Today, there seems to be more information on food than ever before. Every type of food has been dissected for its beneficial and harmful effects on the human body. We are living in a world of countless health diet theories and the societal squeeze to adhere to one of them – Keto, Atkins, Low Carb, High Protein, Paleo, Vegan, Raw – our views can be shaped by ever changing trends and the latest clinical research. Are there any pitfalls of a self-prescribed diet? How can we be sure it is working on the inside? The confusion can be overwhelming and can leave you scratching your head at the beginning of a buffet line deciding what to put in your mouth!
Is there more to food than counting the milligrams of calories, protein, minerals or vitamins? As you may know, Traditional Chinese Medicine takes a holistic look at our health and well-being. In contrast to the western approach to food, Chinese medicine understands food to have a deeper more medicinal relationship with our body, it identifies a synergy between the flavour of a certain herb or food and the effect it produces on human bodies once consumed. This is a very important approach, especially when we are trying to look at food to solve a certain health problem.
The role of food in Chinese medicine looks at the nature of food and identifies the synergy between the Temperature and Flavour of a certain herbs or food.
When we talk about Temperature, we are not referring to the actual temperature in terms of degrees, but rather the heating or cooling process the food delivers to the body. Take a lemon for instance. It has cooling properties which clears heat from the body, and aids in toxin elimination. It’s no surprise that foods that are warm or hot can bring a heating affect. Ever wondered why you feel like a salad in the heat of a summer’s day or a warm soup on a cold winter night? That is your body asking you to balance its temperature by making food choices that support its functioning.
But how do flavours help us? Aren’t flavours purely for our taste buds and enjoyment of life? Not necessarily. Much like the western world the Chinese divide our tastes into five different kinds: sour, sweet, acrid, salty and bitter. But this is not purely for the balancing of flavours on the tongue but as they relate to our organs. More than just hitting our senses, these flavours, once consumed, send nutrition to the organ it is needed most. Consider the main organs these five flavours benefit:
Sour – Liver
Sweet – Spleen + Stomach
Acrid – Lungs + Large intestine
Salty – Kidneys
Bitter – Heart + Small intestine
So yes, this means if we identify a problem we have with one of our organs, we can guess which food flavour can help restore the health of that organ by consuming foods that directly relate to it.
The food we eat every day alters our body’s balance. Many diseases are caused or worsened by the foods we eat. If you are tired of churning through diets and jumping on the new ‘superfood’ craze, why not take an oriental approach and consider how Chinese medicine can help you bring your body back to a balanced equilibrium by eating food that is specific to your body’s unique constitution. If you do not know your constitution, let your experienced TCM practitioner at Clinic 38 help you find out.