Eating strategically for the heat and humidity

July 31st, 2016 by

by Jennifer Nery, LAc

According to Chinese medicine,  weather affects the human body directly.  That is, not only might you feel cold in cold weather or itchy or dizzy in windy weather, but you feel those things because the weather actually gets into you— you actually contract cold, heat, fire, dryness, dampness, and wind from the world around you, and it can take up residence in your body, temporarily or long-term.

I’m seeing lots of patients in the last month or so who are really suffering with the intense summer weather.  This can look like one or more of a range of things: irritability, feelings of heaviness and fatigue, swellings (especially in the lower extremities), joint pain, anxiety, or rashiness.  All of these things can be caused by heat (which tends to cause feelings of heat, redness, irritation, ‘speediness’) and/ or dampness (which tends to cause feelings of heaviness, swelling, etc.).

The good news is that, even as nature is causing these irritations, it also provides the cure!  Eating locally and seasonally is my top recommendation to anyone suffering in any kind of weather.  Look for foods that are ripe and abundant right now– it’s a good bet these are exactly what you should be eating.

Additionally, Chinese medicine offers some other great foods that can be eaten medicinally to increase feelings of coolness and comfort, as well as alleviate some of the physical and emotional effects of the weather.  Generally, in addition to eating foods at cooler temperatures, shorter cooking times and cooking methods involving lots of water cool the ‘energetic’ temperature of foods.  Try to avoid deep- fried or slow cooked foods, overeating, and hot foods if heat is a problem for you.  Lower fat foods help to eliminate damp; especially avoid dairy, sugar, deep- fried, and junk foods if you’re having symptoms of dampness.  Especially emphasize foods that are bitter and pungent in flavor to drain and evaporate the dampness in your system.

Particular foods to aim for in this weather are rye, scallions, turnips, apples, barley, chicken, cucumbers, mangoes, mung beans, pears, radishes, sesame seeds, strawberries, tangerines, wheat, bamboo shoots, bananas, chestnuts, crab, grapefruit, kelp, lettuce, oranges, salt, seaweed, sour foods, watermelon, water chestnuts, fruits, raw vegetables, and salads.

Food should always be the first medicine, with any condition.  An appropriately cool, dry, seasonal diet will go a long way toward making this summer more comfortable.

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