An Introduction to Chinese Food Therapy
Many of us now recognize what ancient civilizations have known for thousands of years—that the key to optimal health may lie within the foods we eat. While we tend to approach eating from a rote standpoint by embracing the specific dietary guidelines of the popular Atkins, South Beach, and blood-type regimes, Chinese food therapy makes dietary recommendations that are unique to every individual. This alternative approach to health seeks to address the root cause of a problem, rather than focusing on simply eliminating symptoms and can be complementary to any health regime a person may follow.

Ancient Chinese philosophy maintains that from total consciousness emerged a duality, a yin/yang dynamic that is a continuum of opposites inherent in all of life; this belief is the foundation of all aspects of Chinese medicine. Yin is characterized by such qualities as feminine, dark, cool, damp, dense, nurturing, and creative, while its yang counterpart is characterized by such qualities as masculine, warm, light, dry, and expressive. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the idea that illness arises when the yin/yang within us becomes unbalanced.

At the core of Chinese nutrition is the restoration of this yin/yang balance through the foods we eat. Perhaps this idea is less foreign than it initially sounds, because each of us contains an innate capacity to sense what we need; for example, that afternoon chocolate craving may be the body's way of indicating that the liver energy needs to be soothed. Unfortunately, as we come to rely more on fad diets and culturally-popular eating models, we tend to overlook and dismiss our own inherent wisdom, catapulting our bodies out of the yin/yang balance.

Some people fear that Chinese food therapy will result in a mandate to eat foods that are unfamiliar, difficult to purchase and prepare, and unpleasant-tasting. Actually, if you have ever sampled sesame seeds, cinnamon, or cloves, or enjoyed beets, squash, tomatoes or broccoli, you have eaten some Chinese nutritional fare. The idea is to address "disease" at its most basic level how you are nourished. For instance, a practitioner may determine that there is a spleen deficiency and recommend orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Or for those who experience the excess heat of heartburn, cooling foods such as apples and cucumbers might appear on the shopping list. The taste of a food also relates to the organ system it supports. Thus, sweet foods nourish the spleen, sour foods nourish the liver, bitter foods nourish the heart, spicy foods nourish the lungs, and salty foods nourish the kidneys.

A practitioner of Chinese food therapy draws from various Chinese theoretical models to evaluate a client's nutritional needs. One of these models is the Five Element theory, which assigns general qualities, characteristics, and specific foods to the elements of metal, earth, fire, wood and water. For example, the qualities associated with water are reflective, meditative, truth-seeking, and philosophical; its related foods are seaweed, salt, and minerals. After interviewing the client about his or her health history, the practitioner uses the information presented to determine where the disharmonies lie, and then recommends foods to remedy the problem. This one-on-one approach honors and respects the body's ability to reveal precisely what it needs. The result is a "food prescription" that will not only address the imbalance, but will also be compatible with the client's lifestyle.

Using foods to heal the body does not necessarily mean sacrificing your favorite dishes. It is true that in more acute cases, it is sometimes necessary to temporarily refrain from certain food choices. For example, asthmatics may need to initially eliminate ice cream, because cold foods deplete the spleen energy, which then in turn sends fluid to the lungs. Once balance is restored, however, eliminated foods can again be integrated into the food plan.

Although Chinese food therapy embraces a more individualized approach, there are some general guidelines from which most everyone can benefit. Here are some basic tips for improving digestion:
1 Cut down on raw foods, including salads, which can be difficult to digest.
2 Avoid tofu, instead selecting fermented soy products .
3 Double the amount of water and cooking times for beans and rice, and add a piece of  kelp seaweed available at health food stores) while cooking.
4 Use spices such as coriander and fennel.
5 eliminate iced and cold liquids with meals, instead choosing warm water or tea made with fresh ginger.
Selecting a practitioner of Chinese food therapy should be done carefully; not everyone who has studied some aspect of the vast body of work known as Chinese medicine has specific expertise in this area. Finding someone with whom you feel comfortable and confident will smooth the way for a wonderful journey into the healing properties of nature's bounty.

                                                  QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
How can reduce my cravings for sweets?

Craving for sweets is an indication of imbalances in the Liver. The sweet flavor soothes the Liver. Know that a liver that's in balance is like a "free and easy wanderer." Now, we can't have it wandering off, but think about flow, ease, being gentle with yourself. Benevolence is also a sign of a balanced liver. So if you're easy with yourself (you'll become naturally easier with others) and sweet is needed less to soothe the Liver. However, sweet should not be completely eliminated from the diet.

It's said that by having "sweet" foods in our diet, the sweet tooth gets satisfied. These would be vegetables, complex carbohydrates (grains and legumes) and fruit.
Consider eating sweet vegetables (beets, artichokes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, ) for dessert or in desserts. For instance, cook up a sweet potato add, cinnamon and cardamom. If this sounds appealing, you can keep a few cooked sweet potatoes in the refrigerator and just warm them up and add the spices when you want that sweet something. Keep in mind, however, that sweet foods need to be balanced with what we call qi-regulating foods to help with the digestion of these rich foods.

See how it is to replace a sweet craving with eating something sour or spicy.
Reduce use of "natural" sweeteners such as fructose, brown sugar and turbinado sugar. Overall, reduce intake of sugar gradually. Eliminate use of artificial sweeteners and use stevia to sweeten foods and beverages.
Too much salt intake can cause sweet cravings. Sometimes people also crave salt (that's a Kidney imbalance). So you see how this can become a viscous cycle? Prepared foods, fast foods, fried foods, prepared soups, have lots of salt.
High protein diets create sugar cravings.
Hyper-acidity can increase sweet cravings. This is due to lack of exercise or eating too quickly, too much or an excess of meats and refined foods can cause cravings. Have some raw or lightly cooked vegetables or a glass of bancha tea with lemon, or even do something which doesn't involve eating.

Micro algae will regulate sugar metabolism: spirulina, chlorella, wild blue-green. Cereal grasses, taken before meals, reduces cravings.
Prepare meals at home. Read labels.
And then, of course, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can address the imbalances of the Liver and Spleen that will help with food cravings and improve digestion.
Chinese Food Therapy
Ancient Wisdom
Specialist in Chinese Medicine
"If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. "

Gerald,M Ward
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