the positive side and try to nurture a relaxed, happy, and balanced mentality. Losing one’s temper may cause blocked arteries and arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and even death. Thus, according to Chinese medicine, it is crucial to keep a good mindset and heart condition during the summer. People should always be even-tempered and good-humored”, which would demonstrate mastery of their health regimen.
In sum, by following these guidelines with food, exercise, and sleep, people can develop good habits that will promote a healthy body, mind, and spirit at all times of the year.
May every Tai Chi fan have a happy, healthy, and long life!