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Science & Spirit: Travel Tips, Cool Off Pitta, and Circadian Weirdness

by Kathryn Drury WagnerJune 04, 2019
Columnists
A sunny umbrella on the beach.

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This week discover advice for summer travelers, ways to cool the Pitta Dosha in hot months, and the fun fact that your liver can keep time. Want to know more? Read on.

Protect Yourself From Pollution While Traveling

Some of the world’s great cities—Milan, Beijing, Shanghai—can be choked with air pollution. For tourists planning on visiting these places, respiratory health is a concern, especially if someone has a pre-existing condition. If you’re planning on a trip to a polluted city, a new study from NYU School of Medicine has a few tips:

  1. Consider what time of year you will visit, as pollution varies by season. For example, in New Delhi, farmers burn their fields during the winter months, so schedule travel there at another time of year.
  2. Travelers may also want to consider wearing masks and can consult with their doctors to discuss any other precautions to take.
  3. Some cities may simply be better choices for travelers with respiratory issues—Stockholm, Sweden; Geneva, Switzerland; and San Sebastien, Spain, for example, have consistently low levels of pollution.

5 Ways to Cool Off Pitta

When the giant digital thermometer above the bank reads 1-0-0, it’s tempting to just turn the car around, head back home, and stay there until September. But we can’t hide inside all summer. One way to deal, according to Ayurvedic medicine, is to re-balance the Pitta dosha, which tends to become too hot in summer. A dosha is the three types of constitution in that system of medicine; Pitta is associated with fiery aspects such as digestion, metabolism and the production of energy.

  1. Focus on sweet, bitter and astringent foods, avoiding foods with heating properties such as tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic and onions. Choose foods like fresh melon, juicy cherries and grapes, as well as cucumber, broccoli and asparagus.
  2. Use cooling essential oils, like jasmine, rose, and ylang ylang.  
  3. Try sleeping on your right side, as the left nostril is believed by yoga traditions to be associated with cooling the body.
  4. Wear light colored clothing in cooling colors—white, mint green—as opposed to emotionally hotter hues of oranges and reds.
  5. Go easy on the ice in drinks. According to Ayurveda, it’s better to drink cool, but not cold, beverages, to avoid extinguishing digestive fire.

(Want more? Sip on “3 Cool Drinks for Summer Inspired by Ayurveda.”)

Does Your Liver Know What Time It Is?

Apparently so. Research out of the University of California-Irvine, suggests that the body has individual circadian clocks that function separately from the central circadian clock in the brain. The scientists worked with mice and found that they could disable the rodents’ main body clock and still jump-start separate other internal body clocks with light exposure. For example, the liver still seemed to respond to light as the day shifted into night and converted glucose accordingly. The researchers were surprised, wrote Paolo Sassone-Corsi, director of UCI's Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism. “No one realized that the liver or skin could be so directly affected by light.” He says the implications are huge. “With these mice, we can now begin deciphering the metabolic pathways that control our circadian rhythms, aging processes, and general well-being.” This may explain why exposure to computers, televisions and phone screens before bedtime may misalign human bodies, leading to depression, allergies, cancer, and other health problems.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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