Summer brings more than heat, sweat and discomfort. It can bring illness, dehydration, cramps, and if you aren’t careful, day-long exhaustion. When the bright tropical sun shines down, there may be no place to hide—but there are ways to beat the heat.
1. Electrolyse your water
Sweating makes your body lose crucial electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that help maintain hydration levels. Too much fluid loss, and you risk a serious sunstroke, which can even be fatal.
Imaging: Raajan / Mint
To start with, never go out on an empty stomach and replenish fluids at least every hour. Just plain water won’t do if you’re outdoors for long or exercising, because water doesn’t contain minerals. Adding a small wedge of lemon or cucumber to a glass of water infuses it with minerals.
Include juices, lemonade, sherbets, buttermilk and other hydrating drinks in your fluid consumption. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally enriched with electrolytes, and nutritionists and medical experts agree that most summer fruits and vegetables have cooling properties.
Raw mango, packed with minerals, antioxidants, vitamins B6, A and C, is a classic example. Raw mango is also known to reduce bile and cool the body, thereby preventing heat sickness.
Stock up on potassium-rich foods such as watermelon, muskmelon and ash gourd (petha) that help remove extra sodium from the body (sweating can raise sodium concentration too as you lose water) while keeping the body cool.
2. Take a deep breath
While pranayam is beneficial for all, yoga experts believe that Sheetkari and Sheetali pranayam are tailor-made for the summer.
For Sheetkari pranayam, sit up straight in a chair with both palms on top of each other facing upwards and eyes closed. Clench your upper and lower front teeth and breathe in through the mouth, making a hissing sound. Hold for at least 2 seconds and release your breath in double the time that you breathe in; in this case, 4 seconds.
The technique for Sheetali pranayam is the same but instead of the clenched jaw, roll your tongue inwards into a pipe shape and breathe through that.
Do both 10 times each morning and evening during the day to stay cool.
3. Detoxify with this native fruit
Rural India is a big fan of bael (wood apple), which is available across the country. But over the years, it’s been forgotten in the urban rush. According to naturopaths, bael juice has cooling and detoxifying properties (its laxative and diuretic effects flush toxins out of the body). This, they believe, keeps summer infections at bay.
Nutritionists also recommend bael juice for those with irritable bowel syndrome because of its cooling properties.
To make the juice at home, slice pieces of the fruit and strain the pulp through a muslin cloth to extract the juice. Or look for dried bael powder in the market—it can be mixed with water to create a healthy drink.
4. Replenish your nutrients
Digestive systems aren’t very robust in the summer, and most people are happier eating less. This leads to a lack of nutrients in the body, making it more susceptible to heat sickness, according to practitioners of naturopathy. They suggest aloe vera as a supplement to provide essential nutrients such as 11 different amino acids and vitamin B12 (not readily available in pure vegetarian diets that eschew milk products). It also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C and E, along with folic acid, sodium, iron, calcium, chromium, manganese, copper, zinc, potassium and magnesium, with small amounts of other vitamins except vitamin D.
About 30-50ml of aloe vera gel (or three quarters of a 60ml shot glass) when taken before meals once or twice a day works as a coolant and nutrient replenisher. Since aloe vera has many different varieties—all of which are not nutrient-rich and some even toxic—it’s better to buy a packaged gel.
5. Say yes to yogurt
Yogurt is the most cooling of all dairy products. In the hot weather, digestive systems become sluggish. Yogurt is easily digested and boosts immunity. The good probiotic bacteria it is packed with help fight summer infections. Add a cup of yogurt to every meal for best results.
And while several beauty and grooming brands stock after-sun cooling creams based on yogurt, to treat sunburns simply slather yogurt on directly and liberally; wash after 10 minutes. Yogurt also moisturizes the skin while cooling it.
6. Cool your feet
We’re all too familiar with the throbbing, pulsating, hot feeling at the end of the day, a result of too much heat trapped in the body. To get immediate relief, pour two mugs of cold water over your feet as soon as you get home. Natural beauty experts say that putting cold water on the feet first cools the entire body.
7. The power of opposites
Yoga experts strongly believe in the power of contrasting sensations. If you walk out of an overly air-conditioned room, you’ll feel the heat more intensely. Similarly a cold water bath can actually end up making you feel warmer rather than cooler afterwards.
Part of the requirement for yoga therapists in training is bathing with cold water in winter and warm water in summer. But you don’t have to go to extremes to reap the benefits of this very workable trick. Just bathe with slightly tepid water instead of hot water in summer.
While you may feel a little bit of discomfort initially, eventually you feel a lot cooler than before.
Experts: Ritika Samaddar, head, dietetics, Max Hospital, Saket, New Delhi (points 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7); Snehal Sanghvi, senior physician and cardiologist, Sir HN Hospital, Mumbai (point 1); Vijay Gusain, naturopath and yoga expert, faculty member (naturopathy and yoga), International Foundation of Natural Health and Yoga, New Delhi; (points 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7); Hakim Mohammad Tariq, in-charge, board of physicians, Hamdard (Wakf) Laboratories (point 7); Suparna Trikha, author of The Book of Natural Skincare (HarperCollins) and director, Suparna Herbs India Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi (points 5 and 6).
If someone has lost a lot of fluid as well as electrolytes in the heat, he/she may end up a victim of heat exhaustion. You can recognize it from their cold and clammy skin, pallor, fast pulse, severe sweating and perhaps giddiness. Left untreated, it can cause cardiovascular collapse, even death, especially in the under-5 or over-60 age groups or those with compromised immunity or chronic conditions.
Get the person into the shade, apply a cold wet towel (or at least sprinkle some water at room temperature), switch on a fan, and give an electrolyte-rich drink. Bear in mind that electrolytes are absorbed faster in the body as a drink, which helps resolve dehydration immediately. Adding a pinch of salt to a glass of water will also work.
However, if you spot signs of a heat stroke, such as dry, hot and flushed skin, vomiting or nausea, headache and drowsiness, or if the person isn’t fully conscious, don’t wait to treat at home; get to the hospital immediately.
A tip: If you’re swimming long or vigorously, especially outdoors, you may not realize it but you are losing sweat in the pool. This is a common cause of cramps, and they don’t just hurt—they can immobilize you and leave you drowning. So rehydrate often with electrolyte-enriched drinks or a pinch of salt in water if you’re spending the day by the pool.
Nalin Nag, senior consultant in internal medicine, allergy and immunology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.
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