Do you ever wonder why the supposedly healthy and widely recommended food you’ve been eating is not helping you feel your best? The key could involve what Chinese medicine refers to as the energetic quality of a particular food. In TCM, those qualities are based on different properties of the food, including color, taste and preparation.
During winter, it’s important to be aware of these different energetic qualities to help yourself stay healthy and in balance with the natural world. These tips can apply to any season, but since so many of us tend to get sick in wintertime, it’s especially important this time of year.
According to Chinese medicine, the body has two components: yin and yang, which are like water and fire. These two elements are constantly trying to achieve balance so you can feel your best, and while most of us are a mixture of the two, at times one quality can dominate. Yin refers to a colder nature: more pale, feeling cold, having lower energy, loose stools, feeling more introverted and having clear and white fluids. Yang, on the other hand, is hotter in nature and includes a more outgoing personality, dry mouth, thirst, craving cold drinks, perhaps being prone to constipation, producing darker urine, having yellow sputum and feeling easily angered. Many people are a mixture of the two, so a proper diagnosis from a licensed acupuncturist is a first step toward a proper diet fit for your constitution.
The organs of the body are also considered yin or yang. The heart, spleen, lungs, liver and kidneys are yin, solid, with substance, while the small intestines, gall bladder, stomach and urinary bladder are yang and involved with movement and transport. Eating the wrong foods for your particular nature might interfere with the body’s balance and exacerbate problems even if the food is nutritious biochemically. Just as some foods might disrupt you internally, each of these properties is also connected to the external, natural world, and balancing that out with each season is an important part of healthy eating in TCM. Here are three examples of food qualities.
Cold: Cold foods would include fruits and vegetables that grow in the summertime. It also would include cold foods that are refrigerated, iced or frozen. If you want to include more fruits and vegetables, it is advisable to eat them at room temperature or cook vegetables lightly to make them easier to digest. Examples of cold foods are watermelon, apples, bananas, fruit juices, kelp, cabbage, tofu, eggs, yogurt and cucumber. Eating these foods will reduce heat signs in those with excess yang energy. If you are already cold, or it is wintertime, these foods might interfere with the digestive fire of the stomach, and you would not absorb the nutrients well. In addition, if you have a cold condition, such as chronic arthritis of a cold nature, or premenstrual cramping due to cold, it might make you feel worse and more achy.
Warm: Foods that are considered warming speed up the metabolism and include ginger, cinnamon, cherries, garlic, onion, lamb, chicken, hot peppers, and quinoa. If you’re running hot, you might want to eat these sparingly and include cooler foods. For example, if you have a hot condition and are in pain due to inflammation, you would not want to eat hot and spicy foods. On the other hand, if you’re not already inflamed, these are great foods to reach for during the colder winter months.
Damp: When the digestive system is not transforming and transporting food and fluids well, you get what is termed in Chinese medicine as “dampness” or phlegm build up, which is an increase of mucus. This can leave you feeling sluggish, foggy, congested, bloated and heavy. In such a case, a combination such as a banana and yogurt, which is highly nutritious, might not be right for you, as those foods promote dampness. Foods that increase dampness include dairy, greasy, fatty, fried foods, some antibiotics and alcohol. Examples of foods that help this condition are barley, basmati rice, alfalfa sprouts, lemons, green tea, walnuts, and mushrooms.
In addition to those mentioned above, there are food tastes such as sour, sweet, pungent, salty and bland, which affect different organs of the body as well as the absorption and distribution of food. Food is medicine. Ask me today if you want to know more about your own personal constitution.
The kidneys are vital organs that allow our bodies to process waste and turn it into urine and filter our blood of toxins before it gets back to the heart. The kidneys also maintain our overall fluid balance and create hormones that regulate blood pressure, support bone health and produce red blood cells. To support your kidneys, it’s beneficial to stay plenty hydrated and avoid extra salt in your food.
Jam-packed with vitamins and healthy fats and low in sodium from all the fresh fruits and veggies, this smoothie is a kidney-boosting wonder!
Cranberries are often praised for their bladder-healthy benefits. They are also full of Vitamin C and fiber and have anti-inflammatory effects. Walnuts are a great source of healthy fat and also benefit the kidneys, according to traditional Chinese medicine. You can make this smoothie with water or almond milk for an extra calcium boost. Making sure you have enough calcium in your diet can help to prevent kidney stones. Lastly, ginger is always a great smoothie addition, making the flavor more dynamic and contributing to the smoothie’s anti-inflammatory effects.
To make, combine the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!
If you are looking to spice up your family meal this spring, why not try a healthy chicken stir fry. A meal that is colorful, warm, seasonal and easy to make.
In Traditional Chinese medicine and Five Element theory, food is medicine. Not only is food healthy and nutritious biochemically, but it also has properties in temperature, taste, color and shape that benefit specific organs. Colors and taste benefit certain organs, for example, sour and the color green go to the liver. Pungent flavors such as garlic, ginger and onions benefit the lungs. Dark and salty foods like seaweed benefit the kidneys. The best thing to remember is to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season and try to add color to your food to encourage the healthy actions the organs have in the body. Warm and cooked vegetables are easier on the digestion than cold and raw food. A terrific item to add to the cooking schedule is a colorful and tasty stir-fry.
A stir-fry has a healthy variety of colors, vegetables, meat, spices and seasoning. Typically what goes into a stir-fry includes chicken, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger, onion and rice.
Preparation is simple and you can find countless recipes by conducting an Internet search. Typically, a recipe will look like this:
Marinating the chicken overnight adds richer flavor, if you so choose. Combine cornstarch, soy and oyster sauce, rice vinegar, honey and garlic. Stir fry in chicken until brown, set aside. Add vegetables and cook until crisp. Stir in chicken, add onion, peanuts or other things to taste. Serve over rice.
For vegetarians, replacing tofu for chicken works as a delicious alternative. Play with some variety throughout the seasons. In the spring, opt for green foods to benefit the liver and gallbladder. In the summer, cool celery and basil might be soothing on a hot day. Autumn flavors might include leeks and white mushrooms to benefit the lungs. For winter, beef could be an alternative to chicken, as beef is warmer.
As you can see, a nice stir-fry with a variety of seasonal vegetables just might be a great and healthy way to exercise the notion that “food is medicine” to your diet.
A recent article published by Sepalika.com provides information from multiple research studies that confirm the best way to manage diabetes is through proper diet. More specifically through the use of “superfoods.” The multiple studies showed various superfoods such as oily fish, broccoli, blueberries, beets and chia seeds can all help in the fight against diabetes. These foods have been shown to lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar control. This is very promising for those suffering from diabetes because it may ultimately help them reverse this disease.
With diabetes being the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, the research never seems to end. Over 29 million Americans suffer from this disease and the numbers aren’t getting any better. Diabetes is caused by a dysfunction of the pancreas. There are two forms of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 2 can be reversed through the use of proper diet and exercise. This is where superfoods come into play.
Superfoods are defined as foods thought to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health. There is no set criteria for determining what is truly a superfood though. Superfoods don’t have their own food group, as they can be either plant-based or animal-based. Popular superfoods have very large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help us fight off diseases and live longer lives. Some of the nutrients found in certain superfoods include antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber and phytochemicals. However, just because a food is considered a superfood, that doesn’t mean that one should eat unlimited quantities. For example, many superfood juices are still high in sugar and should be used in moderation.
For those suffering from diabetes, superfoods can provide a plethora of nutrients that can help balance blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which may ultimately provide for disease reversal.
Here are some examples of superfoods that are very beneficial for diabetics to consume. Beans are a great source of protein and they are high in soluble fiber, which lowers blood glucose levels. Berries have been shown to decrease insulin resistance due to the content of compounds known as anthocyanins, which are members of the phytochemical family. Flaxseed has been shown to decrease fasting blood glucose levels.
Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates, which means a little goes a long way when it comes to filling up the gut and fighting hunger. Polyphagia or the urge to excessively eat, is a common symptom in diabetics. Non-starchy vegetables may be the answer to this problem. These veggies are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. Non-starchy vegetables include artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and beets. The American Diabetes Association also endorses most non-starchy vegetables as low glycemic index foods, which means diabetics can eat them with abandon and still avoid excessively high blood glucose levels.
As with anything, moderation is the key. But the use of these superfoods may be very helpful for those suffering from diabetes. In most cases, Type 2 diabetes is reversible. The question becomes what does the patient desire more. This will ultimately determine the outcome.
As summer moves on and the warmer days continue, you will find yourself seeking ways to beat the heat. Herbal teas are a great way to cool both the body and mind. Cooling herbal teas can alleviate symptoms of excess heat and have you feeling your absolute best during these heat-intensive summer days.
Check out these three herbal teas that will ensure you stay cool.
1. Mint, Elderflower and Rosehips Tea
The combination of mint, elderflower and rosehips makes for a soothing herbal tea. Rose hips provide a much-needed boost of vitamin C, the elderflower lends its immune-cleansing benefits and the mint finishes off the tea with the cooling touch of menthol.
2. Lemon Hibiscus Tea
This is an herbal blend just as good cold as it is hot. Regardless of the way this tea is poured, it provides specific cooling benefits to the body. Hibiscus is high in vitamin C and combats against high blood pressure, liver disease and other ailments. Lemon has a kick of vitamin C too, but more importantly it is cleansing and a natural diuretic. This tea combination is both cleansing and cooling.
3. Iced Green Tea with Lemon and Mint
The perfect summer refresher. The combination of these three ingredients work together in perfect harmony in order to cool the body down. Packed with vitamin C, menthol and antioxidants this tea will get your constitution headed in the right direction.
The modern world is changing every single day. Because of this constant state of change, our bodies are frequently having to adjust. We have a food supply being degraded and depleted of nutritional content, which in turn, causes our bodies to become depleted. Our soil and water is contaminated with antibiotics and deadly fertilizers. All of which become part of the food chain we rely upon. Because of this, antibiotics are failing and superbugs like MRSA are on the rise. Lack of nutrition and the overuse of antibiotics are just a couple of the things wreaking havoc on our intestinal health. But there are ways to combat this and keep the gut healthy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years and the approach of this medical system is to treat the patient holistically. TCM has been shown to be effective at treating a wide variety of ailments, including digestive issues. Part of this is because TCM focuses heavily on diet and nutrition.
Qi is equated with energy and every organ, pathway and cell in the human body is composed of energy. For the body to function properly, Qi needs to be sufficient at all times. One of the best ways to maintain sufficient Qi is through our daily diet. Science is proving what TCM practitioners have known for centuries, our digestive health is vital for the cells of the body to function optimally.
The gastrointestinal tract acts as a “second brain.” It has the ability to constantly transform us. The Human Microbiome Project is an ongoing study confirming microscopic bacterial colonies in our digestive tract have very important jobs to do. The bacterial colonies help keep us healthy both physically and mentally. But because of human intervention, these bacterial colonies in our guts are becoming sick, depleted and are dying.
To rejuvenate these gastrointestinal bacterial colonies, many people are turning to TCM for help. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are great methods that focus on reviving our gastrointestinal Qi. Reviving this Qi in turn can improve digestion, decrease gas and bloating and improve bowel movements. The stomach and spleen are the two main pathways TCM practitioners focus on when treating somebody who exhibits digestive Qi deficiencies because these are the organs responsible for digestion in the TCM system. TCM nutritional advice is part of this program for optimizing digestive health.
This is where fermented foods come into play. Fermented foods have been around for centuries as well. Fermentation is one of the oldest attempts to preserve food. But in today’s world, fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt are being utilized to help restore the healthy bacterial colonies found within the gastrointestinal tract.
In fermentation, bacteria or yeast feed on natural sugars found in foods. This makes certain foods easier for the gut to digest and allows for the nutrients to be absorbed during digestion. People who do not ingest fermented foods can actually develop immune deficiencies which can lead to serious illness and disease. For instance, sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, actually has anti-carcinogenic components that can help prevent cancer. Yogurt can help prevent colorectal cancer, breast cancer and yeast infections. Kimchi has been shown to help improve symptoms of asthma and other allergic reactions, while also lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Incorporating fermented foods into the daily diet and getting regular acupuncture treatments that help balance out the body’s Qi, can lead to a very healthy gastrointestinal tract. And when the gut is happy, the body is happy, the brain is happy and the mood is improved. Sound awesome? It is! Try increasing your fermented food intake and adding Acupuncture to the mix today and see how great it feels!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is something I am intimately familiar with. In my teens I developed IBS from an eating disorder, and even once my bad dietary habits stopped I continued having IBS into my 20's - until I found Chinese Medicine. Treating IBS and helping patients determine if they have food sensitivities that are contributing is something very near and dear to my heart, therefore. I even wrote my Master's Degree research paper on it which you can read by clicking here! For those not interested in the pathological details however, here are some helpful tips and tricks that you can put into action today. I hope you will find this information informative and useful! My success with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to treat IBS felt miraculous, so if you have IBS or know someone who does I HIGHLY recommend you try (or encourage those you love to try) this treatment. Regardless read on and enjoy!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, otherwise known as “spastic colon,” is a common disorder that affects the colon and causes many disruptive symptoms. Many of these symptoms can be managed with a simple change in diet and lifestyle. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture may be able to help.
IBS symptoms may include gas, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea, pain, mucus, an uncomfortably full feeling and abdominal cramping. Most of these symptoms develop over time, and there is no structural or anatomical change that can be detected as cause. Doctors are unsure of the origin, though stress and diet are said to be triggers of distressing symptoms. Women suffer from IBS more frequently than men.
One of the most common diagnosis of IBS in Traditional Chinese Medicine is what is known as a “liver-spleen disharmony” due to stress. Normally, the liver is in charge of the free flow of energy (or vital force), blood and oxygen to the spleen and stomach, the organs who do their job of digesting food by transporting and transforming food and descending energy downward. When the liver energy becomes stagnant through emotions such as stress, frustration, anger, moodiness and tightness in the body (the liver is sensitive to these emotions), this encumbers proper digestion and what can result is acid, belching, nausea, abdominal distention and bloating. Diarrhea or constipation can occur or irregular bowel movements. Other common symptoms of stagnant liver energy are PMS, cramping with clots and irregular menses. Easing stress would be the most important aspect of the treatment plan to get to the root of the issue.
Another common cause of IBS is food sensitivity. Eliminating trigger foods has been shown to help symptoms tremendously. Here are some things to consider eliminating:
Too many cold, raw vegetables: Eating too many cold, raw vegetables dampens the digestive fire and leads to malabsorption. Cook vegetables instead and eat them warm.
Cruciferous vegetables and legumes: These are healthy but can cause gas and bloating in sensitive individuals. Consider eating them cooked and/or decreasing or eliminating them from your diet depending on your sensitivity level.
Dairy: Lactose intolerance can lead to digestive ailments. If you aren’t sure, try eliminating dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese for AT LEAST 2 weeks before reintroducing them and seeing how you feel.
Eating fast, while angry or hurried: When you eat or drink quickly, you might be inhaling too much air and eating too much. Eat slowly and mindfully.
Other triggers: Sensitivities might include chocolate, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, greasy food or processed food. Hormonal changes could also be a factor in increased IBS symptoms as well. Start keeping a food journal that notes time, food eaten and symptoms for each day - see if you can draw any correlations after 2 weeks.
How to know for sure? It is best not to self-diagnose symptoms, so see your medical provider to see if you have IBS and not something more serious. Your Chinese medical practitioner can help you by diagnosing the symptoms according to a more eastern perspective, administering acupuncture and perhaps prescribing an herbal formula, and adjusting your diet to eliminate triggers that are irritating for your particular constitution.
Some remedies for IBS include acupuncture to improve flow in the abdomen and ease stress, herbs, increasing fiber (gradually, or it could worsen symptoms), massaging the abdomen (9x clockwise, 9x counter-clockwise), exercise to move things around such as tai qi or qigong, and probiotics to increase good bacteria in the stomach. Peppermint, magnesium, and chamomile can soothe and ease symptoms.
If you want to know more or want to get started with treatment, feel free to book in anytime. It would be my pleasure to apply my knowledge and experience and help!
Yours in Health,
Created by Stanley Burroughs, author of the book The Master Cleanser, the master cleanse is a great way to cleanse the body while giving the digestive system a much-needed rest. The master cleanse, usually used to achieve rapid weight loss, can also be used to heal and nourish the body.
The cleanse is a liquid diet, which some refer to as a juice fast. It effectively supplies all of the healthy and essential nutrients and calories the body needs to function. The beauty of the master cleanse is that in addition to being rewarding and beneficial for your body, it is also extremely easy to follow and inact.
There are three main parts of the master cleanse. You should utilize all three of these parts in order to extract all of the healing and fasting properties of the master cleanse. The three parts are the lemon drink, the salt drink and the herbal/laxative teas.
First, you need to make sure to six to 12 glasses of the lemon drink per day over the course of a 10-day period. The lemon drink consists of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, water and maple syrup. Balance out your intake of the lemon drink throughout the day with regular water if you still feel thirsty.
The salt drink part of the cleanse is a little bit different. The salt drink consists of just lukewarm water and natural sea salt. You should make sure to drink a quart every morning, all in one sitting.
The third and final part to the master cleanse is an herbal laxative or tea. Make sure to take a laxative or drink a laxative tea before bed each night in order to complete the steps of the master cleanse.
The master cleanse is an extremely effective form of detox dieting, and if you want to pursue it you should! Spring is the time in Chinese Medicine to cleanse and the master cleanse is a strict though relatively simple cleanse to do. I highly recommend that you read reviews of the cleanse and get the precise details of the recipe from Stanley's book and consider easing in and easing out of the cleanse if you decide to pursue this option.
I personally cleanse every Spring myself, and I particularly like revisiting a basic Elimination Diet without the testing portion - making it a 4 week process - and including a detox supplement like Mediclear by Thorne. More than anything I feel like one of the most impactful parts of a cleanse is resetting your habits. Its easy to slide into bad habits and a cleanse, any type of cleanse, forces you into that resetting. If you're lucky and determined, you make the best parts of it stick - until the holidays that is...
If you have questions about cleansing don't hesitate to ask at your next Acupuncture session and if you ARE cleansing, get on the books! Acupuncture can support healthy liver and digestive function which gets you the most out of your cleanse that you possibly can.
Its no secret that I LOVE FOOD. When I am at home I hardly leave the kitchen because I get so involved in cooking and eating and planning delicious meals, especially during the holiday season. Professionally, as a licensed acupuncturist, I also believe strongly that FOOD IS MEDICINE and that eating nourishing food is one of most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing, and I emphasize food and diet in my treatments on a daily basis.
Certainly everybody knows that food is what gives our bodies the energy we need to survive. But not everybody is aware that certain foods should be consumed during specific times of the year. In areas like the Midwest, where fruits and vegetables are harder to keep on hand when the weather becomes colder, this principle is followed a little more closely. But in areas like Hawaii and Southern California, where fresh fruits and vegetables are always available and the climate is more moderate, people sometimes forget to eat according to the seasons.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that has been around for nearly 4,000 years. When this system came into being, people were much more in tune with the seasons and their environment. The foods they consumed were based on the seasons and when those foods were available. This is a system that should be followed for people to remain healthy throughout the year, regardless of where they live.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a time of reflection and rejuvenation. The body needs the extra hours of darkness to repair. The kidneys are the center of energy in the Traditional Chinese Medicine system and thus, they need to be nourished during the winter months. It is recommended we consume foods that are warming and that will boost the kidney energy. We also need to eat foods that benefit the Shen (spirit) so that the winter months don’t bring about depression.
Things like soups and stews are extremely important during the cold winter months. Energetically, warming foods such as anchovies, bay leaves, chestnuts, chicken, fennel, leeks, mussels, mutton, nutmeg, pine nuts, sweet potatoes and walnuts are all great to incorporate into the diet. Also, foods that boost kidney energy are just as important. Items like millet, sesame seeds, kidney beans, lamb, beef, goose, duck, eggs, grains, seeds and nuts are all good tonics for the kidneys. Bone broth is another important food to consume during the winter months, as it supports the bones and the kidneys. It is recommended that the foods be cooked for longer periods and at lower temperatures to retain as much energy as possible. It is also advisable to eat more food with bitter flavors while reducing salty flavors, so that heart health is promoted and the workload of the kidneys is reduced. Bitter-flavored foods include apricot, asparagus, celery, coffee, tea, grapefruit, lettuce, kale, vinegar and wine.
One of the most commonly used foods is something known as congee. Congee is a thick grain-based soup or porridge. Congee is used in a preventive fashion to promote good health and strong digestion. Congee can be made with a single grain, like brown rice, or a combination of grains, beans, vegetables and medicinal herbs. Incorporating this item into the daily diet will improve energy levels over time. Congee is prepared in a crock pot overnight, which fits in perfectly with the aforementioned principles of slow cooking at lower temperatures. It is said that the longer the congee cooks, the more powerful it becomes.
Incorporating the foods listed above during the winter months, can be a wonderful way to boost your energy throughout the season. And this will also help in the seasons to follow, as the body will be healthier and better prepared.
If you're having a hard time being motivated to make soup, think about hosting a favorite holiday tradition that a friend of mine instituted - Soupstice! Its a great way to get exposed to new soups! Everyone brings 6 quarts of homemade soup, preferrably frozen and labeled (or cans for donation) and at the party you trade your soups for a variety of others.
Until next time, stay warm and enjoy some warm rejuvenating soups and stews!
The kids heading back to school means you are headed back to work. And, I am not just talking about your actual job, you know, the one where you go to an office everyday throughout the Monday through Friday workweek. I am talking about packing lunches, that’s right, it is that time again. Packing your children’s lunches is a great way to guarantee they are getting the nutrients they need, as you do not always know what is prepared at the school’s cafeteria. Here are five superfoods you can sneak into your child’s lunch. Superfoods will provide the extra health boost they need!
1. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are great because they can be put into almost anything. In addition, chia seeds pack a powerful nutrient-rich punch, they are high in protein, fat and omega-3s. Chia seeds have been said to protect the body from chronic diseases. Sprinkle some chia seeds into your kid’s sandwich, yogurt or smoothie and they will instantly have a super lunch.
Filled with mass amounts of fiber and potassium, avocado is truly one of the more delicious superfoods. And, with a plethora of uses it is easy to sneak in some avocado to your kid’s sack lunch. Start by introducing them to guacamole, and then you can put a little guacamole with some blue corn tortilla chips or veggie chips into their lunch. Once they warm up to the avocado, use it in sandwiches, salads or other main courses.
Finally, something a little easier. Everyone loves blueberries, right? I mean how can you now appreciate such a delicious fruit. Most importantly, this fruit is one of the most powerful superfoods you can consume. High in antioxidants and phytonutrients, low in sugars and rich in vitamin C, this berry is a modern-day wonder. But, perhaps the easiest thing about blueberries is that you don’t even have to sneak them in. Just put the berries in a small container in your child’s lunch and they are sure to eat them up.
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