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Just as trees sigh in the wind and seaweed undulates in the ocean, you too are subject to natural rhythms. Your body changes with the climate and weather. Changes in temperature and moisture affect blood circulation and hormone production. The conditions in the outside environment will influence what you come into contact with. This can greatly influence your health, memory, and even your personality. The weather affects everyone. By studying how it affects you, you can better understand how to adapt to change.
There are three main sources of heat in the human body:
Heat produced from the metabolism of human cells
Heat produced from the metabolisms of microbiota
Heat you absorb from radiation.
Warm soup, sunshine, and a crackling fire can all introduce heat into the body. They work in concert to heat you from within. When you feel too hot, you lose your appetite. This is because the process of digestion generates heat. Your body doesn’t want you to overheat so it reduces your appetite to help you cool down. To further avoid overheating, it makes you feel tired to keep you from moving too much. The heart begins pumping hard to send blood circulation to the surface of the body where it can cool off. This can contribute to heat rash and makes heat particularly dangerous for those with heart problems. Because your body wants to reduce its metabolism and get water, you naturally feel more inclined to eat fruits and vegetables to stay hydrated and cool off. These foods require your body to do less work compared to eating peppery beef jerky. Your body cools down when you breathe, sweat, urinate, and defecate. The faster these processes happen, the easier it is to cool down.
When you feel cold, your body does its best to avoid heat loss. Your body reduces circulation to the extremities. By closing down external circulation, it increases your blood pressure. It’s the same as putting your thumb over the nozzle of a hose to make it spray farther. To avoid raising blood pressure, your body reduces the blood volume by making you pee more and reducing thirst. Instead of feeling thirsty, your body will signal you to eat more. In this way, the process of digestion can help warm you up. When the weather is cold, fruits and vegetables become less appealing compared to heavier foods. It would seem logical that cold exposure would inspire you to start exercising, but this isn’t always the case. Cold exposure often signals your body to feel lazy so it can store fat to insulate you for long-term survival.
When it is hot, you sweat to cool yourself down. As the water dries, it wicks away heat. Unfortunately when the weather is humid, the sweat takes a long time to dry so you don’t cool down as easily. When it is cold, humidity makes you cold and wet. It wicks heat away from your body. It makes you feel as if the damp is soaking into your body. Life follows water. When the air is humid, microbes ride the airborne water droplets. Some of them are friendly, but others just want to eat you. Your immune system has to fight them off. All of this self-defense can take its toll. This is part of the reason why humid weather can make people feel foggy, tired, and lethargic. When it comes to regulating the microbiome, controlling water metabolism is the most important thing. Think of your house. If you have a flooded room, it doesn’t matter if you turn on the heater. Without actively removing the water, the house will get moldy and rot. The same is true of the human body. When water is where it shouldn’t be, it causes overgrowths of microbiota that become pathogenic.
As people age, they dry out. When people are born, they are moist and warm; when they are close to death, they are often dry and cold. This is part of the natural life cycle.
To alleviate many symptoms of aging and prolong life, it can be helpful to study the effects of oxidation and inflammation. Oxidation means rusting, and inflammation means fire, and it is through these two forces that things tend to get destroyed in dry weather. Whether it’s a person, sagebrush, or an old Chevy, dryness uses rust and fire to return everything to dust.
Oxidation and inflammation are associated with aging. There are theories that oxidation is actually the cause of aging.
Oxidation is an important part of human physiology. It is a byproduct of healthy metabolism, and certain oxidants are important signaling molecules. You can think of oxidation like heat and antioxidation like cold. I use this metaphor because oxidation occurs with heating inflammation, and plants with the highest antioxidants tend to be bitter, sour and cooling. Research has demonstrated that bitter and sour plants have higher antioxidant levels than pungent and sweet plants. In addition, sour and bitter plants tend to contain anti-inflammatory compounds. In traditional Chinese medicine, these plants are considered cooling. They are not intrinsically good, but if there is heat, dryness, and oxidation-inflammation, they may be helpful.
Neither oxidation nor antioxidation is superior. The body requires a balance of both. Oxidative stress is what happens when you get too much heat and not enough metaphorical coolant. This affects the cells in your regulatory systems; your body can’t regulate itself, and it’s easy to get unbalanced. Oxidative rusting influences the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. It not only wears these systems down, it prevents them from communicating. That’s really bad. No injury is that big of a deal if you can bounce back and maintain your natural balance, but once these regulatory centers are affected, you never can quite heal like you used to. When you start to tip off-balance and can’t return to normal, you begin a downward spiral that ends in death. Everyone dies; death is not the real issue here. The real tragedy is not living well. When your regulatory systems can’t return to balance, life becomes painful and difficult. People lose memory, hormone balance, even themselves. They forget loved ones, suffer mood swings, and can become difficult to live with. For most people, this is scarier than death. You really don’t want your last years on Earth to be stressful and weird for everyone around you.
THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE ON THE HUMAN BODY by Andrew Miles & Xuelan Qiu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on books Enlightenweight-Cultivate the Garden Within and Breath and Dust-Regulating Gasotransmitters and Microbiota for Asthma & Allergies.
hot dog by Winniepix
polar bear by beingmyself
swamp by Nicholas A. Tonelli
desert by Moyan Brenn