Do you consider yourself a healthy eater? Do you follow the guidelines set forth by the government for healthy eating? Or have you gone rogue? There are as many different definitions of healthy as there are colors in the rainbow. But according to traditional Chinese medicine, there are certain guidelines that will keep the body happy and healthy throughout life. Let’s explore this a little deeper.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine diet is based on energetic principles that encourage balance, clean burning digestion and a well-functioning body that remains free of disease and full of energy. Eating for balance is a way of life in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory. There are certain foods that help the digestive system function properly and allow the body to utilize the nutrients it needs to perform. When food enters the mouth, it travels through the stomach and intestines. This is where the energy is extracted from the food and the waste products are excreted. The energy that was extracted become your life force or Qi (pronounced “chee”). Digestion, in TCM theory, should be an unnoticeable event. The digestive system should be clean and quiet, allowing the body to extract the most nutrition and energy from food that’s ingested. If the digestive system becomes clogged, energy does not get adequately absorbed and produces residue that sticks to places within the body causing blockages which can affect daily bodily functions.
Dampness is the most common byproduct of eating foods that create blockages in the digestive system. Foods that create dampness include dairy, white flour, alcohol, peanuts and sugar. The blockages or stagnation caused by the dampness can lead to pain and disease. Symptoms of accumulated dampness include mucus, loose stools or constipation, excess weight gain and swollen joints in the earlier stages. Chronic allergies and arthritis are two Western medicine diseases closely linked to dampness.
To avoid disease, the TCM diet recommends things like steamed rice, cooked vegetables and small quantities of animal protein for starters. TCM also tailors food intake based on an individual’s constitution and what they are dealing with healthwise.
Vegetables play a major role in draining dampness and are packed with nutrition and antioxidants. More color equates to promotion of quality health and longevity. Lightly cooked vegetables and leafy greens are very important also as they are some of the most balancing and nutrient dense foods available.
Rice is a balanced food that is easily digested. However, rice can be cross-reactive to people with gluten sensitivities. White rice tends to be more cleansing, while brown rice is considered more nourishing. Eaten in moderation, rice is a clean burning food that gently drains dampness from the body.
Protein is the final component of a healthy TCM diet. Animal proteins and beans are difficult to digest and therefore only suggested in small quantities.
Several things which should be avoided in the TCM diet. Dairy is one of the biggest culprits of creating dampness. Also being cold in nature, dairy is a hindrance to the digestion. Cold, raw foods are also culprits in the formation of dampness, as it is difficult for the body to process them. This is why foods ingested should be at least at body temperature. When the body has to heat the food, it drains energetic resources of your body, weakening the digestive system over time. Items like salads, chilled food, iced drinks and frozen foods should not be a daily intake.
When it comes to healthy eating, it is obvious that most of the United States doesn’t adhere to the aforementioned guidelines. If you are truly trying to eat healthy and you are dealing with illness, why not consider trying the TCM way of eating? You’ll surely be pleasantly surprised with the positive changes.