Most practitioners would agree with me that two of the most commonly asked questions their patients ask are: “What should I eat?” and “What diet should I be on?” This question is often asked of acupuncturists, herbalists, chiropractors and basically every kind of therapist out there. And all would suggest something different. To further confuse the issue, what some practitioners preached years patients thirty years ago has all changed now.
Who can remember some of these diet fads?
The Special K Diet – Special K cereal with cold milk, orange juice and black coffee, that was going to get rid of that middle aged spread. Then there was the half a grapefruit sprinkled with sugar on top for breakfast. If you had grapefruit for breakfast each morning your kilos would just drop off. What about the Israeli Commando diet? Two days apples, then two days cheese, then two days chicken and on the seventh day salad. You were allowed black tea or coffee while dieting. Another diet was the Cabbage Soup Diet claiming that you would lose ten kilos in a week.
The I-Ching, an ancient Chinese book, says, “Only one thing is constant and that is change.” Time certainly has exemplified that statement. Just type ‘diet and weight loss‘ into Google and then spend the next year reading through all the diets you could try.
One of the more recent fads worth mentioning is the raw food diet. For those people considering going onto a raw food diet please read about Raw Food Diet Fanatic Syndrome (RFDFS) first. These fanatics argue that cooking kills all the vitamins, therefore everything should be eaten raw. With all the foods and herbs on the planet, there are only 13 vitamins and they only make up a small part of the overall mass of food. There are also numerous minerals, and millions of other constituents that are not killed with the cooking process. We have been cooking food for thousands of years, so by that reasoning, we should have died out a long time ago. This is not to say that you should also eat some fresh fruit just. It has its place. Captain Cook used to make sure his sailors had fruit to prevent them getting scurvy. The Chinese people were the first folk to come out of the stone age, so perhaps consider some of their ideas such as the benefit of cooking food probably are based on experience.
What does traditional Chinese medicine say about eating and diet?
The first rule is to eat cooked food and it needs to be warm. This is so that the food is easily assimilated and processed by the spleen and stomach. There are two sayings: “The stomach takes in the food, and the spleen digests it” and “Too much cold raw food damages the spleen and stomach.” This is not say that traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t also suggest raw food, when it is appropriate. In the heat of the summer, for example they recommend eating fresh watermelon to cool down.
What about the size of meals?
The ancient Chinese system of medicine divides up the day into two hourly intervals when a particular organ is at its peak. The peak time for the stomach is between 7:00 – 9:00 am – this is the optimum time to eat. They suggest having a big nourishing meal during this time. This is in line with traditional western thinking as well, where the saying “Eat like a king at breakfast, like a lord at lunch and a peasant at dinner.” The optimal time for the spleen is between 9:00 – 11:00 am so it has time to digest food in the stomach after it is full. The spleen is at its weakest is between 7:00 -9:00 pm when many people have their biggest meal of the day which is the worst time to eat a big meal.
What does overeating do?
Too much food during meal times causes what is known as food stagnation leading to damp and heat accumulation. This is the equivalent of having a compost heap inside your digestive system. The more you top up your compost heap, the better the compost! Hence the ancient Chinese medicine saying: “Eat only until 60% full.” This allows the digestive juices to maximize the digestive process.
What about the flavour of food, is this relevant?
There are five basic flavours profiles: bitter, sweet, pungent, salty and sour that should all be in a balanced meal. Chinese physicians two thousand years worked out that too much sweet food for example, damages the bones and teeth. Too much salty food damages the blood circulatory system. Interestingly, modern medicine only worked out that excess sugar damages teeth and that excess salt damages blood vessels about 2 thousand years after the Chinese did. Looking at the Chinese style of cooking, you can see how they try to incorporate all five flavors into their meal. For example, sweet and sour chicken with bitter melon with ginger and so forth.
Is it more about what NOT to eat, as opposed what TO eat?
We all know what NOT to eat to help promote health and prevent disease. Processed foods and drinks loaded in salt and sugar are the obvious ones to minimize, but you don’t need me to tell you that. What you likely need is help in is actually committing to it.
If you are someone who craves salt and/or sugary foods and can’t control those cravings, this indicates a spleen and/or kidney deficiency imbalance. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are recommended for this and I suggest you seek the professional services of a licensed or registered Chinese medicine professional to get a diagnosis and individualized treatment for your specific needs.
Gracilis Tincture is based on traditional Chinese medicine methodology to enhance and promote spleen function as part of its signature. More detailed information on how Gracilis Tincture works can be found on the FAQ page.