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Dr. Mao’s Secrets of Longevity: Beat the Heat:

Here comes the sun; are your prepared for the heat of summer? Read on to discover some ways to beat the heat.

Summer Season

Centenarians understand the power of the sun; they rise at dawn, and go to bed at sundown. In the summer months, when the days are long, Chinese medicine advises that everyone should get up early and go to bed later, and take a midday rest during the hottest part of the day. The summer is a season of tremendous heat and it is also a season of abundant growth for plants, flowers, fruits and animals.

Heat causes extreme expansion and promotes dehydration, which destabilizes the nervous system, slows intestinal movement, and lowers production of digestive juices.

According to Chinese medicine, the heart and small intestine are most active during the summer. In addition to rising early and going to bed late, one should prevent overheating during physical activities, drink plenty of fluids, and add more pungent flavors into your diet like peppermint, basil, and sage,  Additionally, bitter flavors cool the body in order to counter the heat, so foods such as arugula, endive, and radicchio are the perfect summer greens; also, avoid anger, and instead maintain a lively and positive spirit that is full like all things in nature.


Check Your Sunlight Exposure

Sunlight can be both helpful and harmful to our health, depending on our level of exposure. The ultraviolet rays of the sun act as a natural sterilizer, killing bacteria and fungus on the skin. The sun also boosts the production of vitamin D in the body, a substance that is imperative for bone health. And sunlight can even stimulate the immune system by raising the levels of natural killer cell activity. On the other hand, too much sun is definitely too much of a good thing. An overload of sun can cause skin damage and more serious conditions including skin cancer, dehydration, heat stroke, and a suppressed immune function. For the maximum benefits from sun exposure, limit yourself to only 30 minutes or less of direct exposure, keeping within two hours of sunrise or sunset.  Make sure to apply sunscreen if you are outdoors during other times of the day.


Avoid Overheating

In the heat of summer, choose activities for exercise that won’t overheat your body. Some good exercises to avoid overheating are swimming, working out in air-conditioned gyms, and practicing yoga or tai chi. Studies have found that the risk of stroke is three times higher on hotter days than on colder days. As a matter of fact, the peak months for stroke are June, July, and August. So keep yourself hydrated with water and keep cool when you exercise in the summer months.


By the way, it is most beneficial to drink water at room temperature. It is standard in this country to drink beverages on ice; however, the shock of cold reduces the internal temperature of your stomach, altering digestion. Over a prolonged period, this can injure the body’s Yang energy and impair digestion. So stick to room temperature beverages.


Cooling Foods for Summer

The heat of the summer is your cue to introduce some cooling foods into your diet. Most  fruits and vegetables  will help adjust your body temperature and protect you during the long and hot summer days.  They include bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrot, celery, chrysanthemum, corn, cucumber, watercress, mint tea, orange, peach, pear, potato, seaweeds, snow peas, water chestnut, tofu, watermelon, apples, berries,  zucchini, and the bitter greens and herbs mentioned above.

If you find yourself feeling dehydrated, try juicing watermelon with the rind or simply eating both. This will hit the spot and cool you down.  I hope you keep a cool head, all summer long!

 May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

 Dr. Maoshing Ni is a bestselling author and practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, a seven-doctor group that he co-founded 25 years ago.   He is also the co-founder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey.  You can visit him at or call 310-917-2200.

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