In Chinese medicine, we distinguish patterns of disharmony or disease within the body according to 8 Principles, two of which are Hot and Cold.
Cold contracts and obstructs. Imagine how you feel standing outside when it’s in the 30’s. Or how ice cream feels when it’s in your mouth.
Cold symptoms would be those such as feeling chilly, having cold limbs, a pale face, and the desire to drink warm liquids. Even pain in the joints and limbs or in the stomach can be due to Cold. I could go on here, but this topic is best saved for winter!
On the other hand, Heat symptoms show up as a red face, itchy eyes, fever, sweating, and with skin rashes that feel hot or itchy. Feeling irritable and restless can also be signs of Heat.
Pain with any burning sensation indicates heat, whether it’s in the muscles or a burning feeling in the stomach or even the burning experienced with a UTI. Not necessarily pleasant to talk about, much less experience, but I think you get the drift.
Just like it sounds, Heat symptoms are hot in nature and get aggravated with more heat, such as eating spicy food with an already burning stomach, ending up with acid reflux. Or doing too much physical activity outside during the heat of the day leading to dehydration and even to the extreme of heat stroke. I am always amazed at the people who are jogging outside mid-afternoon in the summer and really wonder if this is working for or against their health!
Hot and Cold symptoms can also manifest at the same time to different degrees, which is also important to distinguish when diagnosing and coming up with the correct treatment plan. For example, I treat a lot of people with migraines and headaches, who often have a mix of both these patterns. The headaches can be hot in nature: burning, throbbing pain with red eyes, but can combine with cold natured symptoms such as dizziness and a tendency towards feeling cold.
The importance is to figure out the varying degrees so as not to over treat with herbs that are too cold or too warming, and to give the right balance with acupuncture. Think Goldilocks.
This principle of Hot and Cold is based on common sense and helps determine what is going on in the body so that we can give the most appropriate and clinically effective treatment. The body wants to be in balance, and the beauty of Chinese medicine is to create harmony so that we are not only free from disease but also strong and healthy, living with ease.
Some simple tips to treat fiery symptoms in the body are:
- Keep foods light and easy to digest (see recipes below for a couple of suggestions)
- Drink peppermint tea
- Drink at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day–more if you’re going to be active and outside
- Eat the watermelon RIND, the white part, which “clears heat” from the body
- Mung beans are cooling in nature–sprouted or cooked
- Give yourself a couple of hours after eating dinner before lying down for bed
- Limit alcohol and sugar intake
- Drink green juices from mostly vegetables
- Meditate and find activities which soothe and inspire you!