Here’s the obvious:
It’s summer, it’s HOT, we get thirsty, we get sweaty, the heat makes us crazy, enough said. Right?
We all agree with that bit, but there is more going on with the physiology, the interaction of organ systems and life functions, and our lifestyles. Oriental medicine has an enhanced perspective. Let’s take a look into a bit more detail of what’s going on in our bodies.
When the heat rises outside, one of the first things to happen according to Oriental medicine is that the yang organs, known as the Fu organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, become slightly weakened. This occurs because these types of organs are bladder-type organs (such as the intestines, the stomach, the urinary bladder, etc.), and the role of these hollow bladder-type organs includes the role of containing and directing turbid substances downward during the digestive process. Three of these organs’ channels (as identified in the acupuncture anatomy) — the stomach, urinary bladder, and gall bladder — all begin at the head and move downward to the feet. These three examples of hollow organs all direct turbid substances, that of food & drink, used blood, used lubricating substances such as mucous, etc, are cleared from the head and moved downward toward their respective organs, and are further directed downward to the final act of digestion, which is discharge from the body. If these channels can do their job effectively, the head will be clear. If they cannot clear the turbidity effectively, then fogginess, lack of clarity, and poor focus ensue.
But one of the issues that occurs from the heat is from heat’s own nature: heat rises, expands, and disperses in nature when left to do its thing. This is a ‘law’ of nature, as it were. Heat rises as cold descends in the body like in weather patterns, heat expands in the body like it does in nature (pores open when hot, pores close when cold, for example), and heat disperses via expansion when allowed to express itself. The heat often pushes the body out of balance due to its extreme temperature. Normally the body will be able to stay ‘pulled together’ in regular climates, but the hot temperatures disperse the hollow organs’ energetic actions to contract and pull in on turbid substances, thereby directing that stuff downward. But in the hot climate this action is disrupted due to those energies being scattered. This leads to the same turbidity that should normally be contained in the hollow organs to be uncontained. This then leads to damp turbid fluids invading the tissues and systems that are normally protected from such turbidity.
Uncontained turbidity has now ‘invaded’ a layer of tissues and function where it normally would not reside. This causes a particularly noxious problem, because the nature of turbidity is both heavy and dense. It’s too dense for the lighter energy of body heat to penetrate fully. So some share of one’s natural body heat residing in and flowing through the deep organs such as the heart, the liver, and the spleen becomes stuck without an effective way out to express itself, which again is to rise, expand, and disperse. When body heat such as this becomes stuck without a way out, it still has its warm nature and still would naturally expand-rise-disperse if not constrained and stopped in its tracks by the heavy dense layer of turbidity containing it. So instead of expressing itself, because it cannot do that effectively enough, it simply festers. This agitates the affected organs and their blood supply, thereby affecting the consciousness (due to the old wisdom that, according to Oriental Medicine, the blood is the ‘substrate of the mind’ — hot blood leads to a hot mind).
When the organs and blood are agitated by the trapped heat, trapped due to the layer of uncontained turbidity, then this leads to the following problems: feeling unusually hot inside, mentally restless and unable to effectively relax, irritability, high or unquenchable thirst, insomnia or other sleep issues, feeling clammy and damp, excessive uncontrolled sweating, and even queeziness or nausea from drinking too much fluid in an attempt to cool down. This occurs because too much fluid intake (more than one can digest completely) typically leads to queeziness and nausea.
This picture is also common in alcoholics, who drink excessively turbidity-generating fluids which also generate significant heat internally, in the liver and blood primarily. Alcoholics tend to exhibit the symptoms of feeling hot, having excessive thirst, being restless and irritable, having sleep problems, and being clammy and damp as well as a litany of other issues. But this is from an excessively imbalanced lifestyle. It gets some of the same effects that come from short-term issue arising from the summer, however.
So, what does it all mean? Here are some important points to observe:
- When thirsty, drink patiently rather than throwing large amounts of fluid down the gullet too quickly. This will allow your digestion to work with the fluid intake rather than be overwhelmed by the flood of it coming down the pipe which may lead to the turbidity problem.
- Stick with some sour or tart enhancements to your fluids. Lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc, are examples of substances that assist the hollow organs in astringing, thereby helping to contain turbid substances in the hollow organs and not lose control of such turbidity.
- Avoid spicy foods, excessive sugar, and excessive dairy during this time as those types of foods and drinks will feed the problem and further imbalance one’s system.
- Consider visiting an herbalist of Oriental/Chinese medicine. Such practitioners have skills to help clear the imbalance leading to an improved quality of life. Imagine less irritability, no sleep problems, easy relaxing, and feeling less hot and agitated through the summer! I’d say that’s an improvement if you are having trouble in this heat.