As a reader of my blog, you’ll recognize a common thread: Balance = Good Health! The body knows this, instinctively, and is constantly adjusting so as to right itself and stay in the state of stasis.
In Chinese medicine, one of the goals is to balance heating and cooling aspects of the body. Now, as we move past the hottest summer on record, most of us are thankfully packing away thoughts of heat along with our window AC units. But not so fast!
Heat, in this case, refers not only to the environmental temperature but also your body. Our bodies possess qualities of heating and cooling. Health problems can occur if the heating and cooling goes out of balance. That’s why some people are always hot and sweat easily, while others are always cold, and some always have cold hands and feet.
As with most things, heat is neither good nor bad, intrinsically. Both states, heating and cooling, are necessary for the healthy functioning of the body. When we exercise, our blood is circulating and your body is using up energy, getting hot, and sweating. This is good. On the other hand, too much heat can make one feel uncomfortable, perhaps with dry or oily skin, red cheeks, and feeling all “fired up”. Think of a long afternoon in the sun with no shade, or the hot flashes experienced during menopause. In these cases we may do acupuncture, herbs, and cupping to remove the heat and also improve the cooling aspects.
Types of Heat
Heat can build up in the body for two main reasons: too much heat, or too little cold.
When there is too much heat, what we call excessive heat, there are very obvious signs such as a flushed, red face, and excessive sweating. Many skin conditions, such as psoriasis, are often caused by excessive heat. One the other hand, if there is too little cooling, you may have signs such as night sweats, hot palms and feet, heat that comes on in the later afternoon, or heat that brings excessive sweating later in the day, or night. Other conditions such as perioral dermatitis , rosacea, or hot flashes are often caused by too little cooling, also called deficiency heat.
How to Balance Your Heat
TCM offers us several ways to restore that the balance between the two extremes. Acupuncture works with the meridians to move trapped heat or enhance the cooling aspect of the body. Herbs are often prescribed to make up any deficiencies and also clear excessive heat.
And eating cooling foods is an easy and delicious way to reset your thermostat. Try a nice, simple salad made with a variety of leafy greens, a sliced cucumber, and some watermelon chunks.
The body, just like the community, the city, the country, the planet, the universe, thrives on balance. As illustrated in the Yin-Yang symbol so prevalent in TCM, it’s all about the duality: Breath in, breath out. Give, receive. Chaos, order. Hot, cold. As in the symbol, help your body to adjust the proportions of each aspect, get them to match each other, and then, like the circle of yin yang, roll with it!