Health Topics

Healthy Living

April 2010
Balancing Your Sun Exposure
Dr Sreedevi Yadavalli
As the summer heat knocks the doors of our winter-ensconced cocoons, advice pours in with the tags, avoid or ensure (B Positive is doing it too!) As the summer heat knocks the doors of our winter-ensconced cocoons, advice pours in with the tags, avoid or ensure (B Positive is doing it too!)

Not all of these concerns can be brushed aside as old wives’ tales or over-zealous health advice, though some of them might well be. For instance, take the one about putting butter on a burn to heal it. This could work for minor burn injuries caused by fire, but not sunburn. The oil in the butter will only trap more heat and make your sunburn worse.

Then again, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) holds that of the four seasons, summer is the season of yang, a time when the body undergoes vigorous metabolic processes. For optimal health, one is supposed to cultivate yang energy in spring and summer, and protect yin energy in autumn and winter.

Also, summer belongs to fire, one of the five elements. In human anatomy, the heart is fire, so according to the ancient Chinese, top priority should be given to the heart for staying healthy in summer. One can presume that in a hot and humid tropical country like India, the heart must take top priority throughout the year!

TCM also advocates going to bed late and rising early in summer because the season has long days. To beat the irritation induced by lack of sleep, low appetite and low spirits due to the hot weather, a one hour siesta is recommended in the afternoon. Aah, for the inviting sofas that are supposed to be part of Google’s office interiors, according to a popular mail that did the rounds sometime back!

Drinking more water, eating waterbased fruits like melons, avoiding an overdose of ‘artificial’ coolants like air conditioners and cold foods like ice cream, moderate exercise in the cool early mornings or evenings are some of the other measures advocated by TCM for a healthy summer.

Remember, this is age-old wisdom. Mankind has been living under the sun since, well, since our very inception, and we are still figuring out how best to deal with this giver of life and energy. On the one hand, we are to avoid excessive sun because of the harmful effects of UV radiation. On the other hand, spending too much time indoors avoiding the sun is said to cause vitamin D deficiency. Reports suggest that several cancers, chronic inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders can be prevented by ensuring adequate vitamin D intake. So, as it turns out, adequate and safe sun exposure, is a fine balancing act, just like everything else in life.
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