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The period of transition of seasons is challenging for our health. Weather conditions may fluctuate a lot before settling down. During this time we are most susceptible to illness, so it is important to negotiate the seasonal transition carefully.

Early summer temperatures may vary wildly between cool mornings on some days and extreme heat on other days. So it is important to dress appropriately. On hot days, wear a light layer of cotton and open footwear; cover your head with a broad rimmed hat when you step outdoors. Avoid exposure to the mid-day sun, but do step out and enjoy the evening, when it is breezy and cooler.

Hotter conditions tend to increase pitta dosha in the body, so to maintain a healthy balance, consume foods and drinks that have a cooling potency. Summer squashes like zucchini, bottle gourd, bitter melon and seasonal sweet fruits like apricot, peach, plum, and melons are preferred. Flavorful herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley, mint, dill and mild spices like cumin, mustard seeds, fenugreek, and turmeric help to aid digestion and keep doshas in balance, thus promoting general health and wellbeing. You will tend to sweat more and it is easy to get dehydrated in summer, so drink plenty of cool water. Coconut water, lightly sweetened lemonade, and warm whole milk are also good choices for fluids.

Avoid or reduce intake of pungent spices like green chili, black pepper, and garlic which increase body heat. Unlike most other sweeteners, honey has a heating effect; so it is best avoided on hot days. Alcohol causes dehydration, so avoid alcoholic drinks in summer or take in moderation and drink plenty of water.

On hot nights, you may want to take a quick shower at bedtime, apply a few drops of cooling jasmine, lavender, vetiveria, or sandalwood oil, and go to bed early. Nights are shorter in summer, and you do need your full quota of sleep.

Ashok Jethanandani is an ayurveda practitioner in San Jose, California.

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