Chinese medicine nutrition

This blog today is going to examine the principles of Chinese medicine nutrition; a practice of healing using natural foods and a central pillar of acupuncture or Chinese medicine treatment.

I use the analogy of the three-legged stool as acupuncture will help you, but often times fundamental changes to the other two legs, food and lifestyle, will enhance clinical results.

I am not a registered dietician. These principles are suggestions based on a Chinese medicine diagnosis and are used to enhance your treatment. For example, if you come in with period pains and we diagnose it is caused by "cold in the uterus" a Chinese medicine diagnosis we would advise that the following amendments should be made between treatments:

  • Avoidance of raw or cold foods

  • Avoidance of iced drinks

  • Avoidance of sitting on cold floors or submerging in cold water

  • Adding warming foods to your daily meals. This can be the nature of the food i.e. eating only cooked foods, or adding warming spices

For dietary advice please look for people who are registered with a regulatory body such as Tai Ibitoye

I hope you enjoy today's blog and if you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to send me a message, or add a comment below.

Love your fave (Letchworth) acupuncturist

Andrea x

The history of Chinese medicine nutrition

The application of Chinese medicine nutrition has been noted as far back as 1000 BC with medicinal wine.

Recipes Worth a Thousand Gold, written by Sun Simiao in 654 AD contains the first recorded use of the term “food therapy,” and he hoped that people would first choose food over drugs when suffering from an ailment. Cardamom was noted in Recipes Worth a Thousand Gold to “cure heartburn and stomach ache, stop vomiting, and get rid of bad breath".

Scientists after the 1950s illuminated the active ingredients in cardamom oil, which were found to contain antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti-ulcer, and hepatic effects.

General suggestions of Chinese medicine nutrition

  • eat with joy to allow your body to accept the food more effectively

  • eat lovingly and welcome the food wholeheartedly

  • make mealtime a relaxed occasion and avoid working, watching TV

  • listen to your body - is it a craving for something. what is that telling you?

  • chew your food well ~ this lessens the work for the stomach and also warms chilled food

  • stop before you are full ~ overeating causes stagnation

  • eat your main meal early ~ eating late causes stagnation

  • choose (where possible) locally grown food and organic quality food ~ it preserves the life force more

  • try not to microwave which reduces the life force of food

  • do not drink too much with your meal - teacup at most. the spleen doesn't like to be wet

  • don't eat too much raw, chilled food which puts out the digestive fire

Specifics of Chinese medicine nutrition therapy

There are four principles of traditional Chinese medicine food therapy

  1. Eating according to your specific signs and symptoms

  2. Eating according to your body constitution

  3. Eating according to the seasons

  4. Eating according to your environment

Like the example above with the "cold in the uterus" diagnosis and the amendments to food and lifestyle, you should eat and live according to your specific signs and symptoms. If you are a subjectively hot person with a dry cough then you should eat foods that will cool and moisten you. You wouldn't want to be eating a very spicy pizza that is both hot in nature and drying. Instead, you might want to consider a banana that is both cooling in thermal nature and moistening.

But a banana is absolutely no use to you if you are subjectively cold. It will only increase the cold and exacerbate your symptoms.

This is the Yin and Yang of Chinese medicine food therapy. What might be suitable for one person, may not be suitable for another.

Below we are going to examine four food energetics:

  1. Thermal nature

  2. Food flavours

  3. Qi movement

  4. Yin and yang organs

Thermal flavour

All foods in Chinese medicine food therapy are given a thermal flavour rating. For example, chilli is hot, beef is warming, potato is neutral, cucumber is cool and watermelon is cold.

Hot foods

Hot foods are Yang in nature. They speed up Qi, warm, eliminate internal and external cold.

Warm foods

Warm foods strengthen the Yang & Qi and the middle jiao (or Spleen and Stomach)

Neutral foods

Balance the body and builds Qi and Body Fluids

Cool foods

Supplements Blood and Body Fluids and cools the heat

Cold foods

Cool internal heat and calm the spirit

Five flavours

There are five flavours that correspond to the organs in Chinese medicine. These foods also correspond to the seasons.

Bitter foods relate to the Fire element (Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium and San Jiao).  They also correspond to Summer.

Bitter foods

Bitter foods relate to the Fire element (Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium and San Jiao). They also correspond to Summer. They are considered good for drying and down bearing, so useful for digestive and excretion functions