Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chinese Dietary Therapy

Chinese Dietary Therapy

One of the wonderful therapies our Chinese Medicine Doctor, Curtis Webb, offers is Chinese Dietary Therapy. Through this therapy a person can restore the natural balance, rhythm and timing their body needs to achieve optimal health. With his permission, and my gratitude, I share with you his wisdom and expertise of Chinese Dietary Therapy.

Three Principles to Health and Longevity
  1. Proper Work/Exercise
  2. Proper Diet
  3. Proper Relaxation
Proper Eating ~ Principle #2
The diet is such a crucial area to work on when trying to bring the body back to balance. An improper diet is one of the leading causes of ill-health and diseases of all kinds. Modern medicine and even many natural medicine doctors, myself included during my first few years of practice, simply do not emphasize the importance of diet and lifestyle. They may be mentioned in passing during a doctor visit, but real, effective techniques and plans are rarely given. Doctors are so focused on treating the problem with medicines and therapies, that we forget what got our patient in trouble in the first place. My focus is to identify how the diet and lifestyle can be adjusted to create health and wellness. Proper diet is a major foundation for good health. Bringing your diet back into balance is where to start.

How To Bring Your Diet Back Into Balance

Step 1: Timing
The first step to creating balance in your diet is to eat at the appropriate times during your day. Frankly, our timing could not be more wrong. Below is a diagram of proper proportions / times for eating. The two large arrows represent the opening and closing of the bodies energy. The top, where the sun is, represents Noon and the highest energy. The bottom being midnight, where the energy is at its lowest. Here you can see the largest meal of the day is in the morning. Lunch is moderate and dinner is a small snack, much like how the modern breakfast looks.

The diagram below is how the modern western diet looks. The smallest meal is in the morning when energy is growing. What’s worse is when we mix this small carbohydrate/sugar meal with stimulant caffeine. In the morning the body needs energy from food to operate. It needs a steady flow of carbohydrates in the blood to maintain body functions. By eating complex carbohydrates your body can receive the steady flow of energy. During the awake hours, especially when the energy of the day is opening up, we need a good flow of energy. When we jolt our system with sugar it causes and imbalance in our bodies energy.

In the evening the bodies energy should be going into storage and rest. Not digesting foods. By eating late at night you make your digestive system work overtime. Lets imagine for a moment that your body is a copy machine. This copy machine should be turned off at 5 PM when the work day is done. Instead, someone turns the copy machine on and it prints all night. You can imagine touching the copy machine in the morning. It would feel warm to the touch. This is what we do to our digestive systems by eating late at night. This sort of eating pattern encourages a hot stomach and create pathological stomach heat.

The flavor Sweet in Chinese medicine is cooling, tonifying and moistening. The most common symptom of this stomach heat pathomechanism is craving sugar (especially late at night) or hungering easily (being ready to eat again shortly after a meal). The body tries to adjust to the loss of energy from working overtime with some quick energy. It is also hot and dry from all the work, therefore, causing a desire for moisture of sweet. When someone eats sweet foods regularly it creates damp, too much moisture in a sense. Fat would be this moisture.

How To Bring Your Diet Back Into Balance

Step 2: Identify
In Chinese Medicine we classify foods like herbal medicines. Some foods drain dampness, some moisten dryness, some nourish blood, eliminate pests, etc.  We also have our own unique system for diagnosing disease as well. The process we use is called pattern discrimination or also syndrome differentiation. This diagnostic process dates back many thousands of years. At the core of this process is yin yang. To find answers to what is going on with the body, we look to nature to find our clues. If we know the properties of foods then what pattern(s) are manifesting in the body we can properly use food as medicine. Let me use an example to help you understand how the process works. Lets imagine that we are like trees.

Tree 1: The Damp Tree
The damp tree is swamped by moisture. It has been constantly bombarded with rain. It’s water logged and has yellow leaves. A constant post nasal drip, chronic sinus infections, loose stool, adipose tissue and high cholesterol are some examples of how dampness is seen in the body.

Tree 2: The Dry Tree
The dry tree is scorched due to drought and lacks the necessary substances to nourish and moisten itself and move nutrients to proper places. Constipation, strong thirst for cold drinks, dry skin and lips, and feeling hot are examples of dryness in the body.

Tree 3: The Nutrient Deficient Tree
This tree is in soil that lacks the proper nutrients. Therefore causing lack luster appearance, improper growth and deformities. Abnormal hair loss, brittle hair, dry unhealthy looking skin, fatigue, poor memory, scanty menstruation, anemia and abnormal weight loss are examples of nutrient deficiency in the body.

Tree 4: The Pest Infested Tree
The pest infested tree probably needs little description but it’s a tree burdened with fungus, yeast, bacteria, viruses and parasites.

The above descriptions are generalizations for the purpose of helping you understand how Chinese Medicine thinks and identifies disharmonies. There are many other things besides these four analogies that can manifest and cause symptoms. Often, many different patterns at one time are evident, even mixtures of opposite things simultaneously. Although it’s very complex, your Chinese Medicine Doctor should be able to describe to you what is happening and do it in an easy to understand way. Once you understand what pattern is manifesting with you, diet and lifestyle choices will be much easier to make. For those that are not so easy to make, you will at least have some solid reasons why you should make those changes. Hopefully that will make them easier.

Step 3: Combine
The third and last step to bringing your diet back into balance is understanding the five flavors and four temperatures of food then combining them with your pattern of disharmony to create balance.

Flavors: Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, Pungent, Bland

Temperatures: Hot, Warm, Cool, Cold, Neutral
The Secret of Food is in its Flavor
Food has what I like to call a Personality Flavor. The Personality Flavor of a food is its properties and actions. It is the ability of food to mix different flavors and temperatures. An example would be how garlic mixes pungent and warm or celery mixes pungent and cool. These Personality Flavors have the ability to perform various functions on the body. They can moisten, cool, eliminate, enrich, resolve, drain, warm and dry our tissues. The flavor of food gives us an indication to its function. If it is pungent and warm like in the case of garlic, you know it’s good for cold damp situations. For instance, like how the common cold causes chills, body aches and a drippy nose. If the body is hot like seen with cancer, joint inflammation and gastritis, we would need to use bitter cooling foods like leafy greens and celery. On the other hand, raw food would be detrimental for those with a cold constitution and digestive system. They would need warming cooked soups instead.

When we consume Flavor, we direct which way our tissues are influenced. In Chinese Medicine we use the same methodology for foods as we do herbs. In this way we can treat the body and correct imbalances with the Five Flavors and Four Temperatures.

How many foods can you think of which are both medicine and food? Rosemary, ginger, garlic turmeric, green tea, I mean, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” right?

The most common imbalance I see in my clinic is with Sweet foods. It is not that these foods are altogether bad, its that we have too much of one flavor in our diet. Wheat products (cookies, cakes, bread, crackers, cupcakes, tortillas); sugar; sugar cane; honey; agave; sucanat and high fructose corn syrup are some examples of sweet foods. When we eat too much of one flavor we limit the functions of food on our body. Normally we should eat all the flavors and only heavily eat one sided when we’re imbalanced. Sweet foods are very moistening. In Chinese Medicine adipose tissue (fat) is a form of Dampness. This unwanted weight or dampness is due to the over consumption of Sweet, moistening, enriching foods. In a way, you could say that we over-nourish ourselves. This of course could happen with other flavors as well like indigestion caused by eating spicy foods. When the body is imbalanced we can use this system to our advantage. Whatever problem pattern your body is presenting, you eat the flavors that remedy the problem. Then when the body has regained a better state of balance we can go back to eating all the flavors.

Putting It All Together
  1. Eat the Proper Proportions at the Proper Times
  2. Seek a Qualifies Classical Chinese Medicine Practitioner to identify what patterns are manifesting in your body
  3. Combine the right Flavors to restore balance

What I’m proposing here is often seen as quite a challenge at first but there is great hope and promise in you! Plus, you’re worth it! Just as starting a new exercise routine can be difficult but eventually gets easier, so does this. When you start eating a big breakfast instead of the coffee donut combo your body will start to want more and better foods in the morning. When you stop eating late at night your body will be accustomed to only liquids late at night. Your body adapts to the way you treat it. Good or Bad. The physical aspects of this process can also be aided by the use of Chinese herbal medicines, acupuncture, Reiki, meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga, etc.

Restoring balance to your body brings harmony to the body systems resulting in health and wellness. Remember, your body did not become out of balance overnight so allow balance to be restored over time. Be kind to yourself as you take this journey to wellness. Focus on achievements instead of momentary lapses. Focus on your goal of wellness. Love you enough to take good care of you.

Be Well

Curtis Webb & Regina Ann

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~*~ Regina Ann
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