Feeling hot? Try these foods to cool you down!

Heat in the body

Now that it’s summer, I have a lot of patients who fall victim to what acupuncturists call heat conditions. Acupuncturists are always looking at how the environment impacts the body, and heat is a very common thing to see. Heat is a condition that can be full or empty. Full heat refers to infections or actively irritating phenomena such as a bug bite or rash (think of it as being actively hot and irritating, and that’s full heat). Empty heat is the heat that rises internally, causing inflammation, heat in the organs, hot flashes, and elevated heart rate. This also makes people feel hot, thirsty, and fatigued and can ruin a lot of summer days. Lucky for us Chinese nutrition theory and acupuncture are great at helping to alleviate symptoms of heat.

What causes empty heat?

The cause of empty heat is a deficiency of yin (the cool, moist, restful side of yin and yang). This can come from chronic dehydration (see my article on chronic dehydration below), poor sleep quality, eating too many hot and spicy foods, sugar, and alcohol. Chinese medicine addresses heat symptoms by eliminating heating foods whilst enforcing cooler ones. This also includes getting adequate hydration while decreasing alcohol and building yin energy.

Foods that are good for clearing heat

If you have empty heat and you like to eat sushi, then you’re in luck! Foods like fish, seaweed, and other seafood are great for clearing heat and building yin energy. Find a place with a good sushi happy hour or make it at home for a cost effective way to eat more. Other foods for cooling off are fruits and raw/lightly cooked vegetable. Cucumber and watermelon are popular in the summer for their cooling properties and are great in water. Reducing sugar, alcohol, and meat in the summer are also good solutions for managing temperature. Of course, staying properly hydrated is the key to maintaining a good balance.

10-day detox diet

For patients who struggle with heat patterns, I recommend the Mark Hyman 10-day detox diet. Most of the recipes contain many raw and lightly cooked vegetables, and many of them contain protein sources other than meat, and can be modified easily for different individuals. It cuts out refined sugars, alcohol, and grains which we know can stimulate inflammation and cause heat, and it is a diet plan that is already neatly packaged and can be implemented effectively by many people. I also recommend a 10-day Vegetarian or Mediterranean diet plan. when done right, these are also wonderful options for clearing heat. Stay cool out there, summer is just beginning.