Today is June 1st and while it has already felt like summer here in Hangzhou for more than a month, many consider today the first day of the summer season. (We can wear white shoes!) And with that here is some advice from TCM about how to stay healthy in the summer.

Don’t sit directly under the air-conditioning. The neck and shoulders are one of the places most vulnerable to cold air.  The cold air on your exposed skin can lead to excessive tightening of the muscles which causes neck, shoulder, and back pain and contributes to higher stress levels. The cold air can also enter your joints leading to arthritis, even later in life.  Exposing skin, especially on the neck to cold air, makes you more vulnerable to the common cold and other illnesses.  If you easily feel cold, have your neck or shoulders exposed, or tend to scrunch up your shoulders or tighten the muscles around your neck when the cold air blows over you, this rule is especially important for you. If you can, turn off the air-conditioning or at least set it to a more moderate temperature. Otherwise change locations.  If none of these are feasible, wear a scarf around your neck.

Don’t take cold showers, especially immediately after raising your body temperature and sweating. When you’ve raised your body temperature or been sweating, all your pores are open to cool your body down.  Taking a cold shower straight away allows cold pathogens to enter the body. And like stated above, cold pathogens weaken the immune system (common cold), increase susceptibility to arthritis, and reduce Yang (half of the essential balance in our body).

Don’t drink cold drinks. I know its hot, I know you want cold water, I know you want something to cool you down.  But cold drinks, even cold water, may not always be the best for you.  Not only do cold drinks not quench your thirst as well as room temperature drinks, but it also stresses your body (especially the stomach) to raise the temperature of the cold liquid. I know room temperature soda tastes bad and is not very nice to drink so maybe that should be your cue not to drink any soda at all. Try swapping out some of your refrigerated drinks for drinks from the pantry. Use fewer (or no) ice cubes. Room temperature, warm, or hot drinks are all fine.  Just try to limit your consumption of ice-cold drinks. If your stomach feels uncomfortable or even a bit painful after drinking cold drinks, eating ice cream or raw salad, or consuming other cold or frozen foods, this rule is especially important for you.

Go to bed before 11pm. It is believed our body’s resting period–our most productive sleep–begins at 11pm.  Therefore, in order to take advantage of that, you should be in bed ready for sleep by 11pm.  I know its summer and the day lasts longer, but for most parts of the world, it is already dark by 11pm, so no excuses.  I’ve heard nearly every TCM doctor reiterate this point.  And one of them has said it to every single patient we’ve seen in clinic.  In fact, she tells them, if you don’t sleep enough, all of my treatments still won’t help–you must go to bed before 11pm. Try it, you may just find you feel much more rested the next day.

Eat less in the evening. Summer is hot and we naturally tend to eat less in the summer, but during the summer, eating less in the evening is more important. Give your body a bit of a rest, don’t make it work so hard digesting food, and choose lighter foods and smaller quantities on summer evenings.  Not only is this good advice for restoring balance and improving functioning of the body, it’ll help you sleep better and aid weight control. And much like sleeping before 11pm, it is oft repeated advice from the doctor.