Nutritional therapy is as important, if not more important than all Chinese therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, or qi gong combined. The use of food as medicine has long been one of the major pillars of Chinese medicine as well as a way of life. Roughly 75% of health care spending in the United States goes to treating preventable diseases. About 50% of the adult population in the United States have chronic health problems.
1 The United States spends significantly more on health care than any other nation. The U.S. led the developed world in 2012, spending $8,745 per capita on health care.
2 Much of today’s chronic maladies can be traced back to poor food choices and/or eating habits.
Foods in TCM are described by their Yin or Yang nature, taste, temperature and what organ channels they go to.There are five tastes for example that are related to the five elements in nature:
Fire (HEART) – Bitter
Earth (SPLEEN) – Sweet
Metal (LUNG) – Pungent
Water (KIDNEY) – Salty
Wood (LIVER) – Sour
The Spleen & Stomach are the pivotal organs for digestive and nutrient processing. A person with a healthy digestive process will exhibit good energy & vitality, good appetite and well functioning digestion. A person with poor digestion will exhibit symptoms such as chronic fatigue, abdominal bloating, gas, loose stools or constipation, nausea and poor appetite. As noted above sweet is the taste associated with the spleen. A very mild type of sweet flavor that will fortify the spleen should be used in foods such as yams, barley and sweet rice
Avoid: Raw foods like salads & citrus fruits, cold foods & drinks, dairy products, sugar & refined carbohydrates, alcohol & coffee. Today many people must also avoid wheat due to genetic modification.
Add: cooked & fermented vegetables, apricots, cabbage, carrots, peas, string beans, dates, apples, figs, grapes, brown rice, all types of meats, fish especially carp, mackerel,sardines. Soups and stews made with meat stock and bones are most beneficial. Spices such as coriander, cumin, garlic & ginger are effective with spleen qi deficient energetics for those who are more prone to feeling cold and lethargic.
Cooking foods longer and at low temperatures as in stews or soups is beneficial for the spleen/stomach and kidney organs.
1 “Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.” http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/chronic.htm, 2009.