The acknowledgement of individuality is one of the things most liked about traditional Chinese medicine or TCM. This also stretches to the realm of Chinese nutritional therapy. Here, in Chinese nutritional therapy, there is no “one size fits all” or diets or herbal regimens. Each is customized to the needs of the person, and it’s known that each individual needs can vary widely.
A balanced diet, from the perspective of the Chinese, is quite different from that in the West. A balanced diet for the Chinese is one that integrates the five 5 tastes – salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and spicy. Herbs and foods that have a specific taste or flavor are likely to possess specific properties. For instance, bitter foods and herbs tend to be Cold and drying making them ideal for addressing Damp Heat problems, but not recommended for individuals who are too Dry and/or too Cold. Most bitter foods and herbs have antibiotic-like qualities while Salty foods and herbs are more inclined to moisten and warm. They therefore can be used to treat people suffering from Dryness and Cold, but are contraindicated for people who are Damp and Hot.
There is also such a thing as a bland flavor that goes with the five basic flavors. Bland foods and herbs tend to possess qualities that help drain Dampness. Some experts make a distinction between astringent and sour, clumping both these flavors under sour. Foods and herbs that have a sour taste tend to be moistening and possess heating energy. Astringent foods and herbs tend to be drying and cooling.
There are certain herbs and foods that possess more than one taste. The Wu Wei Shi herb, for example, is highly valued because it possesses all the five tastes. Actually, its name literally translates to Five Flavor Seed. (The scientific name for Wu Wei Shi is schizandra or Fructus Schizandrae.)
A balanced diet, according to the Chinese, is one that contains all the five tastes. However, the proportionality of those flavors/tastes tends to differ based on the season of the year and the needs of the person. A person suffering from Yang deficiency requires a higher ratio of foods that have Yang energy compared to other individuals. These Yang energy foods can furnish Yang energy to a yang deficient individual and aids him or her in obtaining balance. A person who has a Yin Deficiency problem will, on the other hand, require a larger ratio of Yin energy foods. Someone suffering from Dampness is required to go easy on herbs and foods that have sour, salty, and/or sweet flavors as they tend to be moistening. If you have problems with Dampness, it’s not necessary to consume a huge amount of herbs and foods that have moistening properties that tend to exacerbate the Dampness. These flavors and foods are recommended for some individuals who have problems related to Dryness. (There are exclusions). Each diet is thoroughly customized for the person. It’s also important to remember if the person is too Cold or too Hot. Despite the fact that all three flavors have a tendency to moisten, sweet is likely to be cooling while sour and salty tend to be heating. Sour has a more heating property than salty; therefore, one needs to avoid sour in instances of Damp Heat.
Foods that have bitter, spicy, and astringent properties can be excellent for individuals suffering from excessive Dampness but only good for people with excessive Dryness. One should also consider the thermal energy of food. Foods with cooling properties include astringent herbs and foods. Bitter herbs tend to be even more cooling than the astringent herbs and foods that tend to be too much heating.
This article shows show how a significant part of TCM involves the balancing of opposites. To balance deficient Yang, one needs to eat foods replete with Yang energy. Since winter is the most Yin time of the seasons, eating foods rich in Yang foods is appropriate. During summer, the most Yang time of the season, eating Yin rich foods is then recommended. Sometimes, however, it’s a good idea to be in harmony with the season. Therefore, during winter, eat Yin foods and during summer, eat Yang foods. Traditional Chinese medicine is custom made based on the needs of the person.
Generally speaking, meats are Yang and vegetables, Yin. Also, the manner in which food is prepared substantially influences the quantity of Yang or Yin energy of the food. Yang tends to increase when food is fried, and yin tends to increase when food is steamed. Therefore, veggies that are stir-fried have more Yang energy in them than veggies that were steamed. If you suffer from Yang Deficiency, it is a good idea to stir-fry your vegetables. On the other hand, if you are deficient in Yin energy, it’s a good idea to less of stir-fried veggies and lots of steamed veggies. Food served warm and cooked tends to be more warming compared to cold and raw food. Celery cooked in a stir-fried dish served warm, for instance, has greater warming quality and possesses more Yang energy than raw celery served in a cold salad.
Some flavors also have a certain association with some of the Organ systems in the body. The salty taste, for instance, has a close relationship with the bladder and Kidneys. Some foods are sometimes salted to help derive the qualities of the food to the Kidneys. It’s widely believed that a person suffering from Kidney imbalances can feel better after just eating a little salt and drinking herbal teas that have tonifying properties to the Kidneys. In general, the sour flavor has a close association with the Gall Bladder and Liver. (You should be careful as this may lead to Damp Heat affecting the Liver or gall stones). Bitter has a relationship with the Small Intestine and Heart, sweet, for the Stomach and Spleen and spicy for the Large Intestine and Lungs.
In Chinese nutritional therapy, there is absolutely no such thing as “one size fits all” or forbidden foods. From time to time, sugar may be even added in an herbal remedy because it is needed by the person. (In America, this rarely happens, but in other countries, sugar is deemed as medicine for some people. But the use of sugar in the US is so overdone that it is classified as a “poison”).
There are no “one size fits all” diet therapies even in the West. People have this erroneous belief that we’re all the same – like transposable components on a factory line. Salt, for instance, is deemed harmful for a lot of people and can increase blood pressure in many of them. Most of these people are strictly on a low sodium diet. However, a low sodium diet can create havoc to people suffering from NMH or Neurally Mediated Hypotension or adrenal insufficiency. Most of us require lots of water to rehydrate ourselves or to survive; for others, however such as people suffering from epilepsy, drinking too much water can be dangerous. There are people who need to lots of fat in their diet more than others. This is especially true with children in particular, who may develop growth and health problems when impetuous parents restrict the eating of too much fat in their child’s diets. Because of an assault to our systems or as a result of genetics, some of us have more than an average need for taking certain minerals or vitamins. A deficiency of iodine in our body can result in goiter, but excessive amounts of iodine can bring about instances of hyperthyroidism. You can basically exacerbate an existing illness if you consume the wrong foods at the wrong time.
Certain preventive measures are required when selecting these foods as they tend to be eaten on a regular basis over the long term which can have a long lasting and profound effect on the functions of the body. If a specific herbal remedy is used over a long period of time, the same precautions apply. This means there’s prudence in following a diverse diet not only based on the Western perspective of range of nutrients and/or allergies, but also from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine).
Salty food should be avoided in deficient blood as they tend to dry the Blood.
Pungent foods disperse Chi and in deficient Chi syndrome should be avoided.
Sweet foods settle on the muscles and too much of it can lead to muscle weakness.
Bitter foods settle on the bones and to avoid diseases of the bone, too much of it should be avoided.
Sour foods settle on the nerves and can disturb the Liver, therefore, if a person suffers from chronic pain, it should be sparingly used.
Salty foods settle on the Kidneys, if you suffer from a diseased Liver, you need to avoid pungent foods, salty foods go to the Kidneys, pungent foods go to the Lungs, sweet foods goes to the Spleen, bitter foods go to the Heart, and sour foods go to the Liver. According to Chinese nutritional therapy, do not eat pungent foods if the Liver is diseased, you should not eat bitter foods if the Lung is diseased, if you have a diseased Kidney, you should not eat sweet foods, you should not eat sour foods if your Kidney is diseased, if you have diseased Heart, refrain from eating pungent foods.
In instances of Liver disease, you may be wondering about limiting or avoiding the consumption of spicy foods, limiting salty foods in cases of Heart disease when salt flavor has an affiliation with the Kidneys, limiting sour foods for Spleen disorders, when the Liver is affiliated with the sour taste.
These constraints all deal with the five elements theory of the Victor-Vanquished rule. This rule essentially deals with the Organ systems that have opposite affiliations with each other. In a Victor-Vanquished relationship, one gets weakened while the other gets stronger. For instance, if there is excessive amount of energy in the Liver, it can invade the Spleen. This disharmony is known as Liver attacking the Spleen (this means a very strong Liver causes it to attack the Spleen, which is very weak). In this instance, the attack of the Spleen by the Liver causes damage that can be painful and can wreak havoc to the digestion. If sour foods (which are affiliated with the Liver) are eaten by someone with a weak Spleen, it’s weakening the Spleen and energizing the Liver even more because of the inverse effect of the Victor-Vanquished relationship between the Spleen and the Liver. There are occasions in which the Element that usually is the Vanquished will reverse the tables on the Element that’s typically known as the Victor. This is known as “Insulting”. In this instance Spleen (Earth) Insulting Liver (Wood).
It’s important to remember that the first line of defense in health matters is Chinese nutritional therapy in . Occasionally, before the medicinal herbs are given or before the herbs can work properly, the individual will need to straighten out his/her diet.