When it comes to eating healthfully, you may have heard the saying “you are what you eat”. While this may be true, practitioners of Chinese medicine look at your diet a little differently, in that food is like medicine that you get to eat three times a day. Knowing that, it’s no surprise that dietary therapy is an important healing tool that comes under the umbrella of Chinese medicine.
While you may think that Chinese dietary therapy is more of assessing RDA’s (Recommended Daily Allowances) of vitamins and minerals and the breakdown of carbs, fats and protein, it’s much more complicated and nuanced than that. Here are some of the principles behind using dietary therapy to enhance your health:
-Foods have an inherent temperature. This isn’t about how hot a food is when it’s served or even its spiciness. The temperature of a food is related to the impact it has on your body, digestion and metabolism. For example, think of how satisfying it is to eat melon, salad or cucumbers on a hot summer’s day. That’s because they’re energetically cooling foods that are full of water—exactly what you need to deal with the heat. In contrast, eating squash prepared with onions and cinnamon is a warmer dish that’s better eaten in the winter.
-Foods also have an impact, or action, on your body. They can boost your energy, dry you out, drain edema, or nourish your blood. In addition, the flavor of a food is related to its action and which organ systems the food may affect. The temperature, action and organs affected are taken into account by your practitioner when developing a food therapy plan for you.
-Good digestion is a high priority in Chinese food therapy. That’s because funky digestion makes it difficult for you to gain any benefit from food therapy. In addition, your body’s energy stems from the food you eat. For that reason, if you’re having digestive problems such as heartburn, poor appetite, rumbling, gas, constipation, diarrhea or stomachaches, your practitioner will likely first focus on foods and other therapies that can help treat your digestive problems.
-When it comes to choosing a plan for you, your practitioner takes a number of things into consideration. Food therapy is highly individual, so keeping in mind the temperature and actions of foods, your practitioner will develop a plan that’s based on your very specific needs, Chinese diagnosis and health status. They will also take into account the time of year and which local foods are in season currently. In addition, how your food is prepared can also affect its energetic temperature and actions.
Using Food Therapy for Weight Loss
Many people want to know if Chinese dietary principles can help with weight loss and how. Here are a few things to consider:
- Dietary therapy can be used to address the underlying patterns associated with being overweight. One pattern is that of dampness—your body’s inability to metabolize water efficiently. Adipose tissue holds more water, so one strategy for food therapy is to include foods that help drain that dampness and to avoid sweet, rich foods that promote weight gain. A pattern of Yang depletion can cause your metabolism to slow down and also cause weight gain, which would require a different strategy of eating warm foods that boost your body’s metabolic pilot light.
- Auricular acupuncture, in which tiny needles are inserted to points in your ear may be used as a way to reduce the frequency and intensity of food cravings. Ear acupuncture can be highly effective in treating addictions, smoking cessation and weight loss.
- Often, Chinese herbs are included in your plan to support your weight loss efforts. While stronger than foods, herbs also have an inherent temperature and action. They’re combined into formulas and prescribed based on your specific needs and underlying pattern of disharmony.
- Dietary therapy for weight loss is usually combined with acupuncture as a way to support your digestion and reduce stress. Dealing with stress is crucial to any weight loss efforts, as high levels increase cortisol, which is a hormone that can cause you to gain weight, and stress is often a trigger for food cravings. In addition, acupuncture can effectively regulate your sleep, which helps to balance hormones that play a role in appetite control and satiety.
The bottom line is that Chinese food therapy is a natural and effective way to restore your health, promote good digestion and support weight loss. If you’d like to know more about how dietary therapy can help you achieve your health goals, give us a call today.
Cindy Chamberlain is an acupuncturist in Overland Park, KS and the founder of Eastern Healing Solutions, LLC. She is licensed in Kansas and Missouri and has been practicing traditional Chinese medicine since 1996.