This Friday the 31st is Chinese New Year, so celebrate by having a delicious dinner. And if you’re needing a little inspiration with your January resolutions what better reason than another try at the new year?
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) food is one of the branches of health. In a culture of preventative care, food is not just a matter of sustenance, something to wolf down to put off hunger. It is an integral part of life that is as important as family relations, friendships and work
How stress affects your food
TCM nutritional theory isn’t just about using food as medicine though. A large part of it is about balancing foods – knowing that too many crisps or late night chips will bring on “heat” to the system and to perhaps add some cooling cucumber or celery into your diet for a few days. But it’s equally important to see what the person is craving or tasting as well.
In TCM we say if there is a bitter taste in the mouth then that person is particularly “fiery”, as yang as the yin-yang model can go. These people tend to be quite short tempered or may suffer from splitting headaches or tiring eye-aches. All the discomfort will feel like it’s around the eyes, whether it’s pain, redness or dryness. Others will experience it emotionally, or rather others will experience it, as these people can be incredibly irritable. A matter of walking on eggshells around an erupting volcano.
Interestingly, many medicines, including anti-depressants, can also leave quite a bitter, metallic taste.
Not many people, especially in the West, actively seek out bitter tasting food although they are quite good at reducing the fiery heat in the body. There is a vegetable called bitter melon that the southern Chinese are quite fond of especially after a bout of barbecues or other heaty indulgence. It can look sliced courgette in a stir-fry and gosh is it bitter!
On the other end of the spectrum, sweet cravings often point towards a Spleen dysfunction or presence of damp in the TCM world. The main characteristics are either weight gain or a lack of energy, which can sometimes border on the lethargic, can’t-get-out-of-bed fatigue.
This scenario is more complicated because it’s a catch-22: the dysfunction leads the body to crave sugary snacks or carb-fuelled food, whether it’s cakes and biscuits or macaroni and cheese, and this in turn further exasperates the dysfunction which leads to more cravings… you get the point.
But why was there a dysfunction in the first place, what caused it? It can be a variety of things, perhaps constitutional but most of the time it’s due to lifestyle. The easiest and fastest way to affect the Spleen in TCM is to have an improper diet which doesn’t only mean eating junk food everyday.
An improper diet can also mean eating too quickly, too late, too much or too infrequently. It can also mean not being mindful of what you eat and how you eat it. So a person eating “healthy” sushi on the go while sending an email is no healthier (in TCM’s view) than a person going through their second packet of crips while watching TV.
Letting your meal, no matter how small, be the star for even ten minutes is part of a proper diet.
Another way to weaken the Spleen’s functions is stress. It is no coincidence that stress can lead many people to comfort eat.
Everyone has cravings at one point or another, but it’s how you deal with it that is important and moderation is key. It is incredibly easy to breathe down something delicious but it’s not impossible to stop:
Portion them out. Put the crackers or snack on a plate rather than eating them straight from the packet. Even if you do eat them all, at least it slowed you down.
Eat slower. Your brain will let you know when you’re full if you give it time but more importantly if you eat slower you’re giving your food the attention it deserves and the enjoyment will be greater.
Want to read more? Click here for more about mindful eating and Chinese medicine.
If you enjoyed this, then be sure to visit the blog The Happy Acupuncturist to read more articles, tips and health news.
Lemon and ginger infusion with turmeric and cayenne
This is a lovely warm infusion from Martha Rose Shulman at the New York Times.
Turmeric contributes beautiful color, along with its nutritional benefits – it has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant attributes — and the tiny pinch of cayenne packs a small punch – perfect if you feel a sore throat coming on.
- 4 slices Meyer lemon
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 1/2 cups boiling water
- 2 to 3 teaspoons honey (to taste)
- Pinch of cayenne
Place the lemon slices, ginger, cloves, and turmeric in a large measuring cup or teapot and pour on the boiling water. Stir in the honey, cover and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain and reheat if desired but do not boil. Just before serving add a tiny pinch of cayenne.
You can keep this in the refrigerator for a day. Reheat but do not boil.
Click here for more teas and tonics.
Immune support with a little help from the bees
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you may already have seen me talk about Bee Prepared Max Strength. If you’re feeling a little run down, this all-natural food supplement is a great immune system pick-me-up. These capsules really pack a punch. You can get them from the Nutri Centre (The Hale Clinic, lower ground floor) and don’t forget to use your discount code. Read more about the capsules here.
Read past issues from the newsletter archive.
If you have been kind enough to refer someone to me – I want to say a big THANK YOU. That is the highest compliment and it’s warmly appreciated every time.
Other news: Just a reminder
Appointments are available only on Tuesdays at Neal’s Yard Remedies on King’s Road, 020 7225 2842.
For all other days, you can book a treatment at The Hale Clinic 020 7631 0156.
Alternatively if you can’t get through on the phone, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
More information can be found on my website www.pointspace.co.uk.
Watch this very sweet two minute video about breakfast. The simplicity and poignant words make it a delight – who knew breakfast could be so heartwarming?
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Happy Chinese New Year!
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