Nutrition according to Chinese Medicine
The concepts of Chinese nutrition and the understanding of the effects of the food we eat on our health have at least a 3000 year history. There are written records dating back to 300 BC saying that there is little difference between food and medicine. This, of course, is a concept well understood in the western tradition, with Hippocrates stating in the 4th century BC to “let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.
The early Chinese doctors agreed completely with this statement, saying that practitioners need to “first find the cause for an illness and determine which disharmony prevails. To balance this disharmony, the preeminent measure is appropriate diet”. As you can see, Chinese medicine has been taking diet seriously for a very long time.
Chinese nutrition is very closely related to acupuncture and herbal medicine and follows the same ideas of diagnosis and treatment. The practitioner looks for where the patient is imbalanced and then prescribes foods and diets to correct these imbalances. The foods we eat are yin and yang, hot and cold, and have building or draining qualities – or they act as toxins and poisons in our bodies. Foods, therefore, are agents that can either help your body stay in balance and contribute to your health or take your body out of balance and cause ill-health.
The main difference between the Chinese and western approaches to nutrition is that while the western approach is mainly quantitative and qualitative, the Chinese approach is primarily energetic. Western nutritionists are most concerned with the quality of the food (organic or non-organic, for example) and the quantity of macro and micro nutrients they contain (amount of fat, carbs and proteins as well as amount of minerals and vitamins). The Chinese approach is mainly concerned with whether a food is hot, warm, cool, cold or neutral. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive and best results come when we combine the two.
The best thing about this is that the Chinese approach is actually quite simple, and by understanding and implementing a few basic concepts, patients’ health often improves quickly and dramatically. For example, I’d say 95% of the patients I see have some degree of digestive dysfunction, to a greater or lesser degree. In Chinese medicine, its not just our diet that affects digestion, but also lifestyle, stress, eating times, food preparation methods and overwork. We also tend to eat too many cold foods which are difficult to digest. A common example of this are breakfast smoothies, which are convenient and pack a lot of nutrition – but are also very difficult to digest and often cause bloating and loose stools or constipation. Another example is that many people, especially those with chronic illness, are eating foods that are causing or contributing to inflammation in our bodies. This becomes very important to consider when we consider that every single disease of aging, from hypertension, diabetes to cancer, involves inflammation.
My experience of the last 15 years is that diet usually plays a very important role in people’s healing. Without exaggeration, I can say that changes in diet are amongst the most impactful interventions that I use with my patients.
If you’d like to see what Chinese nutrition has to offer you in terms of better health, increased vitality and improved wellbeing, then please either book a session or ask any questions you have, using the buttons below. Nutritional consults can either be stand-alone, or used in combination with my other modalities such as acupuncture and herbal medicine and I offer them at both my Collingwood and Meaford clinics.