We’re now a couple weeks past the summer solstice, and many of us are enjoying the extra daylight hours and the hustle and bustle of summer play.
The solstice marks an important time for our health. It marks the longest day of the year -a time that is considered peak ‘yang.’ Yang represents activity, heat, sunlight, light, movement. These are all aspects of summer that most of us love. But if we dive a little more deeply into Chinese medical theory, the solstice is also the moment when yin begins to make a comeback. At 12:01 AM on the summer solstice, yang begins its decline or waning period for the year, and yin begins to build.
We need to consider building our yin in the summer. Yin in our bodies is the liquid, fluid, watery aspect of our bodies. In the summer, when the sun peaks and temperatures rise, we sweat. Sometimes we sweat a lot. It is incredibly important to work with the energy of the seasonal cycles and take this opportunity to help build your yin as we move from the summer solstice toward the winter solstice six months from now.
How and why do we want to build our yin this summer?
Yin keeps us from overheating. To put it simply, yin relates to hydration. Now hydration in the summer involves much more than simply drinking water. We also need to be focused on consuming electrolytes- namely potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium. Sidenote: most of us get plenty of sodium. Electrolytes are what transport the water we drink into the tissues and cells that need the water. Without proper electrolyte balance, you can find yourself drinking copious amounts of water without feeling hydrated.
Here is a general guideline to follow regarding electrolytes:
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of electrolytes. Try to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Try to eat at least twice as many vegetables as fruits.
Consider adding a variety of electrolyte beverages to your daily routine in the summer. I’ll provide some recipes and link after a few more guidelines.
If the temperatures where you live rise above 90 degrees fahrenheit, then it is important to drink 8-16 ounces of an electrolyte beverage even when sedentary. These temperatures are hot enough to deplete your electrolytes regardless of activity. If you live an active lifestyle or are active for work during these temperatures, it is important to drink even more, perhaps 32 ounces of electrolyte beverages. Listen to your body and signs of dehydration.
Other temperature related considerations: If you are doing heavy physical activity at temperatures above 80 degrees, then it is important to drink 8-16 ounces of electrolyte beverages based on the intensity and duration of your activity level.
Symptoms of electrolyte deficiency aside from dehydration signs of headache, lightheadedness, thirst proceeding to lack of thirst if severely dehydrated, are:
- Muscle spasms/cramping/Twitching
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Muscle weakness
More severe electrolyte imbalances can lead to:
- Blood pressure changes
- Nervous system disorders
Natural recipes and options:
Coconut water is essentially nature’s gatorade. It contains the perfect blend of electrolytes. Drink it by itself or add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or fresh mint to your coconut water.
Another option: combe 3 cups of citrus juice (all one, like orange, or try 1.5 cup of orange, 1 cup of lime, 1/2 cup of lemon, or your own ratio) with a 1-2 tsp of honey, 2 T to 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, fresh herbs like mint or thyme, and diluting it with 1 cup of water, 1/4 tsp non-iodized salt (not table salt). This combo of citrus, apple cider vinegar, and fresh herbs will provide you the right balance of electrolytes. You can make a big batch with different natural flavors to sip off of for a few days.
Lindsey Thompson is an East Asian Medicine Practitioner at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. She loves growing vegetables, raising chickens, and striving to get the most out of life. Practicing medicine and help people find ways to improve their health at home is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her career.