Healing • Chinese Medicine (Healthy Diet) – SRS
Our body is a natural mechanism existing in nature, so as diseases we’re dealing with. What do we do with the natural occurred problems? We need natural solutions.
Back in the days, the ancient Chinese had already started to treat foods as natural healing substances that include grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, algae, and minerals, for one’s body needs to stay healthy.
Additionally, they believed that foods should be consumed in their natural forms ( like wholefood, without adding sophisticated substances, etc), as nature provides the best nutrition and most balanced diet, in contrast to our popular vitamin-and-mineral-supplements culture.
Nowadays, proteins, calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutritional contents are examined in our head before we make a purchase on food. Similarly, the ancient Chinese also acknowledged such valuable nutritions although they couldn’t have the precision of what we now know about them. However, they took a further different step that would change Chinese medicine forever.
In addition to these nutritional contents, TCM suggested that the energetic properties of food, such as nature(temperature), flavour, movement, and their functions are also factors for consideration.
*In this article, we’ll be focusing on nature and flavour only.
Natures of food
In Chinese Medicine, food can be classified into “four Qi” and “Five Flavours”. The main functions of food are to replenish nutrients, benefit qi, supplement blood, maintain and regulate the balance between yin and yang as well as the internal organs.
Wow, it sounds like even kale is a big deal. And Yes, it is. All food is important!
The four Qi:
- “The four qi” refers to four natures, hot, warm, cool, and cold. And then there is a milder nature in food that is known as “neutral”. So in addition to it, there are five natures in total.
Now, the word “nature” here refers to temperature, but not the food temperature itself. It’s the effects they have on a person’s body after consumption. For example, a person drinks a cup of warm mint tea can experience a cooled-down effect, while iced cayenne pepper can make the person feels hot and sweaty. Therefore, the food natures are summarised based on the effects of different reactions from the human body, rather than the food’s temperature.
But what all of this really mean in practice?
When a person consumes one type of food continually, it creates an imbalance in their body (the temperature). The imbalance will affect the bodies’ system, such as the immune system, digestive system.
It’s because the body simply cannot handle “that type”, so it explains why Chinese medicine emphasizes on “keeping the body neutral”.
Other than the natures of food, TCM recognises five flavours within foods and herbs to reinforce their medicinal theories. It does sound a little crazy on paper but please bear with me.
In TCM, food can be classified into “Five Flavours”, namely sourness, bitterness, sweetness, pungency, and saltiness, according to their tastes and functions. And then, there is foods light in taste that are those with unapparent flavour, but usually, they don’t categorise in “Five Flvaours”. Foods of different flavour properties have specific functions on different organs of the human body. Therefore, these flavour categorisations are to help the TCM doctors to understand the patient’s problems as well as prescribing the right medicines.
The Five Flavours:
- Sour food can calm the body and keep things in, such as constraining sweating, arresting cough, or stopping diarrhea. For example, smoked plum and pomegranate have the effect of quenching thirst or relieving diarrhea symptoms due to deficiency and coldness in the spleen and stomach.
- Bitter food can help drying and dampness, and induce purgation; such as aiding the body to clear excess heat. Take bitter cucumber for example, which is bitter in flavour and cold in nature, can clear away heat and eliminate dampness.
- Meanwhile, pungent food, such as ginger, can expel Wind and Cold and is able to recuperate qi and blood. But the nature of spicy foods can also create excess Heat in the body.
- Salty food can nourish and supplement the kidney due to the characteristics of dissolving stagnation and softening masses( such as constipation).
- Sweet food can supplement qi and benefits blood, like honey or dates, strengthening the body’s needs but too much of sweets can create Dampness ( ex: excess weight etc.)
- Light taste food can promote diuresis and eliminate dampness, like kidney bean. For more information.
As we can see here, it’s very similar to our logo of the self-regulating system that, it’s a never-end cycle of food integration within our body. One affects another, so it needs another other to affect the original one etc.
Okay, if you’re not too dizzy we can take a look at the corresponding internal organs to the Five Flavours.
The flavours correspond to the internal organs:
In TCM, everything corresponds to the human organs one way or the other, not even the flavours can escape from this. In fact, after trials the ancient people had tried, they recorded then explained which flavour would enter to which organ first in Huangdi Neijing.
Sour food enters the liver & gallbladder
Bitter food enters the heart & small Intestine
Sweet food enters the spleen & stomach
Pungent food enters the lung & large Intestine
Salty food enters the kidney(s) & bladder
*Some of you might notice that the foods entering patterns to the organs are similar to what we’ve discussed – Yin Yang organs. Yes, isn’t it now easier to understand when one type of flavoured food enters one organ, it’ll also affect the corresponding organ too.
This is merely a super simple guide as there are more complications in each food affects the organ(s), for more information about how flavours have effects on organs, please consult a TCM doctor or do extra research on your own.
Okay cool, but what are all these can do to me?
Understand the food natures and their flavour effects have on us, we can be smarter in selecting and avoiding the foods to eat, according to our body health. For example, there are seasonal foods, which means they’re favored to be consumed due to the seasonal natures. It’s about healthy diet, but it’s more than just healthy diet.
Though, with everything that we’re about to eat, we need to think and understand what our body reacts to after consuming it, as everybody’s health is different. So this is scenario one.
Scenario two, when we unfortunately get sick, instead of merely relying on the doctor’s directions and prescriptions, we can learn what foods can boost our immune system, look for other ways to speed up our recovery. And more importantly, what other foods we should avoid eating them.
There are many more scenarios, but I’ll stop here. This article, as well as the Self-Regulating System, is an opening chapter for you going down to a healthier path. There might be more research needed to be done on your end but the obsession of health, and a determination of living a healthful life, will overcome the current obstacles and that, you’ll be at the place where you’re thinking now in no time. Keep in mind that, all sicknesses can be prevented.
Photos by Marion Botella, Andy HYD, Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash
Thanks for reading and what is your healthy diet? Let me know in the comments! : )