Chinese dietary therapy classifies food as healing in terms of energetics, thermal nature, and effects on the organs. Food acts as a foundational medicine.
Food is the base of our entire selves; the base for how we feel, our Healthy Body’s ability to deal with stress, energy levels, moods, how each Healthy Body system functions.
TCM dietary recommendations are based on various therapeutic components. The energetics considered are the five elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood), color, season, innate temperatures, flavors, the direction of qi flow, effects on the organ systems, remedial actions; such as, purgative, dispersing, or strengthening. The five thermal natures of food include cold, cool, neutral, warm, hot. The five flavors include pungent, salty, sour, bitter, sweet.
TCM Digestive Energy – the Spleen and Stomach Energetics
We are only as healthy as the strength of our centre; in TCM that is the Earth element and the corresponding organs spleen and stomach. The state of the digestive system is determined by how the spleen and stomach produce qi (vital energy). The stomach is the origin of food and drink, receives and digests, the function is to “rotten and ripen”. The spleen is responsible for absorbing nutrients from what the stomach digested; the spleen “transforms and transports” the qi to the Healthy Body.
Some Causes of Weak Digestion
• Too many raw, cold foods.
• Over-thinking, over-worry (in TCM all emotions are linked to the organ energetics).
• Consuming non-foods (foods without nutritional value, such as processed packaged foods, most fast food).
How to Recognize Digestive Imbalance
Many people feel like they ‘aren’t absorbing nutrients from their food’ and have the sense their digestion is not fully functioning.
- Fatigue after eating.
- Tired in general/ depressed.
- Fuzzy head.
- Eating healthy but feel unwell.
- Bloaty, gasy, burpy.
- Food sensitivities.
- Do not feel fully “evacuated” after a bowel movement.
- Undigested food or mucus in the stool.
- The area around your navel feels cold and a heating pad may alleviate.
There is not a one diet fits all approach. Each person is unique and has his or her own nutritional requirements.
One of the main foods in TCM used to rebuild the Healthy Body systems, recover from illness and convalescing is a rice porridge or gruel called “Congee”. It is soothing to the stomach and easy to digest.
It is made by slowly cooking 1 part white rice in 6 parts water until the rice is the consistency of a thick soup or pudding-like consistency. A crockpot works especially well for this purpose.