From the normally mild summer climates of Ireland, Scotland and Canada to the scorching Middle East and Southern California, numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded over the past weeks and months.
Record breaking temperatures have occurred in Siberia at 90 degrees - 40 degrees above normal, Africa 124.5, Los Angeles 111, and Denver 105. The same trend is occurring all over the U.S, Europe, Eurasia and the world. I experienced this when I recently visited Phoenix, Arizona where the temperature was 118 degrees. The unprecedented temperatures seen over summer 2018 are a sign of things to come—and a direct result of climate change, according to new Oxford University research.
In the newly published report, researchers from the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at the School of Geography and Environment at Oxford University, worked in collaboration with the World Weather Attribution network (WWA), to reveal that climate change more than doubled the likelihood of the European heatwave which could come to be known as regular summer temperatures. We could say the same for the rest of the world.
Heat is becoming the new normal. It is important to understand how to deal with the heat and prepare for its arrival. Heat can trigger exhaustion, confusion and even heart attacks, as well as worsen existing conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The most vulnerable groups include elderly people, infants and children; people with lower socioeconomic status or chronic diseases, those taking certain medications and people in particular occupations outdoors (such as farming, construction, oil and gas operations and landscaping) or indoors (steel and other metal foundries, ceramic plants, mining operations, bakeries and commercial kitchens). Yet the harmful effects of hot weather are largely preventable.
Younger and older persons are the groups that are more susceptible to hot weather but not exclusively. Since 1995, three football players a year on average have died of heat stroke, most of them high schoolers, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research which tracks football injuries and deaths. In the last five years, the average was about two—still too many when these deaths are avoidable.
We all have to be more careful to do some basic practices to stay healthy in the increasingly hotter weather. These practices include staying out of intense heat and despite what you think you can do, not pushing the body into vigorous activities such as gardening and exercise. No matter what age, know your limits and watch out for signs there are problems.
Drinking more fluids is a given. Including some natural sugars in your fluids such as a little juice along with a small amount of sea salt makes your own re-hydration drink when out in the heat or doing physical activities. Keep your head covered and pay attention to how you feel. Signs of water depletion include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness. Signs of salt depletion are nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.
What you eat can overheat you or keep you cooler. In my classes, training programs and articles, I explain how the body is designed to eat a diet centered around cooked grains and cooked vegetables. All the traditional cultures known for their longevity eat this kind of diet. This is the diet that our digestive system is designed to eat.
For more information about this, see my website www.macrobiotic.com for articles covering what is a macrobiotic or longevity diet. Animal products from natural raised animals, beans, natural seasonings, natural fats, local seasonal fruits and other natural foods round out a natural human diet.
Diets that create excessive heat include those with high amounts of fried foods, fats, cooked cheese as in pizza, cold soft drinks, sugary foods with fat such as pastries, added fats, and a lack of vegetables. Eating too many cold foods such as ice cream and iced drinks can have a rebound effect and make you warmer. The body can handle some cold foods and drinks, but it is best to not have them with meals. They can interfere with digestion.
Traditional cultures served hot beverages and foods to induce sweating to cool off the body. Certain foods also have a cooling effect on the body. Foods with a cooling effect can be eaten more often in the summer to cool down the body. These include leafy greens, raw vegetables - especially lettuce, green and red peppers, sprouts, radishes and celery either cooked or raw, corn on the cob, corn grits, polenta, mild spices and herbs, raw seasonal fruits like melon or other local fruits and cooling teas such as mint tea. Because these foods have a cooling nature, it is best not to over consume them as digestion and life can be seen from the view of traditional oriental medicine as a warm process.
Less naturally warming foods should be eaten in the summer. Fatty fish, eggs, shrimp; salted and cured foods; fish and grass-fed meat are best eaten less often, but not avoided. Quick cooking and cooling grains such as polenta, barley, long grain and basmati rices, couscous, and whole wheat noodles can be eaten more often. It is best to eat moderately in the heat depending on one’s condition and activity. Eat more vegetables than grains at meals and limit oily foods including nuts and seeds. It is important to eat enough foods, but eating excessive amounts of food can create excessive heat.
Vegetarians and vegans have cooler body temperatures because plant foods are naturally cooling. For these groups, it is best to not overemphasize cooling foods. Doing this can make one weaker and oversensitive to heat as the body has to have a certain amount of strengthen to deal with hot weather conditions. If too many cooling foods are eaten, it weakens the body.
The ability to adapt to extreme weather and any kind of stress in our lives is seen in traditional oriental medicines as a function of what they call the kidney energy or the modern equivalent, the adrenal glands. Strengthening the adrenal glands can help us to deal with stresses. Somatic and qigong exercises, a well-balanced full spectrum approach macrobiotic diet, a regular lifestyle, support of family and friends, rest and relaxation are among the most important practices to strengthen our adaptability for the coming climate changes.