Thursday, 6 May 2010

Food in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

I really love how TCM believes about food. It applies what Hippocrates (460 BC – 377 BC) said : “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Ancient Chinese doctors were strong believers in that food can be used as medicine. During their time, when patients got sick, the first thing that the doctor would do is to change their diet. They were concerned with making sure that the food was perfectly balanced energetically. Why food is so important in TCM? It is because 70% of Qi (energy or life force) comes from food, while 25% from air and 5% from Congenital Essence.

TCM classifies food into four energetic criteria :
1)Thermal Nature : hot, warm, neutral, cool, and cold
2)Flavor : sweet, acrid, sour, bitter, salty
3)Organ Network : Spleen, Stomach, Lung, Large Intestine, Kidney, Bladder, Liver, Gallbladder, Heart, Small Intestine.
4)Direction of Movement : Upbearing, Floating, Downbearing, Falling.

Normally, I should take a variety of food in proper proportions in order to ensure a balanced nutrition. But, in the past I took food partially to cold or cool than to hot or warm. This kind of food impaired Yang-Qi in my Spleen and Stomach. I experienced cold-dampness that made me got abdominal pain and diarrhea. On the other hand, one of my friend who liked hot food experienced heat in her stomach and intestines, thirst, abdominal fullness, distension and pain, and constipation.

If the five flavors are not evenly contained in my food, the relationships among my organs will be broken. For example, to much sour flavor strengthens Liver-Qi and weakens Spleen-Qi. Partiality to salty flavor consolidates Kidney-Qi but inhibits Heart-Qi, leading to stagnation of the vessels. To much sweet flavor invigorates Spleen-Qi and restricts Kidney-Qi, making it difficult for the essence to produce marrow and transform blood, resulting in osteodynia, loss of hair and early aging. Partiality to bitter flavor makes Heart-Qi hyperactive and Lung-Qi Hypoactive, leading to retention of food nutrients in the middle energizer and malnutrition of my skin and hair. To much acrid flavor makes Lung-Qi hyperactive and Liver-Qi hypoactive, leading to spasm of the tendons and vessels due to failure of the blood to nourish the tendons.

My immunity comes from my Stomach and Spleen energies. What I eat, how I eat it and most importantly how I digest it will have a direct impact on my energy, emotional state and immune system functioning. Eating is something that I do several times every day, so the quality of the food that I have consumed will have an impact on my health. For the next post I will learn about the food classification in detail.

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