In my previous post, I discussed how the gut and the brain are connected and the often-overlooked aspects of this connection. The gut is so neurologically complex; it has been referred to as the “second brain” in some neuroenterologic literature.
The need to understand nutrition has been a long-held pillar of Eastern medicine. Chinese and Indian medicines both have food and herbal prescriptions to balance the energies of the body. The basis of both systems relies on looking at deficiencies, stagnations, and excesses of certain types of food or flavors. In a simplified example, foods that cause heat in the body can possibly contribute to skin problems or increase irritability according to Chinese medicine. While this provides a simple one-to-one relationship of heat to skin, often, there is a combination of issues that underlie any problem that results in an imbalance in Qi, dampness, heating/cooling, or Yin and Yang in general.
Using food to balance the body requires a look at a number of factors. While you may use this as a basic guideline of what foods to consume or cut back on, there are a number of elements behind every ailment that require sensitive analysis. This is a simple, introductory guide to Chinese food energetics. One should consult a practitioner of Chinese medicine or other holistic food therapy for details:
BALANCE OF QI
Qi is the basic unit of energy for the body. It helps keep us alert and moving. Qi can be either deficient, causing lethargy and weakened immune system or stagnant, causing emotional outbursts and impulsive behavior.
For Qi deficiency, the following foods (which are often sweet and warm) help to restore Qi:
Cherries, ginseng, potato, squash, yam, tofu, rabbit, lentil, microalgae, fig, coconut, oats, grapes, chicken, beef, goose, rice
For Qi stagnation, the following foods (which avoid sugar, stimulants, and heavy foods) help keep Qi flowing:
Basil, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, orange peel, garlic, cloves, radishes, mustard leaf, carrots
BALANCE OF YIN AND YANG
The balance of yin and yang also deals with heating and cooling effects of food. Deficiency of yin can lead to exhaustion. The best cure is rest. Lowered states of yang can result in a slow metabolism and becoming sluggish.
Yin tonics are sweet and cool and Yang tonics are sweet, pungent and warming. Here are a few foods for each:
Yin : honey, cheese, pork, tofu, yam, oyster, kidney beans, peas, asparagus, apples, tomatoes, milk, mangoes, string beans, and pomegranates
Yang : chestnuts, shrimp, cloves, thyme, pistachios, garlic, lamb, lobster, ginger, rosemary, basil, cinnamon bark, cassio fruit, fenugreek seed, and walnuts
If any of the pairings of symptoms sounds similar to Western maladies, it is no coincidence. The basis for these blockages result in issues that are all linked. For example, lethargy and weakened immune response can both be symptoms of depression. In Chinese terms, that means Qi deficiency. Often, Eastern and Western practitioners are saying the same thing, but in a different medical language. For a Western patient, that can be confusing, but empowering at the same time. As often these problems make us feel like there is no solution, but in reality, there is another way to go about it that we haven’t even thought of.
This article should give a general outline of what kinds of foods may be missing from your diet or what has been in excess. Qi, Yin, and Yang deficiencies or stagnations often apply to a specific organ or system, so any food prescriptions should be looked at in relation to different aspects of our bodies.
All information about food and Chinese medicine from:
Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics by Daverick Leggett (http://www.amazon.com/Helping-Ourselves-Traditional-Chinese-Energetics/dp/0952464004)