Eating Out the Chinese Way - The History of Chinese Medicine Nutrition

By John Voigt

One should be mindful of what one consumes to ensure proper growth, reproduction, and development of bones, tendons, ligaments and channels and collaterals [i.e., meridians] This will help generate the smooth flow of qi [life energy] and blood, enabling one to live to a ripe old age. 

From The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Medicine.

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic On Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing), circa second century BCE, is the most important ancient text on Chinese medicine. In it are the concepts of a balanced and complete diet, and probably the world's first dietary guidelines.

The Thermal Nature of Foods - Warming, Cooling & Neutral

Basic concerns are about Han (“cold”) and Re (“hot”) foods. Han foods such as kelp, wheat, vegetables, and pork possibly may cause diarrhea. Re foods such as ginger, pepper, mutton, and unripened guava possibly may cause heartburn or constipation. Wen (“neutral”) foods such as rice, beans, fish, and beef can help to repair the body’s tissues.  Bu (strengthening) foods such as ginseng, deer velvet, and dates may be healing.

Food Relationships in Chinese Medicine - A Holistic Approach

But this is not about one food by itself being good or bad, it’s about the relationships of food.  Chinese dietetics—as most past and present Chinese thought—is based on holistic concepts, not singularity concerns. For example, with the above foods, vegetables (a Han or so-called “cold” food) is usually cooked with some Re (a so-called “hot”) food such as ginger or pepper. That neutralizes or balances out the “cold” [yin] and “hot” [yang] aspects of each food, and helps create something good for you and delicious as well.

Along the same idea of a food gaining its meaning by its relationships to other foods, in classic Chinese cuisine we most often find the “neutral” food (the rice or noodles) along with the main meal (meat or fish), accompanied by various other dishes usually vegetables. For example, The yang of rare beef is balanced by yin of tofu or cool slices of fruit.

The Healing Nature of Foods

The foods need to be prepared in the proper way, vegetables not overcooked, but not raw either; small portions of meat or fish not fried. In The Yellow Emperor’s Classic we find, “Heavy and greasy food causes a change that may result in serious illness.”

Also from that book, from Chapter 81, section 22 we find: Five cereals (such as rice, sesame seeds, soya beans, wheat, millet) provide our basic nourishment. Five fruits (such as dates, plum, chestnut, apricot, peach) add what the cereals lack. Five animals (such as beef, dog meat, pork, mutton, chicken) give certain advantages that animals possess. Five vegetables (such as marrow, chive, bean sprouts, shallot, onion)  provide a wide range of needed substances. If the food tastes and smells good, then eat it to replenish the body’s needs.

These guidelines are approximately two thousand years old, yet amazingly from that time to today most Chinese people followed them whenever they were able to do so. This article will close on how the tradition is being automatically preserved today without the restaurant or their customers knowing what is happening.

Now to make all this simple for the health (and food loving) reader. After all, the many millions of Chinese who go to their favorite restaurants aren’t bring along any of the ancient treatises on dietetics. Nevertheless, the traditional way of ordering and serving food seems to be right on the mark on what the ancient seers taught about food and good health. All over the world you will see this standard pattern in middle and smaller sized Chinese restaurants—(the more larger ones are becoming more geared to tourists and the new Chinese upper classes who eat like their western counterparts).  Not surprisingly such non-traditional diets have been accompanied with an increase in western styled diseases.

Eating - The Chinese Way

Here’s how the “natives” eat, and how you can do the same.

Begin with those tiny bowls of free sweet and sour pickles, or pickled cabbage, or cooked peanuts, etc. that many restaurants just bring you without you asking for them. Something like an appetizer, but not quite; they prime the digestion. Then order several different vegetable dishes. And some rice. Then some fish (usually with the bones included—be careful don't swallow any); or some meat. And finish it all off with a soup. That will help your digestion. Traditionally the final close is making a big burp to show your appreciation to the cooks and servers, and remove any bad qi—but you might because of western propriety leave out that final gesture—(or is it better described as a bodily function noise?).

That’s it. Now go enjoy such a standard traditional and healthy meal.  Best done in a large group of friends and family with chopsticks.

Postscript: For more about the proper kinds of food for health from both an eastern and western point of view, see my “Color Dietetics – With a Poster to Hang on the Wall. https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/blog/color-dietetics-poster-hang-wall/

Sources and Further Information

Ho Zhi-chien. “Principles of Diet Therapy in Ancient Chinese Medicine: ‘Huang Di Nei Jing.”  http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/apjcn/2/2/91.pdf

Sun Simiao on Dietetics in the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine Journal (Autumn 2013, vol. 10, no. 2). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/537fb379e4b0fe1778d0f178/t/5399d890e4b0bcfc5d028d47/1402591376077/Sunsimiao+on+dietetics.pdf

“Chinese food therapy.” Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_food_therapy

Some Other Interesting Info (Nerd Facts)...

Sun Simiao (581-682) who was known as “The King of Medicine” - (one of is greatest credentials is that he lived to be 101 years old) - taught that the prevention of disease should come before any medical treatment. However, if treatment was required, he believed that dietary concerns should never be neglected. He wrote, “Proper food is able to expel evil and secure the zang and fu organs [the viscera] to please the spirit and clear the will, by supplying blood and qi. If you are able to use food to stabilize chronic disease, release emotions, and chase away disease, you can call yourself an outstanding artisan. This is the special method of lengthening the years and “eating for old age,” and the utmost art of nurturing life. Sun Simiao,  known as the “King of Medicine,” (581-682). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/537fb379e4b0fe1778d0f178/t/5399d890e4b0bcfc5d028d47/1402591376077/Sunsimiao+on+dietetics.pdf

.  . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Image Credits

The featured image photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Vegetable photo by David Vázquez on Unsplash

Bok Choy photo by Jodie Morgan on Unsplash

Soup photo by Elli O. on Unsplash


Steamed Eggplant - Cancer Fighting Recipe

By VIcky Chan of NourishU

Cancer

Cancer is a sickness that is highly preventable but only treatable at the early stage. When the damages are too widespread, there is no medicine in the world that can cure cancer. Surgical removal of malignant parts from the body is just like cutting off the tips of the iceberg. If the underlying condition remains unchanged, cancer will just find other weaker areas to pop up. The only possibility to eradicate cancer is to completely change the underlying condition to one that is so hostile that cancer cells can no longer exist.

Oxygen Deficiency

Oxygen deficiency is one known cause of cancer. When the human body is supplied with abundant amounts of oxygen, all cancer cells, viruses, harmful bacteria, toxins, pathogens and disease microorganisms are killed because they cannot survive in a high-oxygen environment. People who do not exercise are more likely to have oxygen deficiency. Extensive research done in the last decade have proven that our diet have a profound effect on whether we will have cancer or not. A high sugar  and highly acidic diet from meat are known to breed cancer. A melancholy mind provokes an increase of stress hormone - cortisol, which has been directly associated with the worsening of cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is also found to breed cancer. A large-scale controlled study have found that vitamin D can cut overall cancer risk by as much as 60 percent

Prevention

Good habits of health such as avoiding smoking and drinking, avoiding fatty or deep fried food, over burnt meats, preserved foods, spicy and highly processed food, and eating smaller meals to avoid over eating are the basic prerequisites for good health. Eating a diet of at least 50% of vegetables, beans and seeds for rich nutrients, minerals, fiber and antioxidants is vital in preventing cancer. A healthy gut with good bacteria can help the immune system to fight and break down carcinogens and turn them into nutrients and harmless molecules.

Acidic Cancer Forming Foods

The acidic cancer forming foods are sugar, milk, meat and caffeine. Chicken in particular should be eliminated from the diet of cancer patients because it benefits cancer growth. For patients receiving chemotherapy and suffering from destructive side effects, eating fresh and rejuvenating plant-based diet is important to clear out toxic materials. Taking one to two glasses of fresh vegetable juice daily is best to get plenty of anti-oxidants. People taking one glass of fresh organic potato juice before meal for up to three months have shown promising result in fighting cancer. Reducing salt in food is necessary to lower the burden on the kidney, heart and liver so that the body has more energy to fight cancer.

Alkaline pH Balance

This helpful image from tes.com

Maintaining the body in alkaline pH balance is needed to prevent and stop cancer growth . Seaweed and kelp are high alkaline foods and should be taken regularly. Eat fresh mushrooms, organic brown rice, egg, fish, tofu, soy beans, yogurt and some lean pork for balanced nutrition to improve immune function and overall health. Don't forget to add plenty of lemon  (highly alkaline) to your food to prevent cancer.

Anti-Cancer Conditions

Besides diet and lifestyles, it is important to control stress. Life is a series of choices and being free from stress is one of those choices that is under our control. Exercise can help to relax the body and mind, lower stress and promote good sleep. Sleeping is vital for the body to repair, recover and rejuvenate itself. Getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure is also vital in preventing and fighting cancer. When we take good care of our health, we can promote an internal condition that is not suitable for cancer cells to survive or grow.

TCM Treatments

Chinese medicine can only play the role of complementary treatment for advance cases in lessening the side effects of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, controlling pain and helping to strengthen the immune system. Chinese Medicine finds cancer as coagulation of toxic energy in our body which is causing obstruction to the normal flow of blood and qi, therefore causing tumor growth. There are four vital areas in our body where toxic energy can accumulate: the upper body around the lungs – the upper burner, the middle body around the abdomen – the middle burner, the lower body around the kidney – the lower burner and the back of our body behind the lungs – the outer burner. It is important to keep qi circulating freely in these areas to prevent sickness and cancer. Qi-kung and tai-chi use deep breathing exercise to move energy and blood around the body. Herbs such as dandelion, astragalus and pubescentis are commonly used to promote the circulation of qi.

Food Treatment

In Chinese food treatment, a well-balanced diet to promote the health of the vital organs and the normal production of body fluids are deemed as most important. Any deficiency or abnormality in body fluid level can trigger abnormal cell development and tumor growth. Blood and qi tonic, kidney tonic, antioxidant foods, foods to promote blood circulation, diuretic foods to expel dampness and blood clots are all commonly used to treat cancer.

Steamed Eggplant - Cancer Fighting Recipe

Chinese Eggplant

Symptoms

High Blood Pressure / High Cholesterol / Hardened Arteries / Gout Pain / Tumors

Therapeutic Effects

Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, soften arteries, alleviates gout pain, anti-tumor growth.

Ingredients

  • Chinese Eggplants – 2
  • Minced ginger – 1 spoonful
  • Vinegar – 1 spoonful
  • Sesame oil – 1 spoonful
  • Soy sauce – half spoonful

Directions

1.   Rinse and cut eggplant into finger-like pieces and put in cold water with one spoonful of salt to soak for 10 minutes. Remove and drain.

2.   Put eggplant on a plate and steam for 15 minutes.

3.   Remove from heat and mix in the above seasoning to serve.

Usage

No restrictions.


Immune Boosting Recipe - Winter Vegetable & Mushroom Soup

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Recipes That Improve the Immune System

Health preservation and sickness prevention are the main themes in Chinese medicine and strengthening the immune system is the key in achieving these objectives. When the immune system is healthy, it can counteract adverse effects and prevent the development of sickness. It can also enable self-healing and lessen the impact from invading elements.

It has been known for many decades that sugar depresses the immune system. It was only in the 70s that they found out that vitamin C was needed by white blood cells so that they could phagocytize bacteria and viruses. White blood cells require a fifty times higher concentration, at least inside the cell as outside, so they have to accumulate vitamin C. Vitamin C and glucose have similar chemical structure and they compete for one another upon entering the cells. If there is more glucose around then less vitamin C will be allowed into the cell. Therefore, a low sugar diet is absolutely necessary to enable more vitamin C to get into the cells and increase immune function.

Following a diet rich in antioxidants is also essential to support good immune function. Abundant in many fruits and vegetables, antioxidants combat free radicals which can damage DNA and suppress the immune system. Choosing healthy omega-3 fatty acids available in oily fish and flax seeds over saturated fats found in meat and dairy products can help increasing your immune functions.

Foods for Boosting the Immune System

Eggs

Egg yolks are loaded with choline, which is proven to help combat breast cancer.

Green Tea

Green tea can slow down the growth of cancer cell. Drink green tea after each meal can kill germs growth in mouth and can increase elasticity of arteries.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are loaded with antioxidants, riboflavin, selenium and other nutrients that keep the immune system healthy, they also help stave off cancer and prevent cancer growth. Wood-ear mushroom has blood thinning effects similar to aspirin which can prevent blood clots without the side effects

Korean Ginseng

Korean ginseng can prevent cancer, calm nerves and treat neural disorders, treat low blood pressure, anemia, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and skin disease.

Cooked tomato

Cooked tomatoes have been proven to prevent uterus, prostate, bladder and pancreatic cancer. Tangerine tomatoes are a little-known species, distinctive for their orange color. They have a better form of lycopene which is particularly effective in fighting breast, prostate, ovarian, cervical and colon cancer. Cooked tomatoes also can treat and prevent cataracts, muscular degeneration, diabetes, and more.

Garlic

It is the most inexpensive common food that can give your immune system a boost. Add a couple of spoonfuls of minced garlic to your steamed rice or fried rice, or to your daily meal and it will help your body to prevent colds, fight viruses and kill bacteria.

Water

Drinking plenty of water and steering clear of sugary beverages, like soda and energy drinks, also help fend off infection by flushing out your system.

Herbs

Many tonic herbs have superior properties that have long been known to enhance the immunity of the body. Mushroom, ginseng, ling-zhi, cordyceps, Chinese yam, dang-shen, astragalus and many of the common herbs are part of the Chinese diet to boost the immune system.

Winter Vegetable & Mushroom Soup

this lovely image from walesonline.co.uk

Therapeutic Effects

Strengthens the body constitution, improves energy and body resistance, promotes general health and strengthens the immune system.

Ingredients

  • Button mushrooms - half cup
  • Onion - 1 large (finely chopped)
  • Garlic cloves - 4 (minced)
  • Carrot - 1 large (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • Parsnip - 1 large (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • Green cabbage - 1 small head (shredded)
  • Olive oil - 2 tablespoons

this beautiful image from naplesherald.com

Directions

1.   Heat oil in large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté at least 5 minutes or until onion is golden. Add carrot and parsnip and sauté 5 minutes or until carrot is crisp-tender.

2.   Stir in cabbage and cook, covered, 5 minutes or until beginning to wilt. Stir in 3 cups water, mushrooms and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 25 minutes or until mushroom and winter vegetable soup is richly flavoured.

this delicious image from epicurious.com

 

Usage

No restrictions.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Winter Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Winter Season in Chinese Medicine.

Delicious featured image photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash


Eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

It has become clear in recent years that chronic inflammation is the cause of many devastating diseases including arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and cancer. Research has found that eating a diet high in anti inflammatory foods not only protects against disease, but speeds the metabolism and actually slows the aging process. Inflammation is the body's healing response, which sends a signal to direct more blood, nourishment and immune response to an area of injury or infection. Chronic infection however, is destructive to the body and can lead to disease. Inflammation can come from many sources; toxins in the environment, sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise, stress and emotional toxicity, genetics and most importantly, what we eat. Because the diet is so powerful when it comes to both harming and healing the body, below are some of the ways that we can all eat in a way that combats inflammation. Food therapy is a huge component of Chinese medicine, and what we eat is one of the easiest and most powerful ways that we can use to stay healthy now and long into the future.

One way to use food as medicine is to make sure that we are eating food that is as fresh and chemical free as possible. That means eating organic whenever possible to avoid pesticides and unnatural genetically modified foods that our bodies are not designed to consume. It is always best to eat fresh, local foods that are minimally processed to get the most benefits for your mind and body. The following foods are some of the best for fighting inflammation.

Steamed Vegetables

steamed veggies for inflammation : Chinese Medicine Livingthis image from thedailytea.com

There are many ways to cook vegetables, but steaming is one of the best because it improves the availability of nutrients helping us to absorb more of them as well as allowing the mucosa in the GI tract to repair itself. Use minimal raw foods (which are considered "cold" in Chinese medicine) except for occasional salads in warmer months to help keep you cool. Vegetables provide important flavonoids and carotenoids which have antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. Excellent vegetables for inflammation include eggplant, okra, onions, purple cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and red peppers. You can add anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric and ginger to make those veggies even more delicious and enhance their anti-inflammatory effect. Eat 5-6 servings a day minimum. One serving is equal to 2 cups of salad greens, 1/2 cup of cooked, raw or juiced veggies.

Grains

Grains for inflammation : Chinese Medicine Livingthis lovely image from spoonuniversity.com

You can eat one to two cups of whole grains per day. The best for inflammation are barley and oatmeal. Be sure to consume high amounts of fiber as it contains naturally occurring anti inflammatory phytonutrients. Other grains that are good for inflammation include basmati, brown or wild rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and rye. Rice crackers and wasa crackers are another grain food that you can eat with spreads like guacamole and hummus (excellent anti inflammatory fats!). Grains digest slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stable thus helping to combat inflammation. 3-5 servings a day. One serving is equal to 1/2 cup cooked grains.

Nuts & Seeds

nuts and seeds for inflammation : Chinese medicine Livingthis lovely image from thedolcediet.com

Nuts and seeds are a great food as they are so portable. You can carry with you raw, unsalted almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Flax and chia seeds are a great thing to add to smoothies or salads. Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews and walnuts are also packed with anti inflammatory properties. Nuts and seeds are whole foods, and really pack a punch when it comes to inflammation because they offer healthy fats, fiber, protein and vitamin E. Nuts and seeds contain either monounsaturated or omega-3 fats which help to reduce inflammation. 5-7 servings a day with one serving equal to 1 teaspoon of oil, or about 2 walnuts.

Legumes

legumes for inflammation : Chinese Medicine Livingthis pretty image from justhospitality.co.uk

Split peas, lentils, pinto beans, mung beans, chick peas, black beans and adzuki beans are great for inflammation. They are packed with folic acid, magnesium and potassium as well as soluble fiber. They also have a low glycemic index which makes them great for anyone concerned about high blood sugar. Make sure to eat legumes well cooked, as they can be hard to digest. A good way to consume them is pureed in spreads like hummus. 1-2 servings per day with one serving being equal to 1/2 cup of cooked legumes.

Fish

Anti-inflammatory foods : Chinese Medicine Livingthis pretty image from crystalcoveseafood.com

Because much of the earth's lakes and oceans are now polluted, it is best to eat deep sea fish, and smaller fish with less time to accumulate toxins. Fresh caught fish is preferable to farmed fish. The best choices are salmon, halibut, black cod, herring, sardines and mackerel. Fish should be poached, baked, steamed or broiled. Fish contain omega 3 fats which are a powerful anti inflammatory for the entire body, and particularly the brain. Recent research has also proven that the omega 3 fats in fish oils can protect the elderly brain, with the ability to maintain optimal brain function for longer than for people who don't eat fish or supplement with omega 3 fats. You want to have between 2-6 servings per week, with one serving being equal to 4 ounces.

Chicken & Turkey

the anti inflammation diet : Chinese Medicine Livingthis lovely image from finecooking.com

Most people eat a diet high in animal foods, which can lead to health issues. Remember moderation in all things! Meats also, because of the huge demand and factory farming contain hormones and other drugs that you are also consuming when you eat the animal. Another thing to consider, and Chinese medicine believes this, is if the animal is raised in terrible conditions and has lived an unhappy life, you are eating that energy as well. Best to reduce animal products, and choose grass fed, organic meats from happy animals. If you are lucky enough to live near a farm where you can develop a relationship with the farmer and ensure that the animals are both healthy and happy, all the better. For those of us who cannot, best to stick to grass fed, organic meats, and organic, cage free chickens and eggs. Remove skin from chicken and turkey (to avoid excess fats). Chicken and turkey should be baked, broiled or steamed. 1-2 servings per week, one serving being equal to 3 ounces of cooked chicken or turkey.

Fruit

Fruit for inflammation : Chinese Medicine Livingthis pretty image from medicalnewstoday.com

Fruits are a wonderful source of antioxidants and are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids. Try to eat the rainbow with lots of variety while eating fruits that are in season, fresh if possible, or frozen. Always buy organic if possible as fruits tend to be grown using a lot of pesticides. Fruits yield a ton of health benefits as well as being highly anti inflammatory. The best choices for their anti inflammatory properties are raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, nectarines, peaches, red grapes, pink grapefruit, pomegranates, plums, cherries, apples and pears. Eat 3-4 servings per day with one serving being equal to one medium sized piece of fruit.

Butter & Oils

Foods to fight inflammation : Chinese Medicine Livingthis lovely image from radiantlifecatalogue.com

When using butter, try mixing one pound of butter with one cup of extra virgin olive oil. Whip it at room temperature and store in the refrigerator. This mix provides the benefits and taste of butter and the essential fats found in olive oil. When using oil for cooking, try to use extra virgin olive oil. On salads try organic, expeller pressed sunflower or safflower oils, as well as walnut and hazelnut oils for a different flavour. Try not to heat the oil, but add it after foods are already cooked. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants.

Spices

Anti-inflammatory foods : Chinese Medicine Livingthis pretty image from ubizarre.com

Spices add flavour to the foods we eat, and some spices are loaded with anti inflammatory properties like turmeric and ginger. Some others are curry (which includes turmeric), parsley, savory, cardamom, garlic, chili peppers, thyme, rosemary, basil and cinnamon. You may use unlimited amounts of spices to add to any dish. Be creative, the right combination makes any meal even more delicious!

Herbal Teas & Water

Anti-inflammatory foods : Chinese Medicine Livingthis beautiful image from americanpregnancy

Everyone knows the importance of staying hydrated, so a minimum of 8 cups of clean, filtered (reverse osmosis filtered if possible) water a day is recommended to stay healthy and combat inflammation. Drink it at room temperature or warmed if you prefer, but do not add ice or drink it cold out of the fridge (this is very hard on your spleen!). A glass of lemon water in the morning is an excellent way to detox your body before you start your day. Drink herbal teas, preferably in the evening and sip them slowly. It is best not to drink with meals as it dilutes stomach acid and hinders efficient digesting. Tea is high in a compound called catechin, which reduces inflammation. Drink herbal teas 2-4 times per day. The best choices are high quality oolong, green and white teas. Research how to brew each type for maximum flavour and health benefits.

Eating in a healthy, balanced way is one of the best and easiest ways that we can not only combat inflammation, but maintain overall health. Other factors like managing stress and regular exercise are important for avoiding inflammation. Chinese medicine says balance in all things which it seems is getting harder and harder to do with lives that are increasingly complex and hectic. Remember to chew food well and always take time to eat, trying to just focus on eating rather than doing many things at the same time. This is difficult in a culture that values multitasking, but being mindful and focussing on eating is a way that we can help the digestion to be more efficient and process our food more thoroughly. There are many foods you can add to your diet to reduce inflammation and stay healthy and happy, right now and well into the future.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

 


Curing Disease with Nutrition - Using Food as Medicine

Nutrition and dietary therapy is an essential aspect of Chinese medicine. The Chinese have known for thousands of years the direct correlation between what we eat and our health. Even before the development of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, foods were used by traditional peoples to heal diseases and build immunity.

The Chinese medicine model of nutritional therapy, or using foods as medicine, is sophisticated and there are many factors that contribute to determining what to eat when trying to heal from certain diseases or imbalances. Below, I will attempt to explain some of those factors and the way they can be used to not only heal us when we are sick but to keep up healthy so sickness never has a chance to develop.

Fighting Disease with Nutrition

Whole Foods

One of the things we’ve lost in our modern society is access to whole foods (not the grocery store) and an understanding of their value. We now live in a culture where refined foods such as white rice, white sugar, salts and processed oils (many extracted with chemical solvents) are ubiquitous and more desirable than their whole-grain counterparts. What’s worse is that stores make these processed foods readily available to meet demand and whole foods become harder and harder to find. In many larger cities, there may be access to health food stores, but even there, you’ll find scores of packaged foods with the same highly processed ingredients. Many people don’t realize that it is just as important to read labels in a health food store as it is anywhere else. Some of the worst offenders are foods sweetened with cane sugar. As an example, many products labelled organic use white sugar and various organic cane juices and cane juice powders – which are actually refined sugar. If you are striving for less processed foods in your diet, you should be looking for products that are specifically labelled unrefined. Alternatives to processed sugars include unrefined cane juice or powder, barley malt, rice syrup, date sugar or whole green stevia powder or green stevia extract.

Another unhealthy product which is difficult to metabolize and detrimental to our health is refined oils. Often these are labelled with words like “organic” or “expeller-pressed” which are both desirable, but again, unless they are specifically labelled unrefined they are refined and best avoided.  Refined oils and fats include canola oil, vegetable oils, margarine, shortening, virtually all oils used in restaurants, nearly all oils used in prepared foods in both supermarkets and health food stores and in things like bread, pastries, chips, and soups. The healthy alternative is unrefined cold-pressed flax oil, unrefined olive oil, unrefined sesame oil, and all other quality, unrefined and cold-pressed oils. Below is a chart of the refined foods found in supermarkets and some healthy alternatives.

refined sugar is bad for your health

Refined, Unhealthy Food

  • white sugar
  • cane juice
  • dried cane juice (often used in the health food industry)
  • cane sugar
  • *all above items should be labelled “unrefined” on labels or they are refined

Healthy Alternative

  • *unrefined cane juice or powder
  • barley malt
  • rice syrup
  • date sugar
  • whole green stevia powder
  • green stevia extract

unrefined oils are bad for your health

Refined Oils & Fats

  • canola oil
  • common vegetable oils
  • margarine
  • shortening
  • virtually all oils used in restaurants in fried and deep-fried foods
  • nearly all oils used in prepared foods sold in supermarkets and health food stores like pastries, cookies, chips, bread and soups

Healthy Alternative

  • unrefined and cold-pressed flax oil
  • unrefined olive oil
  • unrefined sesame oil

eating for health - Chinese medicine nutrition

The Thermal Nature of Foods and People

In Chinese medicine, all foods are seen to have a temperature, either hot or cold. Although this may seem overly simplistic, their actions on the body come from thousands of years of observation and empirical evidence and therefore have incredible diagnostic value in treating disease. What is also significant, however, is the thermal temperature of the person eating the foods as there is an important interaction which allows foods to be used to heal disease. There are some theories that help to explain the warming and cooling properties of foods.

  • Plants that take longer to grow, like cabbage, rutabaga, parsnip, carrot, and ginseng, are more warming than foods that grow more quickly like lettuce, cucumber, radish and summer squash.
  • Foods that are fertilized with chemicals, which causes them to grow more quickly are considered more cooling in nature. This includes most commercial fruits and vegetables
  • Raw food is more cooling than cooked food
  • Foods that are blue, green or purple in colour are often cooler than similar foods that are red, orange or yellow
  • Cooking foods at a lower heat for a longer time are considered more warming than foods that are cooked for a short time using high heat
  • Processes like fermenting and sprouting cause foods to be cooler in temperature

Of all the ways we manipulate foods, the most important is the method of cooking. This is why it is important to understand the ways in which different methods of cooking can change the thermal temperature of the foods we eat, especially when we are eating to help us fight disease. Cooking foods (as opposed to eating them raw) is a way for it to be more easily broken down and assimilated, and if the cooking time is short, few nutrients are lost and the ones that remain are more easily used by the body.

Heat Patterns

Imbalances in the body are what cause disease in Chinese medicine. Too much heat can be caused by too many heating foods or not enough cooling foods. It can also be caused by excessive physical activity, a high level of stress, long-standing or intense anger (the Liver is prone to heat and its emotion is anger), or being exposed to extreme temperatures. Below are some symptoms of heat in the body.

  • feeling of heat
  • dislikes heat
  • bright red tongue with a thick yellow coating
  • red face
  • red eyes
  • nosebleeds
  • canker sores
  • bad taste in the mouth
  • high blood pressure
  • haemorrhage
  • convulsions
  • delirium
  • very fast pulse
  • local inflammations, swellings, rashes, sores or skin eruptions
  • constipation (heat dries up fluids)
  • dry and smelly stools
  • dark yellow and scanty urine
  • blood in the stools or urine
  • desire to drink cold liquids
  • if stools or urine are excreted forcefully or urgently or have mucus that is yellow or green

watermelon is good in summer

Cooling Foods

One of the best things that we can do when we have excess heat in the body is to eat more cooling foods. Some other things that will help are to take it easy and slow down. Also, expressing emotions like anger and frustration as if these are continually unexpressed they cause heat to build up in the body which can lead to problems. Also, meat is considered very heating to the body, so if you are experiencing a lot of heat, you might try cutting back on meat and adding more cold foods to the diet to balance things out. Below is a list of cooling foods.

  • apples
  • bananas
  • pears
  • watermelon
  • all citrus fruits
  • lettuce
  • cucumber
  • celery
  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • summer squash
  • spinach
  • eggplant
  • soy milk
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • alfalfa sprouts
  • barley
  • wheat
  • amaranth
  • kelp and all seaweeds
  • clams
  • crab
  • spirulina
  • peppermint
  • cilantro
  • lemon balm

Lemons Cooling Foods

Cold Patterns

Too much cold in the body can come from a lack of physical activity, exposure to a cold environment or eating too many cooling foods such as raw foods which are considered cold. Internal cold can also arise from not eating enough warming foods, especially in the colder months. Below are some signs and symptoms of cold in the body.

chilly sensations
dislike of cold
wanting to drink warm foods and liquids
copious, clear urine
stiffness
watery, loose diarrhoea
fearfulness (the Kidney is associated with fear and is particularly susceptible to cold)
pain that is fixed
white complexion
a runny nose

cold

Heating Foods

  • Mussels
  • Shrimps
  • Chicken
  • Chicken Livers
  • Lamb
  • Lamb Kidney
  • Beef
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Black Beans
  • Almonds
  • Coconut
  • Peanuts
  • Pine Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Kale
  • Mustard Greens
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Cherry

heart fruits and vegetables

Food therapy in Chinese medicine is complex, but looking at how people and foods are seen to have a thermal nature is a simple way to begin to look at your body, its symptoms and the foods you eat so that you can begin to understand how you are reacting to certain foods, and potentially, how to add and subtract certain foods from your diet depending on the symptoms you are experiencing in an attempt to rebalance and stay healthy.

Food is something we eat every day and the Chinese knew this was (and still is) the best medicine we have at our disposal. Learning how foods can heal us and keep us in balance is the best and most efficient way that we can fight off disease and stay healthy for many years to come. And the Chinese weren’t the only ones who knew the value of eating well…

 

Hippocrates

If you are having health concerns and would like assistance, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers Skype consultations.
Please email info@chinesemedicineliving.com for more info.


Love Your Spleen.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Helpful tips - How to Keep Your Spleen Strong According to Chinese Medicine.

One of the most common things I see in my practice is problems with digestion. Interestingly, this isn’t usually the reason that people come to see me, but when I am going through their medical history, it usually comes up. The sad thing is that most people live with digestive problems when in Chinese Medicine they are relatively easy to fix with a little treatment, nutritional counselling and some tips on how to help support and strengthen our digestions.

Now, a lot of people think of the spleen as in the western medicine spleen, part of the immune system and responsible for the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and removal of old red blood cells. It is not the same as it is in Chinese Medicine. The spleen in Chinese Medicine is paired with the Stomach, and both are the main organs of digestion for the body. The difference is that they not only digest food but also stimulus and information - everything that comes into the body through our sense organs.

What you learn your first year in Acupuncture school when learning Chinese Medicine theory, is that we live in a Spleen deficient culture. We are constantly taking in information, and that information has to be processed by, you guessed it, the Spleen. We eat in front of the TV (taking in food, and stimulus at the same time), we are constantly looking at our mobile devices on the road and wherever we go, and we are always multitasking. Never doing just one thing at a time. And thus, we are overloading our poor Spleens.

So, what can we do? There are lots of things that, once you are aware of them, can help take the burden off your Spleen.

Don’t Put Ice In Your Drinks. Avoid Cold Foods.

The Spleen hates cold, so one easy way to help your Spleen is to avoid ice in your drinks. Because the Spleen is responsible for breaking down your food through the process of digestion, and this is powered by heat. Eating and drinking cold foods such as icy drinks, eating ice cream (a TCM nono!), or eating a lot of frozen or very cold foods (many foods in raw form are considered “cold”) taxes the Spleens energy, as it has to heat up again to be able to do the work necessary for digestion.

Be Mindful.

This is not just good advice for helping your Spleen, but a good life philosophy. One of the best things you can do for your Spleen is to do one thing at a time and be absolutely mindful when you do it. This means when you are eating, JUST EAT. Don’t sit in front of the TV, read, study or catch up on work. In such a fast-paced world where everyone is short on time, it is understandable that people are always doing many things at once, but this small thing will not only help your Spleen, it will relax your mind and body as well.

Chew Your Food.

We can all help our Spleens by making sure that we really chew our food well. We tend to all be in such a hurry that we do not chew our food nearly as well as we should. Chewing will help the breakdown of the foods before they get to the stomach, making the Spleens job a little easier.

Eat Soups.

Since most of us have at least some Spleen deficiency, one of the best things you can do to be kind to your Spleen is to eat soups. These are warming (the longer and slower they are cooked, the more warming they become) and they are very easy to digest which is why they are prescribed to you when you are sick - your body requires less energy to digest them, focussing its energies to fighting pathogens and getting you well. Soups do not take a lot of energy to digest, saving the Spleens energy for other things. There are many foods that are beneficial to the Spleen which I will list later in the article. I will also list foods that the Spleen is not so fond of so you can at least be aware of what they are and avoid them when you can.

Take A Break.

Because we live in a culture that is so bombarded by stimulus, most people have deficient Spleens. The Spleen must take in and process ALL that information, including the food we eat and liquids we drink, so you can imagine, it is a very hard-working organ. Something that you can do to give your Spleen a break, is to literally, take a break. Go for a walk outside. Leave your phone at home. Sit somewhere quiet and meditate away from the TV, the phone and try to avoid interruptions. Doing this even once a day for a few minutes will really help the Spleen and you will notice a big difference in how you feel. You will notice that you are calmer, more aware and feel more at peace. And your Spleen will love you.

The Spleens Functions in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen is responsible for many functions so that if you have symptoms in any of these areas, they point to a disharmony of the Spleen.

The Spleen Controls Blood

The Spleen is responsible for manufacturing the Blood and the Spleen Qi keeps it in the vessels. If Spleen Qi is weak, a person will bruise easily, and/or will have problems with bleeding.

The Spleen Controls The Muscles And The Four Limbs

The Spleen is responsible for circulating nutrients to the muscles and tissues. If the Spleen is weak, then the muscles and limbs are not nourished and become weak and tired.

The Spleen Is Responsible For Transformation & Transportation

The Spleen is responsible for the intake, processing and distribution of nutrients extracted from food and drink. The Spleen takes these nutrients and creates Qi and Blood, both vital substances for all the body’s functions and maintaining proper health. If transformation and transportation is functioning properly, the Qi is strong, digestion is smooth and the body is kept moist. When malfunctioning, the Qi is weak (lassitude and lethargy), the appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish and the stools are loose and watery.

The Spleen Opens Into The Mouth & Manifests In The Lips

Chewing is necessary for the functioning of the Spleen and if the Spleen is deficient, the sense of taste may be dulled. Red, moist and vibrant lips indicate a healthy Spleen. If the Spleen is deficient however, the lips will be pale from lack of nourishment.

Controls The Upright Qi

The Spleen is responsible for the body’s “holding” function. This is called the upright Qi. It is specifically the force that counteracts gravity when it comes to holding things, specifically the organs, in place. This is very important! Without healthy upright Qi, all of our organs would be at the bottom of our abdomen! When the Spleen is weak, we see prolapse of organs (uterus, bladder, stomach), prolapse of the vagina as well as things like haemorrhoids (prolapse of the anus, PLUS bleeding also attributed to the Spleen).

Houses Thought

Every organ in TCM is seen to have its own unique Spirit, and the Spirit of the Spleen is called the Yi. The Spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking. How well we manage our thoughts, concentrate, exercise discernment and form intentions is dependent on the strength of the Spleen.

Worry - The Emotion of the Spleen

All organs in TCM also are associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the Spleen is worry and overthinking. This works in two ways. Excessive worry will damage the Spleen Qi, and a deficient Spleen can weaken the mind and our capacity to think clearly and focus, leaving us susceptible to worry.

Foods Beneficial For The Spleen

  • Organic lightly cooked vegetables, corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, radish, caper
  • Brown rice, barley, amaranth, rye, oats
  • Legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils
  • Small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • Small amount of whole fruits, lemon
  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed, kelp
  • Green tea, jasmine tea, raspberry leaf tea, chai tea
  • Raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry
  • Walnut, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Lamb, venison
  • Lobster, mussels, prawns, shrimp, trout
  • Black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, cayenne, nutmeg

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, breads
  • Cold raw foods
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Coffee, alcohol
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Bananas, avocado

When the Spleen is functioning well a person will feel energetic, their digestion will be smooth, their bowel movements will be regular and firm (not soft), thoughts will be clear and one will be able to concentrate.

When the Spleen is imbalanced there will be symptoms of digestive upset, loose stools, poor appetite, low energy, oedema (water retention), nausea, vomiting, weakness in the four limbs, pale lips, organ prolapse, bruising and a feeling of cold.

Because most of us have some level of Spleen deficiency, we can all help our Spleens by being aware of simple things we can all do to take some of the pressure off of this important organ. Your Spleen will love you for it.

 

Download Our Sheets - The Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Are You A Practitioner?

Please visit the Chinese Medicine Professionals Shop to get PRO sheets for your clinic that you can share with patients. Yay!