Cool Summer Heat & Inflammation that Fires up Health Risks

Summer can be a very energetic time of year, a time when you head to the outdoors for increased activities during the longer, warmer days. All the extra activity and time spent outside with nature and fresh air can do wonders for your health, but at the same time, it’s important to pay close attention to your body’s vulnerabilities during the “season of heat.” The combination of hot weather, chronic inflammation and lack of circulation can turn deadly, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious cardiovascular events.

Summer and fire

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), summer relates to the fire element— and on a physical level, TCM emphasizes the health of your heart and circulatory system during this season. As daylight increases, your energy and activity will naturally expand, reaching further away from your core and calling on strong circulation to keep up with the increased demands.

Even more critical, however, is the fact that poor circulation creates a condition of stagnation. Stagnant blood in turn generates heat in the form of inflammation—the hallmark of a wide variety of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Inflammation and poor circulation also contribute to hyperviscosity, which is thickness of the blood. This condition is sometimes due to genetic tendency (approximately 25 percent of the population exhibits one or more “defects”—such as elevated Lp(a), PAI-1, or homocysteine), but hyperviscosity can also be caused by lifestyle, dietary habits, and infections or traumas. When inflammation and hyperviscosity come together, they negatively affect every system in the body, especially the heart and cardiovascular system.

Don’t let summer heat burn your health

Summer health risks such as heat stroke/heat exhaustion, burns, and dehydration are all related to excess inflammation, causing our engines to “overheat.”

So the most important step you can take to protect your health during the summer is to keep chronic inflammation in check. This degenerative process of continuous “overheating” degrades your body through wear, tear, and oxidative stress, serving as a primary function of the aging process—and of degenerative, life threatening diseases.

Keeping your cool

What can you do this season to make sure your heart stays strong and your body cool and hydrated? Here are some steps you can take to protect your health in the heat:

  • Take advantage of the increase in fresh produce available this time of year, emphasizing leafy greens, and hydrating fruits and vegetables with high water and mineral content
  • Drink LOTS of fresh, filtered water (approx. 64 oz. per day)
  • Replenish electrolytes with a healthy electrolyte and mineral supplement
  • Take cooling, anti-inflammatory supplements
  • Slow down
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Engage in gentle, regular exercise (especially walking) whenever you can, without overheating in the mid-day sun
  • Schedule that vacation—and take plenty of time to recharge your batteries every chance you get
  • Meditation and mindful relaxation practices can work to keep your heart (and your entire body) healthy and protected

Slowing down and making sure that you allow your body to cool down, regulate internal temperatures, and regenerate fluids are necessary preventative measures for a long and healthy life. These simple steps are even more important for your health and vitality during periods of prolonged heat.

Botanicals and nutrients for better circulation

Cardiovascular and circulatory health are a big focus in my clinical practice—and for my patients, I use a Tibetan-based herbal formula that embraces the principles of both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine for a unique, natural, and very effective approach to maintaining cardiovascular health. Its positive effects on circulation are well-documented, and are the subject of numerous published clinical trials. Additional circulation boosting botanicals and enzymes include:

  • Hawthorn berry
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Chinese salvia
  • L-carnitine
  • Omega-3 oils
  • Enzymes such as nattokinase, lumbrokinase and others.

Repairing chronic heat damage

We know from basic physics that heat is a manifestation of an increase in kinetic movement—and when you live a high-paced lifestyle with no time to relax, “cool,” re-hydrate, and lubricate your body, your “engine” is going to heat up. Sometimes, this damage from chronic excess heat can be more serious, requiring replenishment not just in the form of extra fluids and electrolytes, but also “fluid-generating” herbs and botanicals that can help hydrate and maintain moisture in tissues and organs.

This type of heat damage can be addressed by a group of botanicals called “body fluid regenerators” (or YIN regeneration herbs as they are classified in Traditional Chinese Medicine) that work on different parts of the body:

  • Tian Men Dong (asparagus tuber) and Mai Men Dong (Ophipogon tuber) work to promote blood and fluids in the heart, the lungs, and the stomach
  • Shu Hu (Dendrobium stem) helps maintain moisture in the lungs, the stomach, and the eyes
  • Zhi Mu (Anemarrhenae root) is another herb that’s very important for the stomach when you have severe dryness
  • Sheng Di Huang (Rehmmania) is also very important for nourishing the blood which moisturizes all organs

So sometimes, you have to balance between clearing the heat, and nourishing the body fluids.

A whole-foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, and essential fatty acids (found in nuts and fish) is also a crucial part of a strong, healthy circulatory system. The antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3s provided by this type of diet, serve to minimize the effects of free radicals, promote healthy arteries, and soothe excessive heat.

Summer can be an exciting and rewarding time of year, offering more time in nature, new adventure, an abundance of healthy fresh produce, summer celebrations and more. If we take the right steps to promote our health in the midst of this season’s warmth and activity, we can reap the benefits of increased vitality and energy, rather than wilting away under the scorching heat. For more practical health and wellness information, visit

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