Healthy eating from a Chinese medical perspective involves a lot of common sense with some unusual suggestions. Below is a summary:
Chinese dietary advice explains that healthy eating aids digestion in it’s process of ‘transformation and transportation’. We ‘transform’ food into material that can be used which is then ‘transported’ to where it is required. It is the root of energy and blood production.
For all of us the digestive process begins with preparation. Cooked or raw, we prepare most food in some way to eat it. Normally we cut it up and often we heat it. This begins the transformation. Chinese medicine teaches us to heat food long enough to start to break it down but not so long as to change or destroy the energy and nourishment contained within it. The wok is the classic instrument. Food is heated quickly and for a short amount of time.
Chew and taste your food
Then comes chewing. The Chinese classics state that the ‘stomach doesn’t have teeth’. The stomach channel however does run along the bottom jaw and supplies the bottom teeth with energy and blood. The colon channel runs along the top teeth. The teeth continue the transformation. The tongue then tastes the food and tells the stomach what is coming and what enzymes to secrete. Chinese medicine also tells us that much energy from food is absorbed through the tongue. Chewing and tasting food is essential to good digestion.
Know what suits
We are all different with our own strengths and weaknesses and all foods have different energetic qualities. These are released into our system via the channels system and affect us in different ways. To maintain health we require a good supply and the right balance of the right foods. The key is to eat foods that support your system and avoid the foods that undermine it. Understanding this and knowing how different foods affect you is key to eating right for your body and mind.
Support your system
The stomach likes to be warm and wet. Eating warm, wet food helps the transformation process and therefore keeps the digestion strong and active. Avoid eating cold (including drinks) or dry foods, especially in winter and don’t flood your stomach with fluids during meals.
Quantity is important. Don’t over eat. There is a saying in Chinese Medicine that ‘it is better to stop short than to fill to the brim.’ Over eating causes a strain on your digestive system and will tire it (and you) out. Eat good quality food and stop before you feel full. On that point…
Quality does matter
For a variety of reasons much of modern food production is geared around quantity rather than quality. Extensive farming practices rely on fertilisers and pesticides to produce higher yields. Many of these are toxins and can accumulate within the body. Whilst eating organically is not always possible, it is important to be mindful about the quality of food you put into your body. These are the materials that you use to make new cells and which will circulate within your blood as nourishment. Organic food, by definition, contains less toxins and it is my opinion that any meat you eat should at least be free-range.
What about wheat and dairy?
It is true that wheat and dairy can be quite difficult for the body to transform and can cause congestion that may result in bloating or a feeling of tiredness. As we are all different, getting the right balance is something that we each have to work out for ourselves. As with anything the less refined it is, the better it will be for your body. For example: wholemeal rather than white bread.
What about sugar?
Sugar has an undermining effect on your energy production and transformation processes and as a result will affect energy levels and mood. My advice is to keep refined carbohydrates to a minimum.
Common sense points that are easily overlooked
Eat as seasonally and locally as possible
Avoid unnatural, processed and refined food
Eat a varied diet, and avoid extremes
Don’t eat too much, too late
Try not to eat on the go or, if possible, when emotionally agitated
For more information on healthy eating advice contact Sussex Acupuncture directly. For more details of the work we do, see the What We Treat section of our website.