Here are our top ten tips to help you "chill out" during these hot summer months:
1. Choose foods that are naturally lighter and have a more cooling effect on the body. Fresh fruit and vegetables have a higher water content compared to other foods and help keep you hydrated. Tomato, lettuce, cucumber, cold soups, watermelon, grapefruit, strawberry, zucchini, corn, oranges, star fruit, banana, apple, pear, pineapple, blueberries - these are all examples of cooking foods. Also, yogurt, radish, turmeric, water chestnut, egg whites, seaweed, peppermint, radish, and crab all have a cooling or "yin" quality in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM, different foods take effect in the body in different ways, for example, they can have a heating or cooling effect, which can in turn affect our health and the way we feel.
2. Wear light colored, loose, and natural fabric clothing. A light cotton tends to breathe well - although if you sweat easily then you may want to look into a wicking material.
3. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. These are naturally dehydrating. Here's how: alcohol blocks the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which is necessary for water to be reabsorbed. Without ADH the kidneys do not reabsorb the water. Instead, the water gets excreted as urine. Caffeine from coffee, chocolate, soda, black and green tea, can also have the same effect. When you are craving an iced tea, either brew your own herbal tea and then put it on ice or ask the restaurant if they have an herbal or caffeine-free option. The same holds true for your favorite iced coffee beverage - go decaf. All of this said, if you love your coffee, that's fine, just remember to continue to hydrate with plenty of water in addition to your coffee. For each cup of java, drink one cup of water, etc.
4. When you find you just can't stand the heat or your home is too hot to bear, venture to an air-conditioned environment. Most public libraries, museums, movie theatres and malls offer a cool break from the heat. If you have access to an air-conditioned gym, you may even want to head indoors for your workouts during a particularly hot day.
5. If you have pets, please remember to provide plenty of covered shelter and water for them. Intense temperatures can be dangerous for pets.
6. Outdoor exercise enthusiasts should try to head outdoors either early morning or evening when the temperatures are at their coolest. It is definitely worth waking up an hour earlier to avoid the heat than running, walking, or biking on your lunch hour when it's 90 degrees or above. Exercising in hot weather increases core body temperature, which can put significant stress on the body. Signs of heat-related illness include muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, confusion, and nausea/vomiting. Before, during, and/or after exercise you may need to fuel up with an electrolyte-enhanced sports drink. Electrolytes are essential for normal cell functioning in the body and dehydration puts you at risk for depleting these important substances.
7. Apply sunscreen before you leave the house, even if you're not planning to spend the day at the pool or the beach. Whether you are driving around town, meeting a friend for lunch or heading to the grocery store, it is much better to be prepared than catch an unexpected sunburn.
8. Keep a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator so that you can cool yourself down at will. This is also something that can help keep your pets cool. They may not like it initially, but as the water evaporates it may provide some cool relief.
9. Use ceiling fans and portable fans to circulate air around the room.
10. Be sure to keep a close eye on elderly neighbors and infants; both are highly susceptible to overheating. With infants you want to be conscious of fewer wet diaper changes or changes in tears (no tears when crying). With the elderly you want to make sure their core temperatures are not too high and that they are staying hydrated and as cool as possible.