The famous phrase, "Let food be thy medicine, let medicine be thy food" was coined by Hippocrates, as well as the Rambam (Maimonides). Ancient Chinese medicine also sees nutrition as an essential component of a healthy lifestyle and the prevention and treatment of diseases.
The Chinese believe that a balanced and healthy meal should contain the 5 colours and the 5 flavours. Our eyes eat first, so it is important that the meal will be aesthetic and that we concentrate only on eating it. Just as we stay focused while reading, in order to allow for the brain to digest and process the information, so too our digestive system needs a peace of mind. It is therefore important to eat without "environmental noise", such as that coming from mobiles and TVs.
The principles of good nutrition in Chinese medicine are different from those of Western medicine. While in the West it is customary to count calories, fats and carbohydrates, Chinese medicine refers to different parameters such as colour, seasonality, food energetics, direction, cooking method, all of whom have a direct impact on our body, organ function and consequential health and illness.
Some of these considerations are described below:
Eat seasonal – Advances in technology and transportation results in us being able to consume watermelons and oranges almost all year round, but that does not mean such fruits are suitable for our body year-round. Watermelon is energetically cool and sweet and is perfect for hot summer days. Young green leaves, on the other hand, emerge during the spring and flowering season and are excellent for regeneration and cleansing.
Colour - Each organ in our body has a colour associated with it, and eating food of the relevant colour strengthens the specific organ. For example, yellow and orange are associated with the digestive system (spleen and stomach), and therefore, eating pumpkin, chickpeas, and lentils can strengthen these organs and their function. Another example are vegetables like daikon, garlic, and onion, which can help strengthen the lungs and eliminate breathing and phlegm issues, as the white colour is associated with the lungs.
Direction of movement - Some foods have a tendency to "move" in certain directions in our body. The four directions are - up, down, inward, outward. As an example, many women appreciate the down-bearing effect of bananas which help reduce nausea and possible heartburn during pregnancy.
Flavours - Each flavour (salty, pungent, sour, sweet and bitter) corresponds to a particular elemental power and organ. For example, the sour taste, as in lemon for example, is associated with the liver and is responsible for the free flow of Qi in the body. The bitter flavour, on the other hand, is associated with the heart, purifies heat toxicity and dries mucus and moisture, such as with green leaves, celery, amaranth and more.
Energy and temperature - Each ingredient on our plate has its own energy - hot, warm, neutral, cool, cold. Ginger, for example, is a sweet and aromatic food with a hot energy that "stimulates" the body and creates movement. Ginger can be suitable for people who eat "heavy" and moist foods or those who have a stagnant lifestyle. Cucumber, on the other hand, is defined as a sweet and cold food and can help people suffering from stomach fever or menopausal women suffering from hot flashes.
Cooking method - The digestive process consumes energy and it is therefore desirable that the food will be warm and cooked in order to ease its breakdown in the stomach. Eating a cold (ice cream, yogurt, etc.) and raw foods makes the stomach work harder and weakens it over time. At the same time, cooking methods need to be seasonally adapted. For example, long cooking is more suitable for winter while stir-frying, is very suitable for the spring/summer season, as it maintains the health values of the ingredients, while keeping them also crispy and "light" to digest.
A nutritional treatment addresses the patient's health condition, but the majority of the time is devoted to understanding the lifestyle of the patient, explain in details about different foods and motivate to create a life-long change. Many people are not aware of or understand the direct effect that diet has on the body and health. At the same time, there is no point in giving a grocery list of healthy ingredients for a certain health condition without understanding the patient’s environment and lifestyle. Unlike acupuncture treatment, here the patients are responsible for implementing the change and by doing so are participating in their own healing process. With the right guidance, we can help them resolve many health problems.
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