The TCM Approach to Nutrition
Unlike Western nutrition, which focuses mainly on the individual components of the foods we eat - namely carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and calories - TCM nutrition also considers the energetics of each food. So while Western nutrition often mentions things like "superfoods" that are supposedly beneficial for everyone, Eastern nutrition takes a much more customized and individualized approach to nutrition.
Foods are classified by temperature and general energetic functions. For example, alcohol, coffee and spicy foods are warming foods, while cold foods include green tea, asparagus and soy. Energetic functions include concepts like "move qi" (i.e. peppers and onions), "tonify yin" (i.e. black sesame seed and black beans) and "drain dampness" (i.e. mung beans and pearl barley). When deciding which diet fits best for a patient, the practitioner will first consider the patients constitution, and then the energetics of the pattern diagnosis.
During pattern diagnosis, the practitioner will decide which organs and channels are involved, if the disease is hot or cold (i.e. patients feels hot and sweats a lot vs. a patient feeling cold all the time), and if it is based in deficiency (i.e. weak digestion leading to lack of energy) or excess (i.e. accumulation of stagnant energy causing severe pain). Then, based on this diagnosis, a list of foods will be picked that will work at balancing the energetics of the patient.
For example, a patient may come to see the acupuncturist with menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats. The TCM diagnosis for this is "Kidney Yin deficiency with deficiency heat". What this means in laymen's terms is that the body, which is a balance of water (yin) and fire (yang) is starting to get unbalanced. The yin of the kidneys naturally declines with age, and when it gets too low, the fire becomes more predominant because there is not enough water to balance it. This can be compared to a drought: when there is not enough rain and a lot of hot, sunny days, everything dries out, and eventually catches on fire. Night sweats and hot flashes can be viewed as a drought-induced fire.
The desired functions of a diet for this patient would be to nourish and moisten yin, and to clear the heat that is causing the sweats. Hence, the patient will be advised to avoid any heat-inducing foods like garlic, onions, alcohol, coffee, and lamb, and to replace these with cooling foods like apples, pears, watermelons, cucumbers, bamboo shoots, soy products in moderation, zucchini, watercress and celery. Other foods to include would be yin-nourishing and moistening foods like black beans, oats, shiitake mushrooms, beets, blueberries, millet, tofu and pears.
The TCM approach to nutrition also works well for weight loss. How many people do you know that have tried every single diet approach, and not matter how little calories they consume, they still don't lose any weight? More often than not, the inability to lose weight is not directly linked to the total caloric intake, but may simply be caused by foods that don't work with a patient's constitution. For example, a patient who suffers from frequent bloating and gas, and may present with loose stools and low energy, which are all symptoms of spleen qi deficiency, should stay away from any type of dairy products. Including these foods, even if they are non-fat or low-fat, will make weight loss very difficult because energetically, dairy will contribute to the problem of spleen qi deficiency, which in turn will lead to weight gain and more bloating.
To see how you can benefit from a new approach to nutrition, call us today to make an appointment.