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What does heat do in your body?

With summer almost here and what will undoubtedly be the hottest on record (as it is almost every year) let us look at what heat does when it is in your body.

You may not realize but sometimes common ailments are actually the result of heat and inflammation. The thing to note is that heat of course rises, so many of the problems associated with your head can often be due to heat rising up to your upper body. There are some stubborn medical conditions which when seen in oriental terms make more sense. For example, some of the symptoms of headaches, migraines, earache or otitis, tinnitus and trigeminal neuralgia can be viewed in exactly this way.

So where does this heat come from?

In order to understand this we need to look at how your body breathes. And by this I don't mean respiration in your lungs - I mean down to the cellular level - how the body expands and contracts. How it pumps and moves and circulates. This 'breath' of expansion and contraction is what the ancient Chinese labelled yin and yang. The relationship between them is the basis for everything in your body and in fact the world too. The balance between them is what keeps us healthy or makes us ill.

What often happens inside the body is that one part of this cycle of movement becomes weak. If you lead a lifestyle with lots of stress, go to bed late every night, eat food which is not very nourishing for your body, worry or think too much, then gradually your body's ability to function efficiently will decrease.

If it decreases too much, there will be an imbalance on one side or the other. Either too much contraction or too much expansion. Either way, signs of illness will appear but it is the latter which has the tendency to rise upwards. A clear example of this when women feel hot flushes in menopause.

The longer that this process continues, the deeper it becomes. Heat can begin as a slow burning stove, gradually heating up an area. Sometimes however the heat becomes more like a raging fire with symptoms such as migraines, fever, high blood pressure spikes.

There is an easy way to see if heat is affecting your body through this imbalance. Stick out your tongue and look at it through a mirror. There are two important things to look at. The body of the tongue and the coating on top of the tongue. Some people brush their tongues to try to remove the coating because they think it is something bad. The tongue is actually a representation of the state of your body and the coating tells you lots of information.

A healthy tongue should be slightly pink, moist and with a light pale coating. If the tongue body is red, clearly this means heat. The tongue is divided into areas of the body so redness in a particular area corresponds to that part. The front of the tongue for example represents the heart and mind - redness here suggests you are worried or stressed.

If there is no coating on the tongue and if there are grooves going across or down it, this suggests a 'weakness of Yin' and that slow burning heat that I mentioned. It is very common.

If there is a coating on the tongue. Check to see the colour. Yellow is associated with heat. If it is yellow and thick it suggests the heat is much stronger. If you catch a bad cold or the flu, the tongue coating is often like this.

So if you have some of the signs I mentioned above - what can you do?

  • Some foods are classified as very heating - fried food, lamb, prawns, ginger, mustard, cinnamon and peanuts - so perhaps it's a good idea to avoid them.

  • Some foods are very cooling - grapefruit, watermelons, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber - and so you should eat more of these.

  • Smoking adds to heat. Stop smoking.

  • If your lifestyle is bad - and you know if it is or not - you really need to change it. Your body is telling you!

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©2021 Clive Witham