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It's Summer! Stay Healthy

Renee Lehman
Licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist

Boy, was it hot around the end of April. It felt like mid-summer to me with the mid to upper 80 and 90 degree temperatures. This started me thinking about staying healthy in the summertime. Sure, the Summer solstice is on June 21st, but can you see how nature has been changing from Spring into Summer?

This is nature's season for growth and maturation. In fact, how many of you have been enjoying lettuce and spinach from your garden or watching your flower garden become multi-colored with the many blossoms? Spring lambs are becoming sheep and apple blossoms are becoming apples. Living things all around us are maturing. It is a time of long daylight hours, warmth, and dryness. Some of the gifts of summer include joy, love, and warmth (just think of summer love), passion and compassion, partnership and community (don't you just love the picnics and festivals); intimacy and closeness (sitting with a loved one on a swing), spontaneity (Sunday drives in the convertible), and playfulness and lightheartedness (just watch the children playing outside). How many of the gifts of summer do you identify with? Can you see the energy of summer within yourself?

How can you stay healthy (body/mind/spirit) during the summer season? A few ways to stay healthy include feeding the "fire" within yourself, staying cool and hydrated, protecting yourself when you are enjoying the outdoors, exercising, enjoying nature's bounty, creating special times with family and friends, and finally taking time to relax.

Feeding the "Fire". This is the season to consider: In what areas am I maturing? Ask yourself, "Is my partnership with a significant other evolving?" "Are my friendships deepening?" "Am I growing into my role as a parent?" Listen for the answers and give yourself time and space to grow.

Think about the range of the fire that you have ever enjoyed from the cozy warmth of a campfire to the radiance of a blazing fire to the unending light of the sun. We contain within ourselves all of these types of "Fire." Tender care must be taken in tending to our "Fire." When we don't have enough fire within, we can feel as if the joys of life are extinguished. Too much fire within may cause our passions to burn themselves out. A healthy fire at our core shows up as a deep abiding joy and the ability to love, laugh, and play. It also includes touching and being touched by everything.

So, ask yourself these questions. "When was the last time that I had a good belly laugh?" "When was the last time that I made others laugh?" "Am I good at playing the fool?" "Am I good at lighting up the room?" Remember that appropriate fire attracts and draws others near to you.

If you would like to "test your fire," try one or more of the following practices:

" For one week open and extend yourself into the world. Introduce yourself to people and say hello to the people on the street who meet your eyes. When you do this how does life show up differently around you?

" Practice appropriate physical touch as a way to connect and communicate with others. When you do this observe how the person responded.

" Bring the gifts of summer and the qualities of fire to a particular situation at home, with friends, or at work. When you do this how did life show up differently around you?

Staying Cool and Hydrated. Drink water! Drinking water is very important. Most people need 2-3 quarts (8-12 cups) of liquid a day and more in hot weather or with sweating and exercise. Drink two cups of fluid upon arising. Drink before going out for activities. Remember that if you wait until you are thirsty to drink water you are already dehydrated.

Carry water in a container that is made of hard plastic (i.e., Nalgene), stainless steel (i.e., Klean Kanteen), or aluminum (i.e., SIGG). This is to ensure that the chemicals in the plastic do not leach into the water. Also, check the recycling number. If you use a bottle with a #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), a #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or a #5 PP (polypropylene) your bottle is fine. Unfortunately, those fabulous colorful hard plastic lexan bottles made with polycarbonate plastics and identified by the #7 recycling symbol may leach Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a xenoestrogen which is a known endocrine disruptor. This means it disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies. Camelback and Nalgene are now making non-BPA bottles so there is now a viable alternative.

Protect Yourself When Outdoors. Give yourself time to truly experience nature. When you are out it is best to wear a hat, sun protective clothing, and sunglasses. Also, use natural sunscreens. The SPF number gives you some idea of how long you can stay in the sun without burning. For example, if you burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen and you apply a liberal dose of sunscreen with a SPF number of 15, you should be protected from sunburn for 150 minutes. The sunscreen should protect from UVB and UVA rays, but there is no system to rate for UVA protection.

Exercise. Begin or keep up an exercise program. Aerobic activity like biking, swimming, and hiking is important for a healthy heart. Who doesn't enjoy playing softball, volleyball, or golf in the summer time? Also, you could try out a new activity like kayaking, canoeing, sailing, or waterskiing.

Enjoy Nature's Bounty. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are at their best. Consume foods that are cooling and light such as fresh fruits and vegetables, raw fruit and vegetable juices, raw salads, and light protein. Fresh fruits include peaches, plums, apricots, berries, melons, bananas, pears, and citrus. Fresh vegetables include cucumbers, green leafy vegetables (endive, escarole, and watercress), tomatoes, and peppers. Try eating more of these later in the day versus having a heavier meal at night. Raw, unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices are wonderful. Just remember that fruit juices tend to elevate insulin levels when consumed whereas vegetable juices do not raise insulin levels like fruit juices. Raw salads such as coleslaw, a cucumber salad, leafy salads are light and refreshing. Try the following website for ideas for juices and summer salads: Light proteins such as nuts, seeds, sprouted beans, soy products, yogurt, cottage cheese, fish, and chicken are great in the summertime because they won't "weigh you down."

Finally, use the sun's heat and make sun green tea. Green tea is known for its antioxidants. Just make sure that you use a glass jar and think about adding some mint leaves - this will be refreshing on a hot day!

Create Special Times. Plan a trip with family, children, and friends who enjoy being outdoors. For example, hiking in the wild, camping, playing at the river, or resting at the ocean can help you to rekindle your connection with the EARTH and enrich your whole life.

Time to Relax. Lie in a hammock, sit on a swing, or just sit outside on a nice evening. Slow down and absorb the sunlight. This may help with depression and may help reset your "biological clock" which controls sleeping and waking. When you go out for the day, leave your cell phone at home. Don't wear a watch for a day. You could even try a week off from TV. Observe how life shows up without the constant stimulus.

So, this summer recharge your internal battery with solar power!


If you are interested in learning more about how to stay healthy with the seasons read the 2003 edition of Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson Haas.

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.

She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman