Cultivating Good Health in the Summertime

Blooming, fullness, creativity and expansion are summer words. In Chinese medicine, summer is assigned the color red and the element, fire. Its the time of heart energy. It is considered an auspicious time. Plants are in their prime and blooming fully. People also tend to be more energetic than in the other seasons. Energy is abundant when days are long and full of light. Because we are part of nature it is a time for us to be expanding and blooming also.


Summer Healing Traditions

Portland’s Classical Chinese Garden in Summer

Long hours of light cause us to get up earlier and stay up later. Naps during the day can help us to avoid overdoing, which is easy in the summertime. Now is the time to practice calming the mind and refreshing the body. A good way to balance the energy of fire is with cooling water. Cool baths. sipping water or just being by the water and enjoying the breeze. In Asia tea is considered cooling and is often drunk instead of water. Even hot tea is considered cooling. Our increased thirst and need to consume more fluids in the summer can cause us to flush the minerals/electrolytes out of our systems. We need to be careful that these are replenished. One of the signs that you need to replenish electrolytes is cramping in the muscles. Replenishing can be accomplished by consuming sport drinks designed for this purpose, drinking coconut water or perhaps you have you own regime using supplements.


Summer Healing Traditions

Water balances the fire element in summer.

Summer heat can sneak up on you causing sunburn, dehydration, and worse, heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache and nausea or vomiting. If you feel dizzy and/or stop sweating, quit all activity and get out of the sun fast. Drink cool, not cold water and be sure to replenish your electrolytes.

What we eat also affects how we feel. Its wise to have a good portion of your diet be local in season foods. Things are in season for a reason. In our attempt to stay hydrated, the common wisdom is that we want to get a good portion of our needed liquids from juicy fruits and vegetables. In this respect, watermelon rules. There is a centuries old traditional in China, India and the Middle East, of offering watermelon to the weary traveler in the summertime. Watermelon cools and cleanses the the system, clearing summer heat. Other melons and cucumbers and just about any of the fruits and vegetables are also good summer foods. The greener foods tend to be the most cooling. Most seafood is also cooling. Pungent foods; hot peppers, ginger, garlic, and onions are good choices in the summer. They open the pores to maintain a normal sweating mechanism which cools you off and helps to keep your fluid and electrolyte balance from being disturbed. Things to avoid are heavy greasy foods that build too much digestive fire, and too much food in general including too much raw food if your digestion tends to be a bit weak. Ice water plays havoc with the chemistry of digestion and too much ice or very cold food can cause stomach ache.


 Habits that cultivate good health in the summer time are:

• Carry water or tea with you and sip it throughout the day.

• Eat light.

• Pace yourself when exerting yourself outdoors.

• Try to nap in the middle of the day.

• If you are rehydrating with large amounts of water you need to replace electrolytes with drinks that contain them, such as coconut water or sports drinks.


We are part of nature and we should be blooming, and experiencing fullness and expansion in our lives in the summertime. Because Chinese medical theory says summer is the time of the heart; growth, joy and spiritual awareness between the heart and mind should be the focus during this season. This is a time to focus on life’s changes and work on realizing our life’s greatest potential as we find joy in our hot summer days and warm summer nights.

Even the most dedicated couch potato is likely to overexert themselves in the summer. If you need help recovering from the aches and pains of activity backlash, or if your energy is out of balance from the heat and activity of summer.  Shiatsu can get you back on track.


 Karen Kessler LMP ABT
1104 Main Street, Suite 306
Vancouver WA 98660
360 735 9432 or contact

Karen has been practicing Asian Bodywork Therapy for over 20 years. Using shiatsu, tuina and thai massage she can help you in your quest for good health. She works both energetically and structurally to reduce pain and stress, and to promote healing and injury recovery.