The Role Of Chinese Nutritional Therapy In The Prevention And Elimination of Dampness In The Body
Based on energetic principles, Chinese nutritional therapy is used to promote clean burning digestion, balance, and an optimally functioning body that’s filled with energy and free of disease.
Chinese medicine practitioners are trained in bringing back balance to the body when it becomes imbalanced and manifests disease or pain. They are taught how to use herbs and needles, and other tools including tai chi, qi gong, and nutritional or dietary therapy. While these techniques are designed to rectify imbalances to heal disease, the more important thing is to not allow the body to fall into imbalance in the first place.
Chinese nutritional therapy pinpoints and resolves the underlying imbalance patterns that are causing your symptoms.
Foods That Generate Dampness In The body
For thousands of years, the Chinese have been eating for balance as a way of life. Balance is a concept deeply implanted into their cultural choices of what and when to eat. In the Chinese diet, the foods and ingredients chosen are based on their nutritional value and also on their taste and nutrition. Foods such as pearled barley and spices such as ginger are common. Barley has long been discovered by the Chinese to drain dampness, while ginger helps promote digestion. Selecting spices and herbs that contribute to good digestion is easy to understand. But in the Chinese diet, another principle unfamiliar to most Westerners is aimed for, and that is to drain dampness from the body.
Dampness is derived from the eating of foods that cause blockage to the free flow of energy within the body. Sugar, white flour, yogurt, and cheese are some of these foods that contribute to dampness. This condition leads to the stagnation of fluids in the body by creating blockages in the body that causes the bodily systems malfunction resulting in disease and pain. Swollen joints, excess weight, constipation, and loose stools are some of the signs of the buildup of dampness. Arthritis and chronic allergies are a few of the more common Western diseases associated with dampness. Once it accumulates, dampness can be hard to treat, so we should eat in a way that would help prevent it from forming in the first place.
Dampness Begins In Your Digestive System
How is dampness formed? Do you have any idea how food is processed in your body? The Chinese have been observing the process of digestion for over 2,500 years and have declared proper digestion the bedrock of the Chinese Medicinal system and the basis of good health. The formation and buildup of dampness begins in the digestive system.
When you eat, food is masticated in your mouth and then swallowed where it passes through the abdomen and intestines. Energy from the foods is extracted in the intestines and the waste products are ejected at the other end. The energy extracted from the food is transformed into bioelectrical energy called Chi or Qi which provides the fuel your body needs to live. Normally, digestion is a quiet and unnoticeable process. To extract the maximum amount of nutrition and energy from the food, your digestive system should be clean burning and quiet. ‘Clean burning’ is similar to metabolism. If the foods you ingest are metabolized properly, the food is utilized efficiently and there’s no leftover residue after excretion of waste material. But if you have a clogged up system, the food materials and energy don’t get separated well enough and despite expelling waste materials, leftover residue can still stick to various places in the body. This residue is regarded as ‘dampness’ and it affects the functions of your body in many ways.
The lungs and others organs can clog from the buildup of dampness, causing asthma or allergies. When the digestive tract becomes clogged, bowel problems or indigestion can develop. Damp can also block the meridians, which are the pathways where Chi flows. This results in stiffness, pain, or swollen joints. If dampness is not removed from the body, over time, it turns warm and wreaks havoc in the body causing inflammatory diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. In Chinese medicine, one of the keys to treating disease is to understand and treat dampness. It is important not to allow dampness to develop in the first place because it is extremely hard to remove once it has accumulated.
Chinese Nutritional Therapy
Chinese medicine has quite a number of foods to recommend that can help anyone achieve good health. If you’ve been to a Chinese restaurant, you might notice that the meals are built around cooked vegetables, steamed rice, and small portions of bean or animal protein. In Chinese restaurants of higher quality, cooking oils are used minimally and sparingly. If you avoid flour-based food products and foods that are deep fried, you have the basic nutritional Chinese diet, which, at any age, is designed to maintain and/or foster balance in the body.
When you order a dish in a Chinese restaurant, you might see large amounts of lightly cooked vegetables on a typical plate of Chinese food. This is because vegetables are rich in life giving nutrients and contribute greatly in the draining of dampness in the body. Different textures and colors generate a combination that is both pleasing to the palate and the eye. Texture and taste can play an important role in the regulation of your appetite. Satiety is guaranteed by eating a wide variety of foods, so you feel full. Different colors indicate a wide range of antioxidants and nutrients that boost longevity and health. It’s recommended that you start with half a plate of lightly cooked vegetables and as leafy greens are one of the most nutrient rich and balancing foods you can eat, you might want to eat lots of them.
Rice is an easily digestible and balanced food. It is a hypoallergenic food and gentle to the digestive system so it should be recommended to people sensitive to allergies. Brown or white rice are interchangeable and you should choose the one that your body more easily digests. Brown rice is deemed to be more nourishing while white rice tends to be more cleansing. In Chinese Medicine, rice is a food that is ‘clean burning’ which implies that it can gently drain dampness off your body. It should comprise 25 percent of your plate.
Beans and small portions of animal protein are essential in a Chinese nutritional diet. As beans provide protein and fiber and absorb dampness, they can be consumed more often. Animal proteins can be difficult to digest, which is the reason they should be served in small portions. They are considered ‘building’ foods. An ideal serving of animal protein would be around two to four ounces and served three to four times a week. The other 25 percent of your plate would comprise your choice of protein.
Avoid Cold Raw Food
Chinese nutritional therapy would never recommend raw cold food of any type. This includes frozen foods, iced drinks, chilled food and salads. In the development of damp, cold, raw foods are culprits mainly because the body has a hard time processing them. The foods you eat should be approximately body temperature in order for the digestive system to begin breaking them down and extract their essence. Your energetic resources can be overstrained when the foods inside your body still need to be heated by your body. Over time, this weakens your energy system. Well-cooked grains and lightly cooked vegetables help your digestive system to immediately extract energy without needing to heat them first to body temperature. Despite the fact that raw foods such as salads possess more nutrients and enzymes and nutrients, their net gain is lower compared to that of cooked vegetables because you lose energy to the internal heating process as your body tries to assimilate these foods.
Also, No Dairy
You will never find any dairy products such as milk, butter, or cheese on a Chinese menu. Dairy also generates dampness in the body. Cold is the energetic nature of dairy which impairs digestion, even if it’s heated. In Chinese nutritional therapy, dairy is deemed to be a building food but it is meant to be eaten only by people who are undernourished. If you’re well-fed, dairy will only stagnate the function of your bodily systems.
Calcium is a highly touted mineral in Western societies. Western doctors and the media pushes dairy as the only source of this bone building mineral. This is a lie. Foods high in calcium that are just as important in the development of strong robust bones include broccoli, leafy greens, salmon, and almonds. They all can meet your daily calcium requirements especially when you eat several servings of vegetables each day, and each week you can add almonds and small servings of salmon to your diet.
Sugar quickly produces damp in the body. Unfortunately, “health foods” such as energy bars and sweetened yogurt as well as candy and soda are oversaturated with sugar and are widely over-consumed in the West. Interestingly, in Chinese nutritional therapy, sweet flavor is deemed to be nourishing. Most of the foods in the Chinese diet are mainly sweet. In Chinese medicine, sweet does not mean concentrated sugars; it means vegetables, animal proteins, and rice. If vegetables are sweet foods, you can imagine the oversaturated sweetness of a piece of candy. The digestive organs benefit tremendously from the sweet flavor of vegetables, meat, and rice. Sugar and other concentrated sweets weaken the ability of the body to turn food into energy and to move waste materials for elimination. Incompletely converted food turns into dampness, and over time, accumulates causing blockage and sickness.
In Chinese nutritional therapy, there are five different flavors to food: sweet, salty, bitter, pungent, and sour. Balance those flavors according to the current season, disease pattern, and your body type.
Different food choices and altering cooking methods are needed to match the different seasons of the year. In winter, people naturally eat heavier, more warming foods such as baked foods, stews, and soups. Cooler and lighter kinds of foods that can be quickly cooked such as steamed vegetables are much preferred by people during summer. Food choices should vary based on the current season in order to be in tune with the natural environment. During colder months and weather, eat warmer foods and during warmer days and months, eat cool and cold foods to keep you healthy at all times.
In addition, eating the foods that’s indigenous to your region will help maintain the balance in your body. A person living near the equator, for example, where all year round is warm weather, would eat foods that are different from that eaten by people living in cold, southern or northern climates. A person in a tropical climate would naturally avail himself of tropical fruits since they probably grow in abundance in that region and climate. Someone living in northern temperate regions would probably find it difficult to find a tropical fruit sold in their area let alone, grown there.
Without indoor refrigeration and swift transportation on any point on the globe, a lot of modern food choices would not exist. Humans naturally eat what is in season and what is locally available. Preservation techniques have become very efficient although the preserved foods still have to be cooked first. The grocery store of today sells tropical and temperate climate foods such as pineapples, watermelons, and grapes all year round. Some of those foods may not grow in your part of the world and eating them liberally over the course of time will eventually lead to imbalances.
Eating in-season, local foods are still commonly practiced in many regions of the globe. Many studies have been done on indigenous cultures that have a large number of people living beyond a hundred years. Most of these studies focus on the dietary habits of those people to discover the secret behind their longevity and health. Certain foods they eat are isolated by scientists in order to find the key to their healthy and long lives. However, a lot of these studies often overlook the fact that the indigenous people have never consumed foods that have been grown outside their region. Also, when those longevity studies are seen from the viewpoint of Chinese nutritional therapy, there are several resemblances between their choices of food. Conspicuously noticeable are the significant absence of processed and sugary foods and smaller portions of protein as well as a large ratio of whole grains, rice and locally grown vegetables compared to their Western counterparts.
Christina Prieto, AP
1617 Hillcrest St
Orlando, FL 32803