The Chinese Medicine Approach To Nutrition
Chinese medicine offers many health benefits in the kitchen, so I am excited to share this post on nutrition by Dr. Violet Song. Dr. Song is an acupuncturist and member of the faculty at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, in Austin Texas, one of the leading TCM schools in the U.S..
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) takes a holistic approach to nutrition. Chinese Medicine tells us to listen to what your body is asking for and not to subscribe to advertisements or trendy diets. Put simply – Eat what you need.
The big question is how do you know the difference in what you need and what you crave?
There are many unique body types according to traditional Chinese medicine. This isn’t the same as eating right for your blood type (possibly another trend). Simply put, what may be healthy for your friend may not really be the best nutrition for your body or your digestion.
Take fiber as an example: people suffering from constipation need to eat lots of green leafy vegetables. But too much fiber would not be good for someone who has loose stools or even worse, suffers from something like ulcerative colitis, or bloody stools. See recommendations for colitis below.
So, how can you find out what your body type is? Do you run cold or hot? Do you have a tendency towards constipation or loose stools? Are you overweight or underweight? These are a few of the factors in defining your unique body type or constitution. It is recommended to contact a licensed acupuncturist for a consultation.
What Foods Do I Need?
How can you find out what types of foods are best for you? Through a comprehensive medical history questionnaire, tongue and pulse diagnosis, TCM practitioners determine a specific Chinese medicine pattern for each person in order to make a unique treatment plan and dietary recommendations.
For instance, many hypertension cases have a pattern a TCM practitioner would call hyperactive Liver yang. Suggested foods would be those that help to clear heat and reduce hyperactive yang. Someone with high blood pressure (caused by hyperactive Liver yang) would do well to drink a cup of juice made from fresh celery and tomato every morning. Of course, there are many other food recommendations for hypertension.
Healing with Whole Foods
Many practitioners of Chinese medicine would agree that Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods is considered the bible of TCM nutrition and use it as a resource. You can look up the properties of specific foods along with recipes for the foods. The book also addresses seasonal and environmental connections according the TCM philosophy, organ systems, disease syndromes, and recommendations for chronic imbalances.
Here’s an excerpt from the book about colitis and enteritis:
These inflammations of the colon and small intestine can be generated by emotional repression and the related energy stagnation of the liver…Typical symptoms of intestinal inflammation include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding in severe cases. Because food is not being properly absorbed, there is often weight loss and weakness.
In intestinal inflammations of all types, chewing food well breaks it down better so that it is less irritating, stimulates proper pancreatic secretion, and provides well-insalivated complex carbohydrates which as like a healing salve on the intestinal coating. Raw food is not tolerated because it easily irritates delicate surfaces of inflamed intestines. Many of the symptoms of enteritis and colitis can be caused by dairy intolerances, which are sometimes merely intolerances to the poor quality of the dairy products used.
Dairy recommendations from Paul Pitchford’s Book
Full fat milk (avoid low-fat dairy)
Goat’s milk is preferred
Raw milk (if available)
Soured and fermented products: yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, etc
Avoid homogenized milk
Simple Idea: Listen to Your Body.
With so many mixed messages in the media about the “miracle” diet, it’s not a wonder that we are confused about what to eat. By following some simple ideas based on a holistic approach to nutrition and listening to your body, you can discover what your body really needs to thrive.
Dr. Violet Song’s medical practice focuses on female disorders, stress, insomnia, hormonal disorders, respiratory diseases, facial acupuncture, as well as pediatric herbal consultations. She also has a passion for dietary and Chinese herbal consultations. She is also a faculty member and practioner at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine.
The mission of AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine is to transform lives and communities through graduate education in Oriental medicine. AOMA hosts the Southwest Symposium every year in Austin Texas. The May Symposium is approaching soon!