TCM Summer: Keeping Cool in Hot Times

Impact of water in a water-surface
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In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the energetic organ systems associated with the summer includes the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, and Triple Burner (san jiao). The Heart is associated with laughter, joy and the kinds of emotional activity we see in family gatherings and outdoor events.  Physically the Heart governs blood circulation and sweat is its fluid.

Heart Qi is at its peak in the summer, which makes it particularly susceptible to injury from heat at this time. Heart Qi and body fluid damage may manifest as temperature regulation problems, dry mouth, skin blemishes, poor digestion, darker urine, a rapid pulse, restlessness, insomnia, poor sleep, cold sores and/or manic behavior.

As temperatures here in Texas continue to rise, we have to acclimate ourselves in preparation for summer time outdoor fun. Gradually build up your tolerance to warm weather activities by starting with shorter duration outdoor workouts and hydrate regularly – even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid very cold or prolonged exposure to cold water (drinking or swimming), cold foods and air conditioning as all of these can reduce your ability to adapt to the season.

Outdoor athletes like boot campers, runners, bikers and hikers sweat more and are susceptible to heat injury. Indoor Bikram and other “hot” yogis should likewise take care. Profuse sweating injures the body’s Qi and yin. Qi and yin injury can manifest as anything from thirst,and irritability to fatigue, urinary tract infections and sun stroke. Try to do your activity early in the morning or late in the evening when it is coolest. Wear breathable fabrics that are light in color and weight and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and heat. Hydrate by drinking fluids before, during and after activity.

Foods to Keep You Cool

  • Bamboo shoots
  • Bitter melon – cooked
  • Coconut water
  • Cucumbers
  • Green tea – slightly warm to alleviate excess thirst
  • Lotus seeds
  • Mint
  • Mung bean soup, sprouts or the juice of soaked and cooked mung beans
  • Oranges
  • Water
  • Watermelon

Avoid or Minimize

  • Cold drinks or foods – i.e. ice water, etc. – temporary fix
  • Ice cream and sweets – can cause thirst and tax digestion
  • Foods that may spoil easily – common in warm weather
  • Spicy foods – add to internal heat over time

Proper hydration is imperative. Athletes may lose three to four liters per hour and football players have been known to lose as much as 11 to 13 pounds in one day due to multiple workouts.

As a basic exercise & recovery optimizer follow these suggestions:

  • Drink 14 – 22 oz. of fluid 2 hours prior to exercise
  • Drink 6 – 12 oz. of fluid every 15 – 20 min. during exercise
  • Drink on schedule rather than relying on thirst
  • Drink during training as well as during competition
  • Replace weight lost during training

Feel free to stay up a little later to enjoy the season and time with friends but get enough sleep to wake up with the early light. Rest and recovery can be accelerated by acupuncture, tuina and meditative practices.


For other articles on summer, see TCM Summer.

2 thoughts on “TCM Summer: Keeping Cool in Hot Times

  1. Thanks, George. That was a very nice blog post. You give me optimism that I might be able to survive another summer in Austin. I esp. like the cooling food and drinks list. Hope you are well. Yours, Kam

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