Don’t Beat the Heat, Tame it! With Natural Ways to Cool Off
Summertime isn’t all yellow roses and blackberry picking… Those scorching hot August months can zap your energy, dry out your skin, and make it tough to breathe. Plus, extreme heat can influence your mood and contribute to stress. And stress itself can cause the body to feel even hotter!
What if you took a mind/body approach to temperature? Instead of trying to beat the heat, experience it differently. Whip up a bowl of mango coconut sorbet and discover an abundance of healthy ways to cool off.
Choose your clothing mindfully. Natural fibers breathe, allowing air to circulate. Opt for cotton, linen and bamboo. Even though silk is porous it may make you warm, but sweating is natural and will be absorbed fast. Avoid dark colors in the heat. Even if you can’t get enough of your comfy black Yoga pants, be aware that darker colors absorb light and convert it into heat, whereas light colors deflect, and are cooler. Also, lightweight wide-brim hats are important in the sun; they do double duty by creating shade and deflecting UV rays.
In addition to eating healthy, select more cooling foods. “Traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes staying healthy by living in harmony with nature, so it's appropriate to eat seasonally,” according to Annie McDonnell, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese medicine specialist, of Joy Alchemy Acupuncture. Annie explains, “most of the fresh food at peak harvest during the hot summer is cooling in nature, particularly watermelon, mango, cucumber, celery, lettuce, and mung beans,”
“In general,” Annie says, “vegetables, grains and fish, tend to be neutral to cooling, and when eaten raw they’re more cooling.” Also drink “Mint tea and chrysanthemum tea.”
Knowing which foods influence body temperature is crucial when trying to cool down. But that doesn’t mean you should entirely avoid warming foods either. Annie explains, “Chinese medicine cautions against eating too many cooling foods because they can weaken the digestive fire needed for optimal digestion,” Balance is key… Annie suggests, “lightly cooking vegetables instead of eating all raw salads and add warming spices like ginger to smoothies and vegetable dishes.” Be careful with cooling foods because, Annie cautions, “cold can contract the blood circulation and worsen pain.”
Another holistic cooling method, Annie suggests is,“gua sha and/or facial roller made of jade or rose quartz, naturally cooling stones.” Anne advises, “first spritz your face with rosewater, rub in a few drops of a lightweight moisturizer like Moringa oil or jojoba oil, then gently sweep the smooth-edged tool along the curves of your face from the center outward and upward to drain puffiness and relax tension.”
Wisdom from Ayurveda
The ancient healing discipline of Ayurveda, is rooted in India, and goes back thousands of years. “According to Ayurveda everyone is a combination of five elements (earth, water, wind, fire, ether). Some of us have more of the fire element and can become uncomfortable in the summer heat,” says Larry Mangel, NAMA Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and co-founder of Shanti Yoga and Ayurveda.
How should you stay healthy in the heat? Larry says, “Ayurveda teaches us that opposites heal, so we can add cooling herbs and spices to our diet and avoid hot spices.” Which spices should you look for? Larry recommends, “Cilantro is very cooling, as is its seed form coriander. Cumin, fennel are two others.” Also, according to Larry, “Foods with bitter and sweet tastes balance the fire element. Dandelion greens are very bitter and useful as a cooling food.”
Another way to stay refreshed in the Ayurvedic tradition is “massaging the skin with cooling coconut oil,” according to Larry.
As for Yoga and breathwork, Larry says, “Practice yoga slowly, emphasizing forward folds and easy twists.” And to engage the breath, Larry recommends, “One of the best ways to cool the body, and my favorite, is Shitali pranayama breathing practice.”
Larry shares his instructions for the practice, “Curl one’s tongue, stick it out and breathe in over the tongue and out through the nose at least ten times. For those who cannot curl their tongues, take your tongue to the back of your top front teeth.”
*As with all Yoga and breathwork, make certain it’s safe for you before engaging in the practice.
Summer months require a little extra TLC. So be kind to yourself. Self-Care Specialist and Holistic Wellness Coach, Krista-Lynn Landolfi, uses peppermint essential oil to reduce body temperature. Her instructions: “slowly breathing in through the nose — might want to hold the bottle a few inches away since scent is strong— take a few whiffs, then apply a drop across the back of the neck. The menthol in peppermint natural cools down body.” Because peppermint is ultra strong, Krista-Lynn advises diluting it, “with a carrier oil, such as almond, or coconut, to ensure it doesn’t irritate skin.”
Krista-Lynn warns, “Peppermint can be a choking hazard. Extreme caution should be used when administering to children under five years of age as the menthol can cause a choking reaction in young children.” And for adults, before using, keep away from your eyes. And make sure it’s safe for you, always check side effects.
For a natural cool down when you’re sweating, spray your pulse points with a chilly natural DIY mist, fresh from the fridge. And instead of using a chemical based deodorant, slice an organic lemon and lightly run it along your underarm to naturally inhibit odor and cool off. It’s surprisingly effective. But be careful if you have sensitive skin. Lemons are acidic and may cause a rash, especially after shaving. Never substitute a nonorganic lemon. What we apply under our arm is absorbed quickly so always avoid chemical exposure.