Heat Wave! How to Naturally Survive the Summer Heat

Posted on July 17, 2013


I just spent a sizzling 4 months in Southern India where the temperatures often exceed 40C (104F).  People there know how to deal with the heat – it’s often a matter of survival.  The knowledge is just part of the culture there, but is founded in the principles of Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of India. Choosing the right food, spices, and herbs has a huge impact on your ability to manage the high temperatures.


“Food Energetics”, an essential part of both Chinese and Ayurvedic traditional medicines, is explained simply as the broader physiological effect of a food, spice, medicinal herb, supplement, or drug on the body. Certain foods might have a cooling or heating effect on the body, a drying or moistening effect, or a stimulating or soothing effect.

When dealing with high temperatures, most of the diet should be cooling and moistening, with only mildly stimulating foods that directly encourage perspiration and elimination.  This is also the time of year we naturally detox and cleanse if we choose the right diet for the season.

Bad Company?

Many see the high heat as a great excuse to indulge.  Beer, mixed drinks, ice cream, sugary frozen treats, iced coffee, and iced tea, are some popular options that feel deliciously cool in the moment, but will definitely catch up with you later!  Sugar, caffeine, dairy products, alcohol, and even some fruit juices have the effect of heating up and congesting your physiology reducing your body’s ability to manage the heat and stay comfortable.

Antiperspirant is one of the worst things you can do to your body in hot weather.  Sweating, especially from the armpits, is an primary way your body stays cool, and essential route for detoxification. Not only will you suffer more in the heat, but toxins will build up in your system resulting in inflammation, acidity, and metabolic toxicity.  This will make you smell worse from the inside out and increase your risk of various, potentially serious health conditions in the longterm.  Instead use a natural antibacterial deodorant such as the popular unscented deodorant “crystal” or any naturally scented deodorant from a health-conscious retailer.  If you find you have a strong body odour when you begin weaning yourself off of commercial antiperspirant, consider that this is probably the smell of built up toxins being released.  Your natural, pleasant, healthy body odour should return within a few weeks.  (If you continue to produce strong, unpleasant, body odour there may be other health issues to manage.  there are effective natural options to deal with this from the inside out.  These will be addressed in an upcoming article – or consult directly with me to resolve the problem now!)

Fight Fire with Fibre

By increasing healthy bowel elimination you decrease the work your digestive tract has to do and reduce your body’s toxin load. This can make you feel cool, light, and energetic surprisingly fast. Fruits and vegetables are the simplest option.  If you can’t seem to get things moving along with a high-fibre diet, use a natural fibre supplement like psyllium husks, slippery elm powder, or FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides). (avoid herbal laxatives, stimulants, and drug based laxatives.)

The Coolest Foods

DSC04286 The list of cooling superfoods includes all sprouts, cucumber, all melons, lettuces, coconut, radishes, lemon, lime, grapefruit, soy products, pears, apples, asian pears, endive, watercress, cilantro, mango, avocado, all seaweeds, banana, plantain, and seeds like sunflower, hemp, and chia.

Specific foods to completely avoid include peanuts. lamb, shrimp, and any smoked or deep fried foods as these are very heating foods.

More surprising might be the list of animal products that can help you keep your cool:  Clams, crab, octopus, rabbit, and escargot all have a particularly cooling energy.  Almost all other meats, birds, fish, eggs, and seafood, might heat you up instead.

And finally, don’t be afraid of salt!  Salt is absolutely essential to life, especially in the hot weather! If you’ve been sweating add a sprinkle of salt to your drinks – but minimize the sugar.  A naturally cooling fruit smoothie or diluted juice with a pinch of salt is exactly what your body craves.  Sea salt has the best mineral balance for replenishing lost electrolytes.

Forget sugary store bought drinks, even those marketed as hydration or electrolyte replenishers; the sugar content will catch up with you and make you feel terrible in the long run.

Spice Things Up

Spices are essential for digestion, assimilation, immunity, and overall good health.  Your best choices are green aromatic spices (think Greek and Italian), which are the leaves of the plant.  Use these in abundance in food, as tea, fresh or dry, or even in supplement (pill) form if you have trouble integrating them into your regular diet. These include all green (leafy) spices; mint, rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram, dill, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, savory, bay leaf, sage, and many others.

As a general rule minimize or eliminate spices that are seeds, roots, or bark in the high heat: for example, ginger, garlic, peppercorn, and cinnamon in excess could heighten your internal heat.   DSC04327

What about hot peppers?  Hot peppers can actually cool you down! When used in moderation with the right seasonal diet as described, hot peppers help you sweat efficiently, eliminate, and detoxify the entire body.  (the right cool seasonal diet is essential here!)  You may have noticed the food-cultures around the world that are most passionate about peppers tend to be those with the hottest climates.

Avoid AC Overload

If you spend most of your day in a fridge, your body never gets accustomed to the heat.  Like any other activity, you can train for the heat by using your body’s natural responses to acclimate, rather that just blasting the AC at every opportunity.  Extreme temperature changes – high heat outside to high AC indoors – confuse and stress the body even more.  Instead use AC in moderation just to take the edge off, while applying the other suggestions made here, and you’ll be chilled out in no time.

A Tip From India…

images“Fresh Lime Soda, please!”  Anywhere in southern India, even the tiniest roadside stall or alley tea shop can probably hook you up with a fresh lime soda.  The reply is always “Sweet or salty?”  The best answer, “Both!”  Ingredients: Soda water, a squeeze of fresh lime, a big pinch of sugar, a big pinch of salt.  This fixes everything!  It is a simple, effective, miracle of refreshment in what only a moment ago felt like unbearable heat. The amount of sugar is minuscule compared to that of soft drinks or juices, and if you prefer, you can substitute the sugar for a healthier option like palm or date sugar, and the salt for sea salt.


Everyone is unique. I help my clients optimize and get healthy by learning how to manage their constitutional type in every season, build health, and optimize individiual wellness. PierreBlack.com/

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