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Fighting the damp to stay healthy

THIS hot, sticky, stifling weather is likely to persist for at least two more weeks and doctors warn that the heat and humidity are bad for both your mood and health.

The plum rain season, or huang mei tian, is always unpleasant, arriving in the latter part of June and lasting up to a month. It's common throughout the Yangtze River Delta region.

Many people feel depressed and physically uncomfortable.

"Dampness, heat and low pressure are common at this time of year and many people have difficulty in breathing, poor appetite and various aches and pains in this weather," says Dr Zhang Zhenxian, chief of the Internal Medicine Department of Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM.

"This is primarily caused by the prevalence of pathogenic dampness in the universe," Zhang says.

As pores stay open in the hot environment, pathogenic energies such as dampness and cold can easily invade the body, he says. The accumulated pathogenic energy can lead to poor blood and energy circulation, resulting in stiff sore muscles and aching joints - among other things.

The temperature in Shanghai usually stays around 30 degrees Celsius, while humidity rises to 80 percent. There's not much wind or breeze to dispel the heat and moisture, so many people find it stifling.

Airing rooms and using fans and air-conditioners to reduce humidity can help.

Doctors suggest people eat a blander diet and fewer icy foods and drinks.

The digestive system usually works less efficiently in wet, damp weather; some people suffer from loss of appetite. Doctors suggest more fruits and vegetables. Icy foods and drinks should be avoided.

The digestive system works best in a warm and dry environment, says Dr Zhang. "Eating icy things may hurt an already weakened stomach, worsen digestion and cause loss of appetite."

Traditional Chinese medicine recommends foods that repel pathogenic damp, such as mung beans, pearl barley and white gourd.

Patients with high blood pressure, heart disease and other cardiovascular issues should be alert and cautious because stifling weather and lack of oxygen can cause problems. Even healthy people may feel short of breath in this season.

The low pressure burdens the heart and lungs, circulation is less efficient and blood may thicken because of heavy perspiration and loss of water.

Avoiding very salty foods and drinking more water and other fluids can help circulation. Mild exercise can speed up circulation.

Soybean products have been found effective in treating blood-thickening problems due to isoflavone sand soy protein. Drinking a cup of soy milk every day is advised.

Those with cardiovascular problems should be sure to take prescribed medication during this weather. Dr Zhang recommends getting regular checkups and seeing a physician immediately in case of discomfort.

Maintaining a good mood is important for heart health; chatting, walking and reading can keep one's spirits up.

Numbness in extremities and aching joints are common during rainy weather because pathogenic energies can easily invade the body.

Do not expose joints (knees, elbows, shoulders) directly to the air-conditioner or electric fans, especially right after sweating. Walking outdoors can help if it isn't raining.

Skin problems, like eczema, are common in damp weather. Some people are susceptible to ringworm. Bacteria and fungal infections are more common.

Keeping the skin dry and eating dampness-dispelling foods may help prevent skin problems or relapse. Proper application of medicine can relieve itching and prevent aggravation.

Damp weather is also bad news for people with allergies, as the low pressure keeps the allergens in the air. The damp environment can undermine immunity and lead to allergic skin reactions and asthma.

Getting enough sleep and slowing down helps relax the nerves and reduce the possibility of skin problems. Avoid garlic, seafood, beef, mutton and strong tea.

Keep your environment dry so mold does not occur; inhaling mold is dangerous for your health.

Combat the damp season

Take a 30-minute nap when time allows. Slow down the pace. Stay relaxed.

Use a dehumidifier; keep humidity around 50-60 percent.

Eat a bland diet, or at least less spicy food.

Drink more water and natural fruit juice.

Eat foods that dispel pathogenic damp, such as pearl barley, green beans, lily root and white gourd.

Drink herbal teas like hawthorne and cassia seed.


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