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Chinese Medicine Diet and Nutrition Therapy

“For Who?” “When?”

 

These questions are the key according to Chinese Medicine Nutrition Therapy.  No one diet fits an entire population. The one way of eating is individual to a person, living in a specific climate, at a certain age, during a given season.

 

In popular media, gurus will tout one diet over another – eat more of this, eat less of this, drink more water, eat less sugar, more fat, less fat, etc.

 

Ok, some of the things we hear are useful.  Sugar, in its refined form, and added to pretty much everything, is not a natural way to healthy eating. Too much sugar is pretty much one thing I think everyone can agree is a recipe for health problems.

 

But maybe you’ve heard of keto, paleo, vegan, raw, juicing, etc.  In my experience, and backed by the wisdom of the ages,  Chinese Medicine has evolved and spanned and refined what works and what doesn’t on the individual level.  What one eats depends on one’s constitution and health status.

 

Five Tips for Health Eating According to Chinese Medicine

 

Here are my 5 tips as a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, for a healthy way of eating:

 

  1. Eat According to Season
  2. Eat According to your Chinese Medicine Pattern
  3. Don’t eat until full. Eat until 3/4 full.
  4. Don’t eat close to bedtime
  5. Eat in a relaxed manner, don’t rush or multi-task during mealtimes.

 

Eating According to Season

One of the foundational concepts in Chinese Medicine is that people are a part of nature.  The environmental climate directly impacts us, and if we’re eating in a way that is out of sync, then we’ll be affected.  For example, in summer, someone who overheats easily would be encouraged to eat watermelon to help cool.  Yet the same food in winter would not be appropriate. Light fresh salads are best in spring and summer because spring in the time when new plants sprout and grow, and in summer greenery flourishes. This aids our upward and outward Liver-Wood energy that is active in the spring and feeds the Fire element of summer. Yet in winter, salads should be consumed more sparingly if at all, because winter is a time of storage.

 

Eat According to your Chinese Medicine Pattern

This one is really important, and the best example is someone who is full of mucus and congestion is encouraged to stay away from mucus-producing foods such as all dairy, refined sugar, and wheat or doughy foods.  Also, someone who is dry overall would be encouraged to eat juice moistening foods such as sweet potatoes, fats, and eggs.

 

Eat until 75-80% Full

Overeating taxes the digestive system which is often weak in many people.  Leaving room is a key to longevity according to many studies.

 

Don’t Eat Right Before Bed

If we go to bed right after eating a full meal, our energy must go to digesting that food instead of going dormant into our healing state as it should for sleep.  This can create excessive dreaming, groggy feeling in the morning, and overall sluggishness and lack of concentration the next day.  I tell my patients to allow 3 hours between the last meal and bedtime. I also recommend fasting for around 12 hours every night to allow the digestive system time to repair and rest.

 

Relax during meals

It’s important although admittedly not easy, to just focus on eating during mealtimes. It’s so tempting to read something on our phones, watch TV, be cooking or cleaning while eating.  But your Gastro-Intestinal system will thank you if you just sit, and chew, and perhaps talk lightly with friends or family.  Mindful eating is becoming a lost art, and I encourage you to try it if you tend to multi-task at mealtime!

Family Mealtime - Mindful Eating

 

 

The Five Senses Diet Checklist

Perhaps you’ve heard it before – but your diet consists of everything you consume through all of your senses, especially what you allow into your brain and not just what you put in your mouth!

Here’s a recap and a reset —  look for that one small change that will help you break out of an old habit that no longer serves the best version of you! 

 

What Are You Consuming?

 

Eyes: What are you reading or looking at? Can you challenge yourself not to look at billboards, or to get rid of that ugly nicknack that’s been grating on you? 

Mouth: What are you feeding your body? Yes, when we eat we are feeding our cells,  nervous and cardiovascular systems, internal organs, bones, glands, and connective tissues – remember that next time you get the urge to grab that not processed or sugary snack!

Ears: What are you listening to and watching?  Listening to the news or watching violence are things that our mind-body has to process, like we have to process a greasy or preservative-laden meal. So remember that too! 
Sensory input to your advantage - smelling roses
Nose: What home and personal care products are scented or have added chemicals that get into your lungs and bloodstream? Any synthetic scents are part of your toxic load, and I advocate to minimize chemicals in your home and on your skin and hair especially if you struggle with any health issue.  Essential Oils are from plants and are a great way to uplift your mood, relax, or energize.  Have a couple that really speak to you on your bathroom counter or nightstand, and take a whiff when you are getting ready for your day or settling in for bed at night!

Skin/Touch – What sensations do you enjoy feeling? A warm bath, a soft pet, the sun on your back, playing an instrument? How can you invite more pleasurable joyfilled feels into your daily life? 

 

Enjoy your senses by thoughtfully curating positive choices for what you read, listen to, smell, and feel! Be conscious of the toxins you let into your sensory fields, and your body and mind will thank you!

Manage Stress & Anxiety in 3 Minutes – a Simple Technique

Remember this Easy Technique when you’re in the moment, right after an upsetting situation, or before you head into a difficult situation, or as a daily “vitamin” for stress reduction!  This is the at home DIY version of Neuro Emotional Technique that is called FIrst Aid Stress Tool, or FAST for short.

 

  1. Identify what’s bothering you.  Rate your distress level from 0-10: 10 being the most upset and 0 feeling peaceful and calm.
  2. Line Your Fingers along the thumb side of your wrist from the wrist crease as in this picture: First Aid Stress Tool Pulse Points
  3. While holding those 3 spots with your fingers, place the open palm across your forehead.
  4. Breathe in your nose and out your mouth while concentrating on the feelings of the issue of distress. Do at least 3 complete breaths. If you are not in a hurry breathe in and out until you feel the shift.  The emotional “charge” will feel more neutral.
  5. Switch hands – touching the 3 points with your 3 fingers on the other wrist, and covering your forehead with the other hand.Repeat the breathing while focusing on the upsetting feelings. ease anxiety and stress with NET or FAST
  6. Rate your level of upset again from 0-10.  Repeat this breathing exercise as needed throughout the day.

When working through a big thing, whether it’s chronic anxiety, panic attacks, work stress, or daily life or relationship stress, stick with using FAST a minimum of twice daily every day until the situation/feelings fade and no longer created a big reaction for you.

Reasons Why #3 – Get Regular! Beat IBS

Poop like a champ! Eliminating waste on a daily basis is not a ‘nice-to-have’.  It’s a top-down job!

 

What is IBS?

While it’s beyond the scope of this short blog, Irritable Bowel Syndrome in a nutshell manifests as diarrhea, or constipation, or both alternating, often with pain and unpredictability/dysregulation of elimination.

 

How Often is Normal?

We are designed to poop every single day.  In fact, passing formed stools 1-3 times a day is normal.  Less than that and your intestines are sluggish.  More than that and you’re in the diarrhea zone.  Loose indicates an imbalance.  

Sometimes, every other day is within normal limits, as long as it’s complete and you feel good.

 

Digestion Top to bottom

There are myriad reasons why elimination becomes compromised, and it’s not always insufficient fiber or water intake.  I use individualized observations and findings to determine what’s backing you up, and how to open the pipes. 

 

In Chinese medicine, the digestive system is seen as one tube from mouth to anus, and the overall directionality is downward. So we look at symptoms in terms of going down too fast, too slow, or coming up.  Reflux, nausea, vomiting are all considered counterflow, and can accompany constipation or even diarrhea.  We also regard the digestive system as the center around which all other bodily functions operate.  We need to have this tube open and regulated to relieve other problems in the body as well.  It’s often the first stop on the healing train – fix digestion, then see what is left to resolve after.

 

map of digestive system

One Patient’s Story

Ebony, 39,  had been very constipated her whole entire life. Her mom recalls giving her suppositories as a child.  Fast forward, and add on endometriosis, chronic pain, reflux, and nausea.  Constipation alternating with explosive diarrhea where she can’t stay away from a toilet was a daily interference with her life. Then she came to me to help to get some relief from all these issues. And the first thing that resolved was the perpetual IBS constipation alternating with diarrhea, along with less frequent and less intense reflux.  Within a few weeks, she reduced the reflux medication by half, and the explose bouts of IBS were gone. Instead, she’s been having daily formed, complete BMs.  The regulation of her digestion system has been such a big relief! 

Reasons Why We Choose Acupuncture #2 – Avoid Medications

reasons why we choose acupuncture #2 – avoid medications

 

While the adage ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is still meaningful and relevant, eating a healthy diet is not the only thing you can do to prevent developing disease.   There is an ancient Chinese proverb ‘the best physician has no sick patients’.  This speaks to the fact that long ago physicians were adept at spotting imbalances before illness developed.  This is what I and my fellow Chinese medical practitioners strive for as well.  We look at the tongue, feel the pulse, feel the abdomen, ask questions, and then gain an understanding of the inner patterns that are becoming out of balance. We can notice the minor annoyances, irritations, things that maybe the patient doesn’t think is anything to consider.  And we know the systems that need attention in order to prevent problems from worsening, and symptoms from getting more severe.  Then it’s the patient’s job to follow through on the prescribed treatment plan.

 

Drugs Often Mask the Underlying Problems

Many young people today are barraged with problems resulting from stress.  Many people deal with it, thinking everyone feels that way.  I have patients who come because they don’t feel good.  The doctor says you’re fine, and offers perhaps an anti-anxiolytic or anti-depressant, or birth control to “regulate the hormones”.  However, in my clinic, I just see an overall healthy youthful person who just needs some gentle acupuncture and perhaps a course of gentle herbs to adjust the mechanism in the body causing dis-ease.

I’m very passionate about helping teens and young adults to avoid medications, or to discontinue medications.  Allow the body to heal itself!

Ready to feel good? Try acupuncture!

I have had numerous cases of young women being faced with starting birth control for hormonal imbalances, and not for birth control.  E’s mom called me because of miserable menstrual cycles every month (headaches, nausea, pain, fatigue). They were about ready to follow the pediatrician’s advice to start oral contraceptive.  After one treatment, her cycle came at the expected time, but without all the awful symptoms.  It was easy for the first time in many months.  Continuing consistent treatments for 2- 4 cycles usually results in greatly reducing premenstrual and menstrual symptoms while regulating.  Here’s my blog about the guidelines for a healthy cycle.

Start with Less invasive therapies before resorting to drugs and surgery

This also applies to the way menstrual imbalances if left untreated can result in surgical procedures such as hysterectomy because that is a common solution offered by conventional medicine.  By treating imbalances throughout our life cycle, we can often head off crises and prevent drastic measures.   Before suffering for extended periods of time with excessive bleeding, seek care that takes you the whole person into account.  Starting with less invasive measures when problems arise can truly make a difference.

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