Be involved in your changes, rather than be resistant to changing your diet and lifestyle. This is about self-care and self-help.
In Chinese medicine, food is one of the four pillars of health.
Traditional Chinese medicine(TCM) dietary considerations and the dietary recommendations of western culture tend to be very different. For example, from a Chinese medicine perspective, a lot of the restrictive western diets involve what TCM refers to as liver detox. However liver detox is not helpful if you have a TCM spleen deficiency. So you really need to speak to a Chinese medicine practitioner to understand your body type and get an individualised diet plan, which will evolve as your condition improves. The same applies to exercise.
Chinese Medicine Dietary Therapy and Food Therapy
In the 5,000 year tradition of Chinese Medicine, foods are consumed daily for energy, strength, disease prevention and health maintenance. There are no good or bad foods, but there are good and bad foods for certain health conditions. Foods that can make a person well today, can keep the same person sick at another time, depending on the needs of their health. Everyone is different. So a diet that works for one person may not benefit another person.
Although Traditional Chinese Medicine food therapy is highly complex, it offers a way for people to identify which foods they need to heal underlying patterns of imbalance, rather than going straight to medications and drugs, which may just mask the symptoms. With Traditional Chinese Medicine dietary therapy, one can eat to maintain good health, increase strength and nourish life. This is very different approach when compared to the promises of the latest quick-fix magazine diet or television food commercial.
The good news is that this knowledge is something that you can confidently use on a daily basis to take back control of your health. You are what you eat, and with this time honoured methodology you can deliberately choose to eat for your health and long term well being with a system that is specifically tailored for your individual constitution.
1. Organs and the five flavours of foods
To determine the appropriate therapeutic foods to consume, it is essential that one first consults with a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, who will make recommendations based on how your organs are functioning. For example, an organ(s) may be stagnant, in excess or deficient, and each of these states of disharmony will require different foods.
Below is a very brief overview of the five elements organ system.
The Liver System stores blood and governs the free movement of Qi energy. It affects the eyes, tendons, ligaments and nails. The related organ is the gallbladder which governs the storage and secretion of bile.
Affinity with sour flavours from grapefruit, vinegar, citrus fruits, lemon, tomatoes, pineapple, apple, strawberry, pears, oranges, peaches, olives, plums, mango, grapes etc
The Heart System governs the transformation of Qi energy from food into blood, and is responsible for thinking, consciousness and spirit. It affects the tongue and the blood vessels. The related organ is the small intestine which receives digested food and separates clean from turbid.
Affinity with bitter flavours from dark green leafy vegetables, bitter melon, lettuce, turnips, plum, seaweed, asparagus, cucumber, coffee etc
The Spleen System governs the transformation and transportation of food into Qi energy and holds the blood within the vessels. It affects the mouth, muscles and fat. The related organ is the stomach which transforms food and liquids.
Affinity with sweet flavours from honey, dates, potato, pumpkin, carrot, rice peas, wheat, corn, peanut, apple, pears, cherry, grapes, yam, tuna etc
The Lung System governs respiration, transformation of Qi energy from air, and forwards the Qi energy transformed from food to the heart system. It affects the nose, skin and hair. The related organ is the large intestine which is responsible for the excretion of faeces.
Affinity with by pungent flavours from garlic, tofu, ginger, onions, garlic, celery, coriander, chives, turnips, cabbage, radish, fennel, kumquat etc
The Kidney System stores Qi energy, governs reproduction, development and growth. It affects the ears, bone, marrow and brain. The related organ is the urinary bladder which is responsible for the storage and excretion of urine.
Affinity with salty flavours from kelp, celery, millet, barley, seaweed, shrimps, oysters, crabs, pork, egg, abalone, duck etc
For example, with a deficient spleen system, the recommendation might be for cooked foods such as carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, yams, rice, onions and oats. To complicate matters, there can be complex cases with both excess and deficiency, which will require a different approach.
2. The temperature of foods
To determine the appropriate therapeutic foods to consume, one must first consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, who will make recommendations based on the temperature patterns in your body.
This is a very brief overview of the five thermal natures of food.
Hot including pepper, ginger hot spices, chilli and cinnamon
Warm including onion, asparagus, apricot and most meats
Neutral including rice, potato, turnips, carrot and cabbage
Cool including wheat, eggplant, cucumber, celery and cauliflower
Cold including tomato, seaweed, watermelon, banana, and grapefruit
One should eat based on the temperature patterns of their body. For example, it might be appropriate for a person who feels the cold to eat more warming foods and limit cooling foods. However, too much hot food can cause excessive digestion.
3. The direction of movement of foods
To determine the appropriate therapeutic foods to consume, one must first consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, who will make recommendations based on the direction and movement of foods.
Food can influence the direction of energy movements within the body. Below is a very brief summary of the movement properties of food.
Inwards and sinking action for bowel movements; such as vinegar
Outwards and floating action to reduce body heat through sweating; such as ginger
Upwards and ascending action to treat diarrhoea; such as wine
Downwards and descending action to reduce vomiting and nausea; such as salt
Lubricating and sliding action for constipation; such as honey and banana
Obstructing action to slow down movement of diarrhoea; such as plums
4. Eating foods in accordance with body constitution
To determine the appropriate therapeutic foods to consume, one must first consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, who will make recommendations based on the type of your body constitution.
Below is a very brief summary of the foods for each body constitution type.
Balanced constitution – a balanced, seasonal and varied diet
Qi deficiency constitution – rice, chicken, soya bean, red dates
Yang deficiency constitution – onion, carrot, beef, fennel, mutton
Yin deficiency constitution – mung beans, pork, duck, sesame
Phlegm damp constitution – bamboo shoots, red beans, carp, onion
Damp heat constitution – cucumber, watermelon, spinach, kelp
Qi stagnation constitution – mushroom, radish, orange, buckwheat
Blood stasis constitution – soybean, leek, eggplant, mango, hawthorn
Endowment constitution – personalised foods based on the individual
5. Eating seasonal food
To determine the appropriate therapeutic foods to consume, one must first consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, who will make recommendations based on the climate and your personal energy disharmonies.
Below is a very brief summary of the foods for each season to help you eat in a more balanced way with nature, because changes in climate influence the body.
Summer – fire element – growth – mung bean, cucumber, watermelon, strawberry, lemon, pineapple, plum, grape
Autumn – metal element – harvesting – chestnut, red date, tomato, kelp, rabbit, ginseng, peanut, pear
Winter – water element – storage – lamb, beef, walnut, cinnamon, sesame, pepper, lichee, lotus seeds
6. Yin and Yang foods
The balance of yin and yang in the human body is required for good health. Different foods can promote yin or yang energy, as briefly described below.
Yin – barley, artichoke, apple, black beans, coconut milk, fish, beef, eggs
Yang – quinoa, onion, cherry, chestnuts, chicken, mutton, basil, jasmine tea
To determine the appropriate therapeutic foods to consume, one must first consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, who will make recommendations based on the relationship between yin and yang in your body, such as deficiency and excess patterns.
This information presented here has been kept brief to give an overview of the abundant possibilities that are available through Chinese dietary therapy and food therapy. At Bing’s Natural Health, our fully qualified and experienced practitioners can provide all of the expertise, information and knowledge that you need to make positive lifestyle changes. These are choices that will address the cause of the problems rather than just the symptoms, and put you on the path to long lasting health.