Nutrition for Every Season

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

He that takes medicine and neglects his diet wastes the skills of his physician.

Chinese proverb

Hippocrates also said, "let food be thy medicine" in the fifth century BCE. These two pieces of wisdom tell us that it was well understood many hundreds of years ago, in very different parts of the world that what we ate was an important factor in maintaining health as well as recovering from disease. And even today with advances in medicine and technology, food is still the best medicine and the easiest and most impactful way to stay healthy and disease-free.

Food As Medicine

Nutrition is one of the foundational elements of Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese understood very well that the best medicine is not the herbal remedy given when you have a cold or the salve when you scrape your knee, the best medicine is the food we ingest every day. It helps to build our immune systems, fortify us against disease, cool excess heat, drain dampness, move stagnation and warm us when we are deficient.

Our ancestors were intrinsically connected to nature, and this connection was necessary for survival. They paid attention to the seasons, but more specifically, changes in the weather, the cycles of crops, migration of animals, and the cycles of the sun and moon. They were attuned to the natural rhythms of the planet and were able to adjust their behaviours to maintain a sort of equilibrium with their surroundings. This focus on prevention was also very important and was knitted into the foundation of Chinese Medicine as it was practised then as well as today. But, the key to living preventatively is that we have to really be attuned to our bodies and our surroundings. We have to be able to hear what our bodies are telling us so we can give them what they need, and that is something that many of us have lost living in the fast-paced city life in the modern world. But this listening, this attunement is something that Chinese Medicine teaches. Your body is always communicating with you, you only have to listen.

The Thermal Nature of Foods & People

So, how does it work, to use food as medicine? Good question. Chinese Medicine has a pretty elegant system for understanding how to use food as medicine and stay healthy in every season. Foods have a thermal nature and so do people. It is that delicate balance of yin and yang. Some foods are cooling and some are heating. People also have a thermal nature. They usually have a thermal nature that occurs naturally when they are in a healthy state and knowing this is very helpful as you move forward. And then, the weather and surroundings also have a thermal nature, so it is a dynamic balance of these three ingredients that we are after. Granted, this can all get a little complex and you can get pretty deep into it (if you are a nerd practitioner like me), but there are some basics that will help you get started. Think about the seasons as a continuously fluctuating cycle of yin (cold) and yang (hot) energies. Summer is the height of yang or heat energies and winter is the peak of yin or cold energies. Summer gradually cools off and moves into fall, which cools further to transition into winter. Winter comes to an end and the yin energies gradually are infused with yang with spring, which further heats up as it moves into summer.

So, you want to balance the temperature of the season you are in with foods that are generally its opposite. Cooling foods in summer, and warming foods in winter. Gradually more warming foods in fall and gradually cooling ones in spring as those are the transitional months. You can also affect the thermal nature of the foods you eat by different cooking methods, which is why those change according to the season too. This is very very general, but it gives you an idea and a place to start. Then you can introduce the idea of constitutions and it adds another layer of complexity, but as you practice and becoming aware of the seasons and the thermal nature of the foods you are eating, it actually becomes this really beautifully nourishing and healing way to eat, and one your body will love. I will work on an article about constitutions to explain that a little bit more, but in general, a person is also a dynamic balance of yin and yang energies. Some people are naturally more yin and some are naturally more yang. When you know what you are, you work that into the equation too, which will only help you to keep all those energies balanced and this will help keep you healthy. When that article is finished, I will link it here.

The Seasons

Chinese Medicine was developed over thousands of years of observations of nature, human beings and their relationship to each other. In times past we have always had a symbiotic relationship, the earth nourished us with its bounty and we tended and nurtured the planet in a continuous cycle of loving interaction. Human beings followed the natural cycles of the planet and lived in harmony with the seasons.

The Summer Season

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Summer is the season associated with the heart, the colour red and the emotion of joy. In the hot summer months, people rose early and went to bed later to capitalize on the yang energy represented by outward expression and activity. They ate foods that grew in abundance, like fruits and fresh vegetables, eating salads and lighter fare, many of which are considered cooling to balance the external heat. People also took time to get together with family and friends, connecting and feeding their heart energy, as the heart is the organ associated with summer and with it, the emotion of joy. Everything we do in summer should be an attempt to cultivate the joy in our lives. Summer is the season to feed the heart energy, and in terms of foods, many red foods are good for the heart. Cooking methods should be lighter and of shorter duration to preserve all the freshness and nutrients the food has been soaking up from the summer sun. Eating should be lighter and in smaller portions and working to keep yin fluids plentiful to counteract the intense heat of the season.

The Fall Season

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Fall is the season associated with the lungs, the colour white and the emotion of grief. As the summer season winds down and the weather begins to cool, our behaviours go from the outward expressions of summer to the more inward and reflective activities of fall which will inevitably prepare us for winter. We eat foods that grow in abundance in this season (which varies greatly depending on where on the planet you are), but in North America, we see many foods with beautiful fall colours - squashes, gourds, sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins... foods that grow in the ground and have more yang properties nourishing our inner heat as we prepare our bodies and spirits for the coming cold. Fall is a time to clear out the old, making space for the new. The energy of the lungs is "letting go" so that is the focus. Cleaning, reorganizing and donating are good practices in fall and make space for all we will cultivate over the winter. Emotionally, making sure that we have let go of any emotional hurts that have lingered is strengthening to the lungs both physically and psychologically. Many white foods are beneficial to the lungs and are good to add to the diet in the fall season. Organizing life and becoming more introspective before winter is what fall is all about, checking in to make sure we are emotionally healthy and not hanging on to things that no longer serve us.

The Winter Season

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Winter is the season associated with the kidneys, the colour black and emotion of fear. Winter is the height of yin energies and even though it seems like a time of death, decay and inactivity, it is a season that is very active, just deep, deep beneath the surface in preparation for the regenerative activities of spring. It is a season of consolidation, gathering all energies and pulling them inward. Winter is the time of year to go to bed early and sleep later, profiting from the healing, restorative energies sleep offer us. In winter we eat less fresh foods as they are no longer available and eat more preserved foods we have prepared during the summer and fall. Eating warming foods, especially hearty soups and stews will help build our yang and counteract the cold. Our energies should turn inward in winter, while we focus on our fundamental energies, in Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are the source of our fundamental energy. Spending quiet time reading, writing or meditating are strengthening to our bodies and spirits. Keeping warm, especially our lower backs where our kidneys reside is especially important as they are the source of all our qi. Many black foods are strengthening to the kidneys and should be added to the diet in the winter months.

The Spring Season

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Spring is associated with the liver, the colour green and the emotion of anger. Spring represents the upward and outward energies of newly growing plants, flowers and trees. The energy in spring is expansive, so it is a good time to shake off the sleepiness of the winter months and slowly start moving our bodies with gentle stretching going for long walks outdoors, taking in the revitalizing green of new plants through our eyes, which are the sense organ associated with the liver. Spring is the best time to detox from everything we have accumulated over the winter. We can detox physically, as well as emotionally. Acknowledging and processing any feelings of anger, resentment or frustration will keep our liver energy moving freely. Many green foods benefit the liver and cooking methods should be lighter and shorter duration to the slow cooking of winter, and as things begin to thaw, we are able to introduce more fresh foods into our diet. Awakening and cleansing our bodies and spirits are what we need in spring as well as gentle exercises like tai chi and qi gong which, especially when done outside in nature nourish body, mind and spirit.

If we can become aware of our surroundings and make slight adjustments to our behaviours and diet depending on the season we will see a huge benefit physically, emotionally and spiritually.



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Applying Lessons from Chinese Medicine and Nutrition for Weight Loss

By Samantha Wiggins

Everyone wants to look good. But all too often, our pursuit of beauty comes at the expense of our health. It's important to remember that looking and feeling good isn’t just about the amount of food and exercise you get every day. It’s also about successfully nourishing every part of your being. That’s exactly what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is all about. In TCM, food is viewed as medicine — something you can use to nourish and harmonize your mind, body, and spirit.

To the Chinese, the overall well-being of the body is more important than how it looks. In fact, TCM practitioners use the food energetics system to teach patients how to heal their bodies through what they eat. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as each person has a particular body constitution that they must eat according to. For example, a person with a body constitution that is dry and warm would benefit from food that can bring moisture to the body. If you want to lose weight the healthy way, here are some lessons you can pick up from TCM:

Follow a Balanced Diet

You hear this advice even in Western medicine, but in TCM, the focus is the spleen and the stomach. It's important to not eat too much, but also not too little. Men's Health Magazine explains that when you gorge yourself with food regularly, your spleen and stomach fail to handle the load. This eventually leads to a whole host of problems — from poor digestion and slow metabolism to food stagnation and internal phlegm. Therefore, it's important to focus on consuming food that can boost your metabolism, promote bowel movement, and prevent fluid retention.


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Help Your Digestive System

Poor nutrition, coupled with a stressful and hectic lifestyle, is a recipe for weight gain. By getting digestive organs in good form, you would be able to digest food properly. This, in turn, allows you to harness the energy and nutrients that your body needs to prevent energy drain. In order to help your digestive system, eat food that corresponds to the organ that you want to nourish. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation notes that sour foods support the liver, so if you're craving sour food, that might just be your liver asking for an extra boost.

Boost Your Metabolism

Here on the Chinese Medicine Living site, we previously listed the 10 best foods you can eat to stimulate your metabolism. This includes food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which you can find in salmon, herring, and tuna. This can help balance your blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and regulate your metabolism. Green leafy vegetables, garlic, onion, nuts, seeds, green tea, and grapefruit are other examples. If your metabolism is slow, your meals are broken down less efficiently, leading to weight gain. Drinking plenty of water is also important.

If you ever want to try losing weight with the help of modern methods like diet pills, choose the kind that mimic what TCM does — helping the digestive organs work better and ridding it of waste. Many dietary supplements are designed to help cleanse your digestive system. This works to remove toxins and promote faster metabolism. And when your body effectively rids itself of toxic materials, you can achieve a balance that can lead to long-lasting weight loss.

All in all, rebalancing your life and managing your weight shouldn’t be difficult when you follow the techniques of TCM. All it takes is a little discipline and awareness about what your body needs. 

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Healing Acne Holistically With Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States — 50 million Americans experience breakouts each year which can continue into your 30’s and 40’s, the American Academy of Dermatology reports. While most of us turn to skincare or makeup to externally treat acne, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) addresses the underlying root causes. TCM recognizes acne as typically the result of excess internal heat caused by imbalances in the body. Treatment involves herbal formulas targeted to specific skin types, as well as dietary changes which eliminate inflammatory foods. In most cases, acne improves in as little as one month but takes roughly six months to disappear completely.

Excess Internal Heat


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In Chinese medicine, acne is primarily caused by excess internal heat. Excess heat builds up in the body when it’s under constant stress or hormonally imbalanced. This acne-causing internal heat is generated in the lungs (which control the skin), intestines, menstrual system, and by specific toxins in the body. Often, however, acne doesn’t just originate from one place; there can be multiple influences involved. For example, facial acne can result from a block in both the lungs and stomach.

The Problem of Stagnation

Chinese medicine also recognizes stagnation (or impaired blood circulation) as a root cause of acne. If stagnation is the reason for your acne, your spots may be sore, stubborn, deep red, or even purple. You may also breakout before your period and experience painful menstrual cramps. Alternatively, fluids in the body can stagnate and result in phlegm. Cystic acne is often a result of phlegm stagnation (as well as blood stagnation).

Clean Diet for Clear Skin


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TCM recommends avoiding inflammatory foods — particularly greasy, spicy, and damp foods — as they heat up your blood, which results in breaks outs. Don’t eat anything too hot or cold in temperature, either. Sticking to room temperature food will prevent contributing to excess internal heat. Your body needs to be relaxed in order to function optimally, rather than devoting its energy to digestion. Reducing overall stress also helps calm the body and clear the skin. Low cortisol levels help your skin stay clear and blemish-free.

Restoring the Body with Herbs

Herbs are essential for stabilizing the body. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment includes herbal mixtures which calm the body, cool the blood, boost circulation, and detox the lungs. Adaptogens are used to balance hormones, soothe the nervous system, and improve digestion — with the result of beating acne and calming irritated skin. The specific herbs used depends on your skin type and can be determined by your dermatologist.

Unlike Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Dermatologists tailor treatment to suit each specific case with the aim of cooling excess internal heat, cleansing and detoxifying the body and externally healing the skin. Your dermatologist will work with you to find natural, effective, and holistic treatments to keep your skin healthy and acne at bay for life.

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Foods for Beautiful Skin

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

The skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects us from harsh weather, keeps bacteria and infections out, and all the vital bits in. Having healthy skin is a barometer for the health of the entire body, so it is important that we keep it healthy and looking beautiful.

There are many foods that benefit the skin. Foods that build and maintain the immune system are good for the whole body and reflect in healthy, radiant skin. Eating seasonally and locally has a multidimensional effect on the body, and the earth. They have the added benefit of not having to travel very far, thus being fresh and by eating locally, we are supporting local farmers and businesses, and using less fossil fuels which helps us and the planet. Win/win!

skin

Our bodies require a change in diet when the season changes. Eating fresh, local foods gets a little harder as the cold weather approaches, but thankfully, we still have a lot of choice, and thanks to the infinite wisdom of mother nature, the foods that grow in the present season are exactly the ones our bodies need.

Staying on top of your skin, digestive health and cancer prevention can be done by adding these colourful foods to your diet.

Asparagus

is loaded with vitamins B, C, Potassium and K, making it a great vegetable for balancing blood pressure, cholesterol and reducing the water retention that occurs premenstrually. Chinese herbalists have used asparagus to treat cancer and infertility.

Avocados

are high in monounsaturated fat, potassium, and vitamin C, B and E. This fruit is very high in fiber making it a great food to help lower cholesterol.

Bananas

are low in calories and a medium banana has only 105 calories. They have lots of potassium and magnesium, which can lower blood pressure. They can be used to stop diarrhea by adding fiber to your body. The can also stop constipation.

Blueberries

have a high percentage of antioxidants, making them the best anti-cancer fruit around. Loaded with phytonutrients, blueberries have shown positive results in studies conducted on colon cancer and ovarian cancer. So eat them up to reduce your risks!

Broccoli

can also reduce the risk of cancer. More importantly, the fiber content of broccoli along with it’s anti-cancer phytonutrients, makes it a great preventative food for all types of digestive cancers.

Carrots

are rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which happens to be an amazing vitamin for skin protection. Carrots are also sweet, so if you suffer from a sweet tooth, carrots can be the answer.

Watermelon

is not just your typical thirst quencher. Loaded with vitamin A, C, and lycopene, this fruit is a powerful antioxidant addition to your summer menu.

Tomatoes

pack a punch when it comes to their content of vitamin C and lycopene, and what is more interesting about these nutrients is that it appears that organic does matter. A USDA study shows that organic ketchup far surpasses the conventional varieties when it comes to the level of lycopene. Go organic!

Cucumbers

are primarily composed of water and contain high amounts of vitamin C and Caffeic acid, which are important for soothing skin irritations and preventing water retention, which may explain why cucumbers applied topically are often helpful for swollen eyes, burns and dermatitis.

The skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium. Want a radiant complexion? The silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone. Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus its high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin. Cucumbers are also used topically for various types of skin problems, including swelling under the eyes and sunburn. So, without question, cucumber gets the vote for one of the best beauty foods you can eat!

Eat a mix of colours and keep your diet local to get the most out of your food and to protect your local environment.


Healing the Gallbladder with Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, the Gallbladder has many important functions. Firstly, it has a very close relationship to the Liver. The Gallbladder is a Yang organ and the Liver is its Yin organ partner. The Gallbladder stores and excretes bile governs decision making and planning, controls the sinews and effects dreams. On a deeper emotional level, the Gallbladder is responsible for our passion for life, inspiration, action, and assertiveness. When we are having problems being assertive, making decisions or following through, are lacking passion, feeling timid or uninspired, we are experiencing an imbalance of the Gallbladder. When the Gallbladder is balanced and its energy is flowing freely, we are happy, healthy, assertive and passionate.

In TCM, organs are categorized as either Yin or Yang. Yin organs are defined as organs that produce, transform, regulate and store fundamental substances, such as Qi, Blood and body fluids, and in general, the Yin organs are not empty cavities. They are function versus form. The Yin organs in TCM are the Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys. The Yang organs are organs that are mainly responsible for digestion and for transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Usually, they are organs with empty cavities and have a connection to the outside of the body. The Yang organs in TCM are the Gallbladder, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Bladder and San Jiao (Triple Burner).

The Gallbladder is unusual in the sense that it is the only Yang organ that does not have direct contact with food and drink or a direct connection to the outside of the body. Because of this, it is also considered an extraordinary organ.

Just as in Western medicine, the Gallbladder receives bile from the Liver which it stores until it is needed in the digestive process. When the Gallbladder releases bile, it is considered to be regulated by the energy of the Liver, or Liver Qi. When digestion is smooth, so is the Liver Qi. The Gallbladder also needs the Liver Qi to be able to release its bile smoothly. If this relationship is impaired, it can adversely affect digestion and cause problems like vomiting, regurgitation, belching and hiccups, which are all symptoms of rebellious Stomach Qi.

It is common in the modern age to see many patients who have had their Gallbladders removed because of gallstones and other problems. In ancient China, the organs were never removed. That has remained the thinking in Traditional Chinese Medicine today, and if a patient is having problems with their Gallbladder, the practitioner of TCM would always explore dietary options, herbs and acupuncture, and possibly cleanses before considering surgery as a last resort.

Why Do So Many People Have Problems With Their Gallbladders?

So, why do so many people have problems with their Gallbladders? It is a good question. I believe that one reason is diet, and the other is stress. These are 2 of the things that affect the gallbladder the most. Another, in Chinese medicine, is the emotions. Each organ in TCM is associated with an emotion. And the Liver/Gallbladder’s emotion is anger. Now, experiencing emotions is a healthy part of life and one of the things that make us human. But in TCM, the philosophy is that having a healthy emotional life is just as important to our health as eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping your Qi strong (your immune system) so that you can fight off pathogens. The effect of anger on the Liver/Gallbladder works 2 ways.

1. If you repress anger, hold it in and never express it, it will eventually hurt the Liver/Gallbladder and cause imbalance, which will lead to disease.

2. If you are experiencing unusual levels of stress because of things going on in your life (a traumatic event, death, an illness, breakup of a relationship), or stress at work, and/or are eating badly (lots of greasy, fatty, rich or spicy foods), then eventually, the Liver/Gallbladder will become impaired and can cause an excess of anger which can manifest in symptoms like red face & eyes, irritability, angry outbursts, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and migraines. These are symptoms of Liver Fire (excess heat in the Liver).

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

So, How Can You Take Care of Your Gallbladder?

Here are some things that you can do to keep your Gallbladder healthy and happy.

1. Avoid Greasy, Fatty, Rich or Spicy Foods

Sharp abdominal pains after eating these types of foods point to Gallbladder stones and other problems. Because the Gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile which helps break down fats, you want to keep intake of these foods to a minimum and not overload your Gallbladder.


Photo by Robin Stickel on Unsplash

2. Express Emotions Freely

This may be easier said than done, but any stagnation or blockage in TCM is what causes disease and pain. This includes emotions, so it is important to have a healthy emotional life, and always try to express what you are feeling instead of allowing it to build up. Emotions specific to Gallbladder are anger (frustration, resentment, etc..) associated with its partner, the Liver. Emotional changes such as depression (which is considered anger turned inward) can also point to a Gallbladder imbalance.

3. Eat Foods Grown Locally and in Season

This is a big one in Chinese Medicine, and, if you look at history, it is the way we are designed to eat. Our digestive systems have evolved to digest the foods that people were able to grow once we were able to leave our nomadic roots and start farming. People only ate foods that were available to them and grew in the present season. With the recent proliferation of air travel, we have been spoiled by being able to have whatever foods we want, any time of the year (strawberries in winter, blueberries in the tropics, mangoes in the far North...). And although this is wonderful, it is not the way our digestive systems were designed, so we are overloading them with too many kinds of foods at all times of the year. To be kind to your gallbladder, try to eat foods that grow locally and are available in the season you are presently in.

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

In Chinese Medicine, nutritional therapy is a huge aspect of the medicine. What better way to heal the body than to use the food that we eat 3 times a day? In TCM, every food has a temperature, that interacts with your body, adding heat, cold, or keeping it neutral. Foods also all have healing properties, so the Chinese felt it very important to eat the proper foods when they became sick to help rebalance them so they could recover. I will include a list of some foods beneficial for the Gallbladder at the end of this article.

4. Exercise. Keep Moving!

The Gallbladder meridian runs bilaterally along the body starting at the outside corner of the eye (at the end of the eyebrow) and runs along the side of the body, ending at the corner of the nail bed of the 4th toe. Therefore, any exercise that stimulates the sides of the body are beneficial for the flow of Qi and to help remove any blockages in the Gallbladder organ and meridian. Side stretches are ideal. There are many Chinese internal as well as external martial arts that are excellent for mind, body, and spirit. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are 2 examples of internal martial arts that are beneficial for moving Qi in all of the meridians, as well as strengthening the body and the mind. Kung Fu is a bit more rigorous, but has an emphasis is circulating Qi throughout the body to maintain physical and mental health. Movement is the most important aspect for keeping your Qi from stagnating, so if Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Kung Fu are a bit more physical activity than you are used to, just simple things like walking are a wonderful way to keep Qi moving.

 

Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

5. Be Kind to Your Gallbladder in Spring

Spring is the season related to the Gallbladder, and its partner the Liver.
The Spring element is wood, the taste, sour and the colour is green. So you can imagine after a lengthy winter, the new bright green shoots of plants breaking through the ground representing new life after a long, cold slumber. This is the reason that it is especially important to give the Gallbladder and the Liver a rest from things like caffeine, alcohol and other intoxicants during this time. It is also beneficial to cleanse these organs by drinking lots of water and eating things like fresh greens to nourish the Gallbladder and Liver, especially in the spring.

6. Know What Time It Is

In Chinese medicine, every organ is seen to have 2 hours out of every 12 where its Qi is at its peak. The time when the Gallbladder’s energy is it's most abundant is between 11pm-1am. During these 2 hours, it is helpful if you can refrain from drinking alcohol or other intoxicants, as they place unnecessary stress on the Gallbladder. It also helps the Gallbladder if you can rest the body as much as possible in these 2 hours.

Foods that are beneficial to the Gallbladder

  • Broccoli
  • Rocket
  • Beetroot
  • Oranges
  • Jasmine tea
  • Green tea
  • Radishes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne (this may seem contradictory, but Cayenne is very moving for qi. Just remember moderation!)
  • Dill
  • Chive
  • Cardamom
  • Lemon
  • Dandelion root
  • Licorice root
  • Cumquat
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Peppermint tea
  • Chrysanthemum tea
  • Tea with orange peel

 

Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash

Foods that hurt the Gallbladder

  • Deep fried food - (Greasy)
  • Alcohol - (Damp)
  • Spicy foods - (remember moderation is important!)
  • Hot foods - Foods that are considered “Hot” in TCM are:
    • Lamb
    • Beef
    • Curry

If you are experiencing any Gallbladder symptoms, or have been told by your doctor that you should consider surgery, I encourage you to seek out a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and explore the non-surgical options to rebalance your body and heal your Gallbladder.

The wonderful thing about Chinese medicine is that it was developed to be a system that focuses on prevention. That is why, it is not only the oldest medical system on earth, but it teaches an entire way of life, teaching how to live in harmony with nature, eating with the seasons, moderation in work and play, exercise and emotional wellness. By practicing these basic principles, Chinese medicine teaches that you can maintain optimum health so that illness never has a chance to develop.

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If you suspect you are having problems with your gallbladder and would like an expert opinion, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers skype consultations. For more information and pricing, see our Skype Consult Page.


Acupuncture for Weight Loss

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

There are so many diets out there and it seems like every doctor, nutritionist and medical professional has a different approach on how to help you lose weight. This can be overwhelming and confusing to the average person trying to find information about how to eat better, exercise and lose excess pounds. I am here to tell you about the Chinese medicine approach.
Nutrition and dietary therapy are a very important aspect of Chinese medicine. The difference with Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it has 4000 years of history to back it up and it belongs to a culture that generally, do not have problems with their weight. China, and indeed much of Asia are cultures of slim people. So, they must be doing something right. The key is that, as a culture, they have a different approach to food and nutrition.
In North America we live in a culture with an excess of food and most importantly, an excess of unnatural foods full of additives and preservatives. Never in human history have we had such an array of chemicals, additives and pesticides in the food we eat. Things like MSG and aspartame – which are both extremely toxic and major causes of disease, are ubiquitous.One of the most important things we can do, and a concept that is integral to Chinese medicine, is to eat REAL FOOD. This may seem ridiculously simple, but it is not that easy to do. It is becoming increasingly confusing for the consumer to know exactly what is in the food we buy and how much it has been modified. Laws about labelling vary from country to country so it is difficult to know what exactly is in the food we are eating.The Chinese have a holistic view of the body, and a very different approach to diet and nutrition than we do in the West. It may seem strange at first, but it has been practiced for thousands of years. They believe that it is not only WHAT you eat, but HOW you eat. Here are some examples:
  1. Being MINDFUL when you eat, that is not dispersing energies by watching tv, working or studying
  2. Sitting while you eat without crossing your legs, as this crosses energy that should flow freely and unhindered
  3. Chewing your food very well
  4. Eat organically and locally
  5. Eat with the seasons
  6. Wearing loose fitting clothing so Qi can flow and not become obstructed

 

preparing food

The Chinese believe that one should eat foods that are locally grown, that is to say foods that are indigenous to where you live. This was certainly easier to do in a time before air travel. We have been spoiled by a variety of foods from all over the world that are available to us at any time of the year. And although many people love to be able to eat things like strawberries all year long, it is not considered healthy according to the TCM model, as this was not the way our digestive systems were designed. Weight has not been a problem in China until the last couple of generations because of the introduction of North American food into the diet. It is not necessarily the variety of foods that have caused this change, but the fact that the foods that many of us eat in the West are overly processed and full of unnatural preservatives that are difficult to metabolize. Foods full of refined sugar, wheat, oils and salt are some of the most unhealthy and a large cause of unnecessary weight gain.

One of the main strengths of Chinese medicine is that it is so individualistic. Because it is a holistic system, each part of the body affecting and influencing the others, there is a real emphasis on individual diagnosis. For example, lets take a headache. In Western medicine if you were to complain of headaches your MD might suggest taking something like Advil or Tylenol, and would probably give pretty much the same advice to most people who came in with that complaint. In Chinese medicine there are over 100 different types of headaches and each one is treated completely differently. It is this way with all diagnostics in TCM. There are many different types of obesity and people struggle with their weight for many different reasons. The reasons can range from physical, psychological, emotional to spiritual. This is why the Chinese medicine approach works so well. Each person is diagnosed as an individual according to their specific issues and treatment is designed specifically for them. When people ask me what I “DO” for people to help them lose weight, I have to say that it is a completely different approach for every person I treat. The reasons for gaining and keeping weight on are individual, so then, must be the treatment.

scale

In my experience, I would say that the most important thing you need if you would like to lose weight is the DESIRE. I cannot tell you how many patients have come into my office and asked me to work my magic and make the pounds disappear. And, flattering as this is, it is simply not possible. What I tell them is that they must WANT to lose the weight. And if they do I will gladly work with them using acupuncture, herbs and nutritional therapy, as well as any other TCM modalities that might help in their particular case, to get the weight off. It is a joint effort and the acupuncturist is there to help and support you through the process. With the desire of the patient, and the skills of the practitioner, acupuncture really works to help you lose weight and get back to health.


Eating With The Seasons: Winter

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese medicine. Yin is the dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This is compared to the Yang of summer whose energy represents light, hot, quick, expansive qualities. The summer weather is warm, the days are longer and people are out being active. In TCM we believe that the diet in winter should be adapted to enriching yin and subduing yang.Many people love winter. They feel energized with the coming cold and love to be out snowboarding, skiing and going for walks in the snow. For others, winter causes them to retract, stay inside and can cause some to feel sad or even depressed because of the lack of light and reduced physical activity. The good news is that winter can be enjoyed by everyone if we live, eat and exercise according to the season and pay attention to our bodies preferences.Winter, in TCM, is associated with the Kidneys which hold our body's most basic and fundamental energy. It is believed that by harmonizing oneself with the seasons you can stay healthier and prevent disease, so winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate in winter. It is also a good time to look inward, reflecting on ourselves with meditation, writing, or other inward practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These practices help us to connect to our inner selves and help to support kidney energy. They are very helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit.There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during the winter season. These foods are the ones that naturally grow in this season - squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, mushrooms, apples, pears and citrus fruits. In winter, our bodies need warming foods like soups made with hearty vegetables, and rich stocks cooked with animal bones are best. Foods that specifically nourish and warm the kidneys are: black beans, kidney beans, broths cooked with bones, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and dark leafy greens. A small amount of unrefined sea salt is also helpful as the taste associated with the kidneys organ is salty, but remember, moderation in all things is important.
chickencongee

The principle of harmony between what we eat and the season is based on hundreds of years of practical experience. It may seem strange, but the fact remains: you are what you eat. The food that we consume has a profound effect on the body, affecting our health and wellbeing. Foods become part of the body after being consumed (internal) and the weather and environment have an effect on us externally. Chinese dietary philosophy suggests that you embrace native foods along with eating locally grown, organic and chemical free foods that grow in season. According to TCM the thing about the modern diet which is the most unhealthy is that we are able to eat foods all year round that may be grown unnaturally with the use of pesticides rather than ones grown naturally for only part of the year. This is the way nature intended us to eat. Eating natural foods that grow in season is what our bodies are designed for and prefer. This is one of the main ways that Chinese Medicine guides us on how to remain healthy all year long.