Happy July, All! I hope that you enjoyed the recent celebration of our nation’s independence and enjoyed some rest, relaxation and time with those you love. Here on the East coast, we have recently experienced quite a few hot and humid days. Aside from staying out of full sun between 12 and 3 PM, what you are doing to maintain your health and wellness during this time? How have you been doing with your nutrition? Are you still exercising, or have you stopped completed? Has your sleep been affected by the weather? For those of you with arthritis, a chronic musculoskeletal condition or an old injury, has the weather affected your pain and/or mobility? I’d like to share some ideas with you to help you stay healthy during this season.
Food and Nutrition
Often, extreme heat and humidity will cause a decrease in appetite. Listen to your body! It’s ok to eat less when the weather is steamy. Eating too much during hot and humid conditions can lead to a slow down in the movement of Qi in the body and ultimately, other health concerns. These may manifest as indigestion, bloating, nausea and uncomfortable changes in elimination. Also, although it may seem tempting to head to the ice cream shop or water ice stand every night, proceed with caution! Very cold/frozen foods also impair the stomach’s ability to digest. If you must indulge, make moderation the rule. Also remember that unless you are eating the kiddie cup or cone size, calories in ice cream will add up quickly over time. Anyone concerned with maintaining or losing weight will want to choose another option. Refreshing and cooling foods that are excellent and more healthful options include watermelon, also referred to as Xi Gua, a Chinese herb known to clear summer heat. Cucumber is another good choice, easy to find in any grocery store and low in calories. Coconut milk also has cooling properties though watch your quantity due to caloric value. Dark, leafy greens, like spinach, beet greens, and kale, a personal favorite of mine, are important to include in your diet year-round, including during the heat of the summer. Eggplant is another vegetable to add during this time of year and is helpful in reducing swelling for those of you that might have difficulty with heat-related swelling in your legs/feet. Finally, remember to limit your fried food intake. Avoid processed food and minimize sugar intake. Fried food and sugar will all cause your energy level to plummet and slow down your Qi movement making your vulnerable to illness.
Physical Activity and Sleep
Moving as much as possible aka EXERCISE is critical to a healthy and long life. This is proven time and again in research, but you don’t need the research to know that. You see people every day living this truth. Maybe you live it now, or maybe it is your best friend, your spouse, your son or daughter who exercises regularly and is (or is close) to the picture of health. That can be you too (if it isn’t already)–even in the heat and humidity of summer. Just be sensible and avoid the heat of midday when exercising outdoors. Always bring hydration in the form of water unless exercising for a long duration–then you may need added electrolytes such as those found in sports drinks. If you aren’t doing anything now due to the heat, I highly recommend Leslie Sansone’s walking DVDs. She has a variety for all levels from beginner to advanced, and these can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own (hopefully air-conditioned) home. Start with 1 mile and work your way up to more. According to the American Heart Association, the goal for most adults is to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days weekly. Don’t worry if you aren’t doing that now, you can get there! *If you are over 40 years old and haven’t exercised recently, please talk to your primary care provider before starting any type of physical activity program. You may need a baseline EKG or stress test prior to beginning.*
Adequate and restful sleep is just as important as exercise. Most adults require 6-8 hours of sleep nightly. Avoid caffeine prior to bedtime and if possible, after morning time. Practice effective sleep hygiene. Put your cell phone, iPad and electronic readers away before you get into bed. Avoid watching TV in bed; it has been proven to disrupt sleep. Alcohol intake prior to bed–even several hours prior to bedtime, can disrupt your sleep cycle also. Make sure the temperature of your bedroom is cool enough to promote sleep. If you have sleep apnea and have been prescribed a CPAP machine, PLEASE wear it. Untreated sleep apnea will not only result in poor sleep, it is dangerous due to interrupted breathing.
Finally, don’t forget your acupuncture treatment plan to help you maintain your health and wellness this summer. If you’ve perhaps not eaten quite so well, and your GI tract has let you know, or are having some difficulty with a chronic health issue or trouble sleeping, acupuncture can help! Scheduling regular acupuncture treatments can often help maintain wellness and avoid an exacerbation of a chronic condition, so please discuss this with us at your next appointment if you haven’t already. And if you haven’t been in the office recently, or are considering acupuncture for the first time, we are just a phone call or e-mail away and happy to help.
Until we chat again,