Chinese Nutritional Therapy (CNT) is one of the core pillars of Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese understood that food possesses a powerful ability to help us heal and to bring us back into balance. After all, food and the air we breathe are the building blocks of the energy that animates our body, called Qi (pronounced CHEE).
The Chinese understand that all foods possess certain qualities (warming, cooling, moistening and drying) and also possess certain tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent) and that these qualities and tastes have an impact on our health. If you have ever been to a Chinese banquet, you may have noticed that each course will include a perfect balance of all tastes. This is not just because of the aesthetics of the meal, but it is to promote health and balance.
Our diets, while balanced from a Western science viewpoint (carbs v proteins, meat v veggies, or nutrients), may be skewed in favor of one taste over another. For instance, eating too many sweet foods (which include not just sugary treats but also grains, dairy or certain vegetables) can create an abundance of dampness and lead to feelings of fatigue or heaviness in the body. In our go-go-go culture, we tend to eat an abundance of raw or cold foods--especially in the morning. These cold foods can impact our energy and therefor our health.
Using the principles of Chinese medicine, I work with my patients to help them discover what sorts of foods may help them to heal. While patients may come to acupuncture weekly, monthly or once in a while, everyone has to eat daily! I may make dietary recommendations based on Chinese medical theory that complement the work we are doing together in the treatment room and give the patients the tools to create this balance on their own. Learning to "eat for my QI" has been one of the greatest learnings in my own healing journey.
One of my classic tidbits of advice for almost all patients: Eat a hearty warm breakfast! This is classic "grandmother wisdom" from many cultures and it is backed up by Chinese medical theory as well. Ancient doctors observed that the body is best able to create Qi from food in the morning because that is when our digestive system's energetics are strongest. Furthermore, the body's Qi producers (the Stomach and the Spleen) do best with warm foods. For individuals who eat no breakfast or only a bowl of cold cereal, switching to warm breakfasts often has amazing healing benefits.
For more information about how you can eat to build or support your Qi, talk to Meg at your next acupuncture appointment.