Power of Energetics: Digestion in TCM

Well, this is the last post in my Power of Energetics Blog series!  I hope you learned a little bit more about the how Chinese Medicine views food and how to use food as medicine.  Thank you for sticking with me! Here is my last installment! Enjoy!

To start, one needs to understand the difference between Western organs functions and TCM organ functions. In Western Medicine, the organ is located in a specific part of the body where specific physical tasks are performed, as well as there being hundreds of different organs and structures that work together to make the body run.  In TCM, there are 12 main organs that do the majority of the body functions and these functions are done at an energetic, physiological, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. Some of the functions associated with each organ align with Western Medicine model, others do not.  The difference can be difficult to process at first since the organ functions in TCM can be fundamentally different, but hopefully, these next few blogs can help cultivate an understanding.

The digestion process in TCM is the job of the Spleen.

The physiological function of the Spleen is to “transform and transport”, meaning that it transforms food and drink into gu qi and transports the gu qi to where it is needed. Gu qi is the nourishment needed to support the body via the processes of making qi, blood and healthy fluids.  The stronger our Spleen functions the better we extract nourishment and support the needs of our body.

The Spleen’s physical function is our thinking process. The Spleen governs our ability to study, concentrate, and process information. Therefore, the Spleen is needed to digest and process both food and information into something the body can use. You can see this connection in the “food coma” when we have a meal or overeat and then we get tired and mentally sluggish.  You can also see it when you have too much worry (considered overthinking in TCM) and your digestive system gets “knotted up” and we get nausea or a stomachache.

The Spleen’s emotional level is also tied to the digestive system.  At this level, the Spleen is our ability to meet our needs emotionally to give emotional nourishment and support.  We feel comfortable, secure, nourished and supported when all our needs are met.

Ways to Keep the Spleen Functioning Properly

  1. Eating with joy and a positive attitude. Eating food when we are in a happy and content place literally allows our bodies to accept food more effectively. When we start labeling food bad and good, we are cultivating guilt and resentment, which can impair the Spleen’s function.
  2. Be present and relaxed.  The Spleen works best when we are focused on enjoying the meal and are not distracted by other influences.  Try not to do anything other than eat during meals; no TV, reading, conducting business, etc.
  3. Chew well.  Chewing food lessens the work that the Spleen and Stomach need to do to transform food into nourishment.
  4. Try to stop before you are full.  When we overeat we create stagnation and as a result, our body ends up using more resources to digest the excess food. Chronic overeating will tax the Spleen and impair its ability to Transform and Transport, which then can create a domino effect on the other organs abilities to perform their functions as well.
  5. Do not drink too much during meals.  Drinking too many fluids during meals can dilute the digestive action of the Spleen and leads to weak digestion.  The Stomach needs warmth to “cook” and help the Spleen process food, and too much liquid will cool down things too much.  Drinking some warm liquids during meals is best.
  6. Too much raw and cold foods also injure the Spleen. Prolonged or excessive use of chilled or raw foods can impair the Spleen’s functions. As stated earlier, the Spleen and Stomach need warmth to process food.
  7. Do not eat late at night.  At night our bodies are in the yin phase, slowing down and preparing for sleep and repair.  Eating late at night can inhibit this process and lead to stagnation of food in the digestive tract, create heat, induce insomnia, induce dream-disturbed sleep, and other complications.  It is best to eat before 7:00 p.m. for optimal digestion.
  8. Listen to your body.  Cravings are not always a bad thing, sometimes the body craves certain foods because it is in need of that particular food’s nutritional or energetic quality.  If you see a pattern to your cravings, take note, your body may be trying to tell you something.

As always with anything please remember: A little bit is medicine, a lot is poison.

Power of Energetics: 5 Properties

images-3

 

Yin and yang, is a constant factor in Chinese Medicine and energetics.  This week we are talking about the 5 properties of food—Heat/Hot, Warm, Neutral, Cool, and Cold —how they correspond to yin and yang, and how they affect the body.

 

 

When talking about the properties of food, if a food is heat/hot it is considered warming and if it is cold it is considered cooling.  When differentiating the properties foods that are extremely warming are considered heat/hot and food that are slighting warming are considered warm.  The same goes for cooling foods.  Warming and cooling foods correspond to yin and yang—where heat is yang and cold is yin.  When eating cooling foods, energy and fluids are directed inward and lower so the exterior and upper portions of the body cool first.  When eating warming foods, energy and fluids (especially blood) move up and out to the surface of the body.

images-4The properties of food also are a great example of yin with the yang (which I spoke about in my last blog), foods can have opposing properties.  For example, Siberian Ginseng can both lower high blood pressure and raise low blood pressure.  This can happen because food can be altered in the cooking process, ultimately transforming the yin into the yang.  The warming and cooling properties of food depend on multiple factors:

  1. Slow growing plants such as carrot and cabbage are more warming than those that grow quickly.
  2. Fertilization, which stimulates plants to grow quicker, creates a more cooling food/energetic.
  3. Raw food is more cooling than cooked food.
  4. Foods eaten cold are more cooling.
  5. Foods that are colored blue, green or purple are more cooling than the colors red, orange, and yellow. Example: a green apple is more cooling than a red apple.
  6. Cooking methods requiring more cooking time, higher temperature, or higher pressure are generally more warming.  Deep frying is more warming than steaming food and heatless methods of preservation or preparation, like fermenting, marinating or sprouting are cooling.

If possible do not microwave or overcook your food.  Microwaving food can damage the molecular integrity and diminish the Qi. If you must microwave your food, the best method is to put your microwave at a lower power and cook it in small increments of time until warm.  In general cooking your food moderately (whether in a microwave or on the stove) is the best for your body, as overcooking or eating too much raw foods can be overstimulating.

Heat/Warm

Unknown-2Excess heat can be caused by eating too many warming foods or an insufficient amount of cooling foods, to much activity or work, exposure to heat and extreme climates (even a cold climate), or the obstruction of the internal organs.  The entire body or just a part can be affected by an excess of heat.

 

 

Signs of Heat:

  • As heat rises the body fluids dry up. (ex. dehydration)
  • The body feels hot, avoidance or fear of heat, and attracted to cold
  • Head: Bright red tongue with a yellow coating, red face, red eyes, nosebleeds, canker sores, “rotten” breath smell
  • Heart/Mind/Body: High blood pressure, hemorrhages, inappropriate or incoherent speech, convulsions, delirium, full and fast radial pulse
  • Local inflammations, swellings, rashes, skin eruptions, and sores
  • Digestion: Constipation, dry and smelly stools, dark yellow or red urine, blood found in stool or urine, strong desire for cold liquids in large quantities, matter excreted is forceful and urgent, mucus and phlegm are thick and yellow or green

To combat an excess of heat one should eat less and increase fluid intake.  One should avoid red meat, chicken, alcohol and cigarettes as they increase heat.  Other food to avoid is yogurt, cows milk, eggs, clams, and can as can cause obstructions and aggravate heat.  Small amounts of almonds, sesame seeds, and fresh sunflower seeds can supply nutrients needed without increasing heat. One should also avoid pressure cooking, baking, or deep frying food.  Steam, simmer or eat foods raw.

For acute heat symptoms use the liquid forms of cooling vegetables or fruit juices, broths, and herbal teas.  These liquids should not be served cold, cold foods and drinks actually weaken the body.

Another form of heat is called deficiency-heat or deficiency-yin. This is the most common form of heat nowadays.  Deficiency-heat is produced not by an excess of heat, but by a deficiency in yin, specifically in the yin fluids and structures that provide balance for heat in the body.  Basically, the yin aspects of the body are so low that heat appears to be in excess. This is also a symptom of people who have yin of inferior quality, usually caused by overeating rich and denatured foods.

Signs of Deficiency-heat:

  • Hypoglycemia, diabetes, tuberculosis, and anxiety disorders
  • Wasting diseases where there is a long term inflammation and infections from viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, an other pathogenic microbes
  • degenerative disease eventually become marked with signs
  • Fluids: drinking small amounts of fluid often throughout the day, dryness of the tongue, mouth, cough or breath
  • Body: Tends to be thin (extreme cases result in emaciation), vertigo, spasms, cramps and moving pains, pulse is fast and thin
  • Mind: Insomnia, irritability, uneasiness, worry, excess thought
  • Color: Fleshy pink or fresh red tongue and cheeks
  • Heat: Low intermittent fever, palms and soles are hot and sweaty, night sweats

The modern person is a great example of deficiency-heat; uneasy, anxious with an abundance of energy (deeper energy lacking), and relationships are filled with irritations and fighting.  One just need to look at the causes of deficiency-heat to see the correlation.  Stress, excessive noise, competition, consuming warming nutrient deplete substances (alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, synthetic drugs) all deplete yin quickly. Also, overconsumption of spicy foods and food grown on wasted soil are also very yin depleting. A scary trend is emerging in our offspring where they lack the ability as a whole to supply sufficient yin fluids to themselves,  thus perpetuating the abundance of people with deficiency-heat symptoms.

The earth also reflects this deficiency-heat, as high quality sources of nutrient-rich food and clean water dwindle away.  Yin nurtures and stabilizes, the earth needs yin to grow and create.  To support not only your own body, but that of the earth’s, eat only local and organic food.

To combat deficiency-heat one can do activities that cultivate and harmonize yin, such as yoga, meditation, or connecting with the earth (gardening).  One should avoid intoxicants and refined food.  Meat, eggs, and other animal by-products are a good source of yin, but be careful as overconsumption can create sticky mucus.  Also be wary of refined food, especially foods high in sugar, as they offer a quick, temporary yin fix but will ultimately deplete both yin and yang.

Cold/Cool

Cold arises from the lack of physical activity, eating too much cooling food, or an overexposure to a cold environment.  Cold can also be caused by deficient yang resulting from insufficient warming foods or a constitutional weakness from birth. It takes longer for a cold person to build warmth than for a hot person to lose heat, which means that it is much harder for a person in a cold pattern to get back to normal.

Signs of Cold:

  • Areas affected are kidneys, bladder, bones, hair, emotional fear and sexual function
  • Causes Contraction: Body bends or moves around with difficulty and pain can be intense and fixed.
  • Body: Chilled sensation, dislike of cold, attraction to warmth, overdressed, body excretions will be copious and clear(clear urine, watery stools, or thin watery mucus)

To combat cold work on fears and insecurities, become more active, avoid long baths, and keep kidneys, legs, and lower abdomen warm. Use warming foods and cooking methods—avoid cooling or raw foods.  Do not eat or drink below room temperature and do not eat or drink anything too hot.  Moderate amounts of animal by-products are warming, especially butter. Eat extremely warming foods (ex. hot peppers) sparingly, as too much heat has a cooling effect.  The same principle goes for concentrated sweeteners.

 

Property

Temperature

Food

Yin Cold Bamboo shoot, water chestnut, sugar cane, tomato, watermelon, banana, grapefruit, persimmon, mulberry, star fruit, seaweed, kelp, crabs, clams, sprouts, watercress, lettuces, and salt .
Yin Cool Millet, barley, wheat, buckwheat, eggplant, cucumber, celery, peppermint, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard leaf, spinach,  amaranth, pea, mung bean, pears, cantaloupe, apple, pineapple, persimmon, coconut, strawberry, orange, tangerine, mango, papaya,  green tea, tofu, mushrooms, egg white, sesame oil, cream, yogurt and cheese.
Harmonized Yin/Yang Neutral Rice, corn, taro, sweet potato, potato, turnips, carrot, cabbage, radish leaf, beetroot, soybeans, adzuki beans, peanut, cashew, pistachio, black sesame, sunflower seed, plums, fig, grapes, lemon, olives,  shiitake mushroom, (sea) shrimps, pork, duck, oyster, beef,  egg yolk, royal jelly honey, milk, soybean milk, and sugar.
Yang Warm Coriander, chives, onion, leeks, green onion, asparagus, sweet peppers,  spearmint, pomegranate, apricot, peach, cherry, lychee, raspberry, chestnut, pumpkin, glutinous rice, dates, walnut, pine nut, mussels, lobster, fresh water shrimps, chicken, venison, ham, goat milk, maltose, brown sugar, cumin, clove, fennel, garlic, ginger (fresh), dill seed, nutmeg, rosemary, star anise, Sichuan peppercorn, sweet basil, tobacco, coffee, vinegar, wine, vegetable oil.
Yang Hot Black pepper, cinnamon, ginger(dried), chili pepper, and mustard seed.

 

Once an understanding of one’s personal constitution of cold or warm is reached it is easy to create a diet specific to keeping the balance of yin and yang in the body. If one is not clearly of a cold or warm constitution, then a diet balanced in both properties is best.

 

While waiting for the next installment, please take a look at the foods in our other blogs to see how to choose the most nutritious groceries, how to store them to retain freshness, the nutritional benefits, and of course—the energetics.   

Power of Energetics: 5 Flavors (Part 2)

images-3Part 2 about the 5 flavors in Chinese Medicine with respect to their thermal properties (warming vs cooling), remedial actions (drying, moistening, etc.), where their energy is directed and how they are used therapeutically.

In this part we are going to focus on the last of the 5 flavors, Bitter and Sweet flavors.

 

 

I would like to restate that occasionally food is assigned a certain flavor property that might not correspond to the actual taste. Flavors are assigned to designate and reflect the properties of food, not just taste.  There are also many foods that have more than one flavor associated to it and are generally only used when both flavors are needed.

 

Bitter

organic-alfalfa-sproutsProperties: A yin flavor; cooling effect; causes contraction and encourages the energy of the body to descend.  Reduces the excessive person (robust, extroverted, with thick tongue coating, loud voice, reddish complexion, etc.). Bitterness is an antipyretic, lowering fever; it will also dry fluids and drain dampness. Certain bitter foods and herbs have a purgative effect and induce bowel movements. Enter the Heart and Small Intestines.  Corresponds to the Fire Element.

Uses: Helpful for inflammations, infections, and overly moist, damp conditions. Also used for constipation.

Organ Function: Bitter foods clear heat and clean arteries of damp mucoid deposits of cholesterol and fats, in general tending to lower blood pressure. Bitter foods clear stagnancy and cools heat in the liver (usually caused by overconsumption of rich foods).  Bitter foods and herbs drain damp-associated conditions in the form of candida yeast overgrowth, parasites, mucus, swellings, skin eruptions, abscesses, growths, tumors, cysts, obesity, and all moist accumulations including edema. Bitter foods also increase intestinal muscle contractions. The kidneys and lungs are tonified and vitalized by bitter foods. It is superb n removing mucus/heat conditions in the lungs, signified by yellow phlegm discharges.

Seasonal Attunement: One should progressively increase their bitter intake during the fall and winter months, in order to contract and channel energy lower into the body. Heat symptoms arising in any season can be neutralized by bitter foods.

Individual Benefited: Slow, overweight, lethargic, watery (damp) individuals. Aggressive, overheated people are cooled by bitter foods.

Cautions: People who are deficient, cold, weak, thin, nervous, and dry should limit their bitter food intake.

 

Sweet

Goji BerriesProperties: A yang flavor; regularly subdivided into full sweet (more tonifying and strengthening) and empty sweet (more cleansing and cooling). The sweet flavor, especially found in warming food, helps energy expand upward and outward in the body.  It is a harmonizing flavor with a slow, relaxing effect.  They also build yin in the body—tissues and fluids—and thus tonify the thin and dry person.

Uses: In the form of complex carbohydrates, sweet food is the center of most traditional diets; it energizes and yet relaxes the body, nerves, and brain. Sweet foods are used to reduce the harsh taste of bitter foods and to retard acute disease symptoms. Sweet foods in the form of complex carbohydrates also are suitable for treating the cold or deficient person. Enters the Spleen-Pancreas and Stomach.  Corresponds to the Earth Element.

Organ Function: Sweet foods soothe aggressive liver emotions such as anger and impatience. It is traditionally used to calm acute liver attacks.  Sweet foods also moisten dry conditions of the lungs, and slows an overactive heart and mind.

Seasonal Attunement: Sweet foods are appropriate for all seasons, and especially desirable during the equinoxes and solstices as they promote harmony. Warming and/or ascending sweet foods attune to the upsurges of spring, as do pungent foods.

Individual Benefited: The dry, cold, nervous, thin, weak, or scattered person needs whole sweet foods in greater quantity; the aggressive person needs sweet foods too for its retarding effect.

Cautions: The sluggish, overweight individual, or those with other damp signs, including mucus conditions, should take very sweet foods sparingly. Chewing carbohydrates well makes them much less mucus-forming and thus has a lighter, less damp impact on digestion. Too much sweet foods damages the kidneys and spleen-pancreas, weakens the bones, and causes hair loss.

 

Flavors and Direction

Affected organ

Effects

Food

Bitter (yin) Cooling, direct energy inward and to lower body (downward) HeartSmall Intestine Inflammations, infections, moist and damp conditions, high cholesterol, candida overgrowth, parasites, abscesses and overeating.  Dry, cold, nervous, weak persons should not overeat bitter foods Alfalfa, romaine lettuce, rye.Bitter+pungent: citrus peel, radish leaf, scallion, turnip, white pepper.Bitter+sweet: amaranth, asparagus, celery, lettuce, papaya, quinoa.Bitter+sour: vinegar
Pungent (yang) Warming, direct energy outward and to upper body, expansive, dispersive LungLarge Intestine Stimulates circulation, cardioprotective, clear obstructions and improve liver function, moistens the kidneys affecting fluids in the entire body, improve digestion, and reduce mucous conditions, expels parasites Warming: spearmint, rosemary, scallion, garlic, onion, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper, all peppers, cayenne, mustard greens, fennel, anise, dill, nutmeg, basil and horseradishCooling:  peppermint, marjoram, white pepper and radishNeutral: taro, turnip and kohlrabi
Salty (yin)Cooling, direct energy inward and to lower body (downward) KidneysBladder Soften lumps (such as hardened lymph nodes), cataracts, knotted muscles and glands.  Constipation, abdominal swelling and pain, sore throat, pyorrhea.  Increases appetite Salt, seaweed (kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, dusle), barley, millet, soy sauce, miso, pickles, umeboshi and gomasio
Sour (yin)Cooling, causes contraction and has an absorbent, astringent effect LiverGallbladder Incontinence, excessive perspiration, hemorrhage, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, prevent or reverse abnormal leakage of fluids, dries and firms up tissue Hawthorne berry, lemon, lime, pickles, rose hip, sauerkraut, crab apple, sour plum.Sour+bitter: vinegar.Sour+pungent: leek.Sour+sweet: aduki bean, apple, blackberry, cheese, grape, mango, olive, raspberry, sourdough bread, tangerine, tomato, yogurt
Sweet (yang)Warming, direct energy outward and to upper body (upward) Spleen-pancreasStomach Slows acute reactions and neutralizes toxic effects of other foods, also lubricates and nourishes the body. Those to benefit most are dry, cold, nervous, thin, weak , scattered or aggressive persons. Less needed for those persons with damp or mucous signs. Fruits: apple, apricot, cherry, date, fig, grape, grapefruit, olive, papaya, peach, pear, strawberry, tomatoVegetables: beet, mushroom, cabbage, carrot, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, potato, spearmint, squash, sweet potato, yamNuts/seeds: almond, chestnut, coconut, sesame seed, sunflower seed, walnutSweeteners: amasake, barley malt, honey, molasses, rice syrup, whole sugar (unrefined)

 

For Part 1 Click Here!

 

While waiting for the next installment, please take a look at the foods in our other blogs to see how to choose the most nutritious groceries, how to store them to retain freshness, the nutritional benefits, and of course—the energetics.   

Power of Energetics: The 5 Flavors (Part 1)

imagesIn the last blog we went over the 5 properties (focusing on heat and cold) and this week we are going to go over the 5 flavors in Chinese Medicine with respect to their thermal properties (warming vs cooling), remedial actions (drying, moistening, etc.), where their energy is directed and how they are used therapeutically.

This is Part 1 of 2 on the 5 flavors and in this part we will be going over Pungent, Salty, and Sour flavors.

 

First off, I would like to preface that occasionally food is assigned a certain flavor property that might not correspond to the actual taste. Flavors are assigned to designate and reflect the properties of food, not just taste.  There are also many foods that have more than one flavor associated to it and are generally only used when both flavors are needed.

1442372256336Once again yin and yang are at the forefront of designating properties in energetics.  Two of the flavors—pungent and sweet—are yang, as they tend to be warming and direct energy outward and higher in the body.  The other three flavors—sour, bitter, and salty—are yin, as they are cooling and conduct energy lower and inward. Also, each flavor “enters” (are closely associated with) specific internal organs.

The diet of a healthy person contains flavors that are balanced, with sweet flavor predominating. Sweetness and it’s associated earth element are considered the most central aspect of the body and its nourishment. Meaning that each day the sweet flavor—grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts seeds and fruit—should be accompanied by small amounts of bitter, salty, pungent, and sour foods.  The balance of which flavors are needed for the healthy diet do change, each season has its own influences on what one should eat.  Once the individual is balanced, then work towards seasonal attunement.

Quantity is also important in maintaining balance.  If a flavor is helpful to an organ, too much of the flavor has the opposite and wearing effect. This is most often seen with the sweet flavor, as too much can weaken stomach absorption, mucus accumulation, and blood sugar imbalances.

Pungent (including acrid, spicy, hot,and aromatic flavors)

B9316448002Z.1_20150304155635_000_GMQA3VGAC.1-0Properties:  A yang flavor; expansive, dispersive; the pungent flavor has a warming energy as it stimulates circulation of energy and blood, tending to move energy upwards and outwards to the periphery body. Enters the Lungs and Large Intestines. Corresponds to the Metal Element.

Uses: Stimulates digestion, disperses mucus caused by highly mucus-forming foods such as dairy and meats, and offers protection against mucus conditions such as common cold. The diaphoretic pungents (mint, cayenne, elder flower, scallion, garlic, and chamomile) are used to induce sweating during common colds and other exterior conditions. They are also used to lighten the effects of grains legumes, nits, and seeds, all of which have moderate mucus-forming properties; they also disperse stagnant blood and increase Qi energy. Extremely pungent foods (garlic, mugwort, and cayenne) can be used to destroy and expel parasites.

Unfortunately, in many places of the world pungency is consumed most often in the form of alcoholic beverages, which have some short-term benefits but ultimately cause necrosis, especially in brain cells.

Organ Functions:  The pungent flavor enters and clears the lungs of mucus conditions (do not use warming pungents for this if there are any heat conditions in the body). It improves digestive activity, which is ruled by the spleen-pancreas, and expose gas from the intestines. It moistens the kidneys which affects the fluids of the body. Stimulates blood circulation and is cardiotonic. It also helps clear obstructions and improve sluggish liver function.

Seasonal Attunement: Pungent flavor (along with full sweet flavor) attunes to spring. Pungent flavors that are also hot provide the interior environment of, and attune the body to, summer—cayenne, black pepper, hot green and green peppers, and fresh ginger.

Individuals Benefited: This who are sluggish, dull, lethargic, or excessively heavy benefit from pungent foods (as well as bitter).  Those inclined to dampness or mucus conditions of the lungs or colon (Metal Element) can use pungent foods for prevention and treatment.  A person with cold signs improve with the use of warming pungents.  Some pungent foods can be beneficial for dry, thin individuals or those who tend towards wind conditions of nervous, restless activity. However, not all pungent foods are appropriate for the dry person.

Cooking: The pungency of food diminishes with cooking.  For full benefits eat pungent food raw or pickled. If cooking is needed mild steaming will preserve some of the pungency.

Cautions: Some pungent foods worsen the condition of dry, windy, nervous or thin person (sage, raw onion, and all hot peppers, including cayenne). If suffering from Qi diseases—deficient Qi, including weakness, or stagnant Qi involved in obstructions and constrictions— avoid pungent foods.  Also, avoid warming pungent food when heat signs are present. Those overweight from overeating should choose cooling pungent foods.

Salty

seaweed-salad-in-bowl-seaweed-food-trend-food-Good-Housekeeping-UK__largeProperties: A yin flavor; cooling effect; tends to move energy downward and inward; has centering, earthy qualities; moistens dryness;softens hardened lumps and stiffness; improves digestion; detoxifies the body; and can purge the bowels and promote emesis.  Enters the Kidneys and Bladder. Corresponds to the Water Element.

Uses: May be increased in the diet to soften lumps (ex. hardened lymph nodes, cataracts, and other knotting of the muscles and glands). Used internally for constipation, abdominal sweeping and pain, and externally for impure blood conditions with heat signs, such as skin discharges, sore throat (hot water gargle), and pyorrhea (brush teeth with fine salt). Salt counteracts toxins in the body, increases appetite, and is unfortunately overused, especially in the form of table salt.

Organ Function: Salty foods enter the kidneys and is considered a proper flavor for the spleen-pancreas, where it strengthens digestive functions.  It also fortifies a weak heart-mind (one and the same in Chinese thought) and improves mental concentration.

Seasonal Attunement: The descending, cooling nature of salty foods attunes to the colder seasons and climates, and such be used progressively more throughout fall and winter.

Individual Benefited: Salty foods moisten and calm the thin, dry, nervous person.

Cautions: Salty foods should be restricted by those with damp, overweight, lethargic, or edemic conditions, and those with high blood pressure. Seaweed, while salty, is an exception to this rule as its iodine and trace minerals speed up metabolism. Salt is a yin food, but excessive salt has the opposite effect and should be used sparingly by very yang people.

Sour

Lemons and LimesProperties: A yin flavor; cooling quality; causes contraction and has a gathering, absorbent, astringent effect, to prevent or reverse abnormal leakage of fluids and energy, and to dry and firm up tissues. Enters the Liver and Gallbladder.  Corresponds to the Wood Element.

Uses: Used in the treatment of urinary dripping, excessive perspiration, hemorrhage, diarrhea, and weak, sagging tissues including flaccid skin, hemorrhoids, and uterine prolapse.  Sour foods derives from a variety of acids, some of the most common being citric acid, tannic acid, and ascorbic acid.  The sour flavoring found in black and green teas and blackberry leaves can be classified as astringent.

Organ Function: Sour flavor is most active in the liver, where it counteracts the effects of rich, greasy food, functioning as a solvent to breakdown fats and protein.  Sourness helps digestion to dissolve minerals for improved absorption and can help strengthen weakened lungs.  Sour foods are the proper food for the heart-mind and plays a vital role in organizing scattered mental patterns.

Seasonal Attunement: Sour foods draw one into harmony with the fall, the time of gathering and the beginning of the period of contraction (the onset of cooler weather).

Individual Benefited: Sour foods collect and hold together the dispersed, unpredictably changing personality.

Cautions: Those with dampness, heaviness in mind or body, constipation, and constrictions should use the sour flavor sparingly.

 

 

Flavors and Direction

Affected organ

Effects

Food

Bitter (yin) Cooling, direct energy inward and to lower body (downward) Heart/Small Intestine Inflammations, infections, moist and damp conditions, high cholesterol, candida overgrowth, parasites, abscesses and overeating.  Dry, cold, nervous, weak persons should not overeat bitter foods Alfalfa, romaine lettuce, rye.Bitter+pungent: citrus peel, radish leaf, scallion, turnip, white pepper.Bitter+sweet: amaranth, asparagus, celery, lettuce, papaya, quinoa.Bitter+sour: vinegar
Pungent (yang) Warming, direct energy outward and to upper body, expansive, dispersive Lung/Large Intestine Stimulates circulation, cardioprotective, clear obstructions and improve liver function, moistens the kidneys affecting fluids in the entire body, improve digestion, and reduce mucous conditions, expels parasites Warming: spearmint, rosemary, scallion, garlic, onion, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper, all peppers, cayenne, mustard greens, fennel, anise, dill, nutmeg, basil and horseradishCooling:  peppermint, marjoram, white pepper and radishNeutral: taro, turnip and kohlrabi
Salty (yin) Cooling, direct energy inward and to lower body (downward) KidneysBladder Soften lumps (such as hardened lymph nodes), cataracts, knotted muscles and glands.  Constipation, abdominal swelling and pain, sore throat, pyorrhea.  Increases appetite Salt, seaweed (kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, dusle), barley, millet, soy sauce, miso, pickles, umeboshi and gomasio
Sour (yin)Cooling, causes contraction and has an absorbent, astringent effect LiverGallbladder Incontinence, excessive perspiration, hemorrhage, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, prevent or reverse abnormal leakage of fluids, dries and firms up tissue Hawthorne berry, lemon, lime, pickles, rose hip, sauerkraut, crab apple, sour plum.Sour+bitter: vinegar.Sour+pungent: leek.Sour+sweet: aduki bean, apple, blackberry, cheese, grape, mango, olive, raspberry, sourdough bread, tangerine, tomato, yogurt
Sweet (yang)Warming, direct energy outward and to upper body (upward) Spleen-pancreas Stomach Slows acute reactions and neutralizes toxic effects of other foods, also lubricates and nourishes the body. Those to benefit most are dry, cold, nervous, thin, weak , scattered or aggressive persons. Less needed for those persons with damp or mucous signs. Fruits: apple, apricot, cherry, date, fig, grape, grapefruit, olive, papaya, peach, pear, strawberry, tomatoVegetables: beet, mushroom, cabbage, carrot, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, potato, spearmint, squash, sweet potato, yamNuts/seeds: almond, chestnut, coconut, sesame seed, sunflower seed, walnutSweeteners: amasake, barley malt, honey, molasses, rice syrup, whole sugar (unrefined)

 

For Part 2 Click Here!

While waiting for the next installment, please take a look at the foods in our other blogs to see how to choose the most nutritious groceries, how to store them to retain freshness, the nutritional benefits, and of course—the energetics.   

 

Power of Energetics: Yin and Yang

yinyang-2

 

Everyone has seen or heard of this symbol at some time in their life.  In the last few years, the Yin-Yang symbol has been used in the main stream as more of an ornament or a trend. People are using it with only the basic knowledge of what it represents.  Today we are going to go beyond the trend, we are going to look at what yin and yang means and how it correlates to the Energetics of Food.

 

 

 

 

“Yin and yang are the law of Heaven and Earth, the outline of everything, the parents of change, the origin of birth and destruction, and the house of shen ming (God or higher consciousness, the spirit, Tao), when curing sicknesses we should base our point of view on the roots (Yin and Yang)”.  

-Neijing

 

yinyangChinese Medicine and energetics are based off balance, within the body, mind and spirit, it is the unity of all things and the way of the universe.  From this unity yin and yang emerge, a representation of the continual change seen throughout the universe.  Yin and Yang are both seen in opposition as well as interdependent.  The world is continually changing, a cyclical motion that never ends,there is no beginning or end, cause and effect are not separate but one perpetually turns into the other.  The classic dilemma of what came first, the chicken or the egg, is not a dilemma within Chinese thought—the egg and the chicken are dependent of each other in the process of creation, both must exist for either to exist. The chicken makes the egg (yang generating yin) and the chicken grows out of the egg (yin producing yang).  Other examples of this philosophy are that day does not cause night, birth does not cause death, and summer does not create winter.

 

Yin and yang also describes the human process—youth is yang and older years are yin. When we breath in—expanding our chests—we are in the yang phase of respiration, when we breath out—emptying the lungs— we are in the yin phase.  Our whole body continuously fills and empties: lungs, stomach, intestines, hearts, and minds.  The materials that make up the body are yin and they are used for the transformation of yang.  Food is yin, which is then transformed by metabolic activity, yang.  Sperm (yang) joins and transforms the egg (yin), creating new life through merging and interacting.

 

The body’s organs are also split into yin and yang. The dense Yin Organs are the Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney; they perform the function of assimilation and storage.  The Yang Organs are the Gallbladder, Small Intestines, Stomach, Large Intestines, and Bladder; they perform the functions of digestion and elimination.  In Chinese Medicine, these are the only organs used to diagnose illness, as they are linked to your Meridian Channels and Qi. In terms of psyche, yang is willfulness, desire, and assertiveness; yin is acceptance, responsiveness, repose, and responsibility.

 

However, yin and yang are always fluctuating and there are no absolutes—the Heart is a yin organ and the propulsion of blood and fluids through it’s contractions is yang.  This is the definition of yang within the yin.  Any aspect of yin and yang can further be divided into yin and yang.  In the symbol for yin and yang, this concept can be seen in the small circle of white within the black half, and the small circle of black within the white half.

 

The roots of disease and illness can be seen as imbalances within the body of yin and yang. Yin responds to yang’s stimulus and yang is supported by the solidarity of yin.  When one of these is off balanced—by either having an excess or deficiency—Qi, body, blood, or organs are also effected. Illnesses that are characterized by weakness, slowness, coldness, and under activity are yin. Illnesses characterized by strength, forceful movements, heat, and overactivity are yang.  A deficiency in one creates an excess in the other.  Yin cannot exist if there is an extreme abundance of yang. This extreme difference can take a profound transformation into shock, or worse, a complete division of yin and yang—death.

 

imagesBy becoming aware of the changes in our lives between yin and yang, we become attentive to our personal patterns and the order of the changes within our bodies, minds and spirits. Our bodies are in an unfaltering cycle of yin and yang, a constant state of merging and transforming, and it is important to become aware of these fluctuations. Awareness will help you find balance to allow you to move fluidly between yin and yang without being struck with an excess of either.

 

While waiting for the next installment, please take a look at the foods in our other blogs to see how to choose the most nutritious groceries, how to store them to retain freshness, the nutritional benefits, and of course—the energetics.   

Power of Energetics: Food As Medicine

EnergecticsWelcome to my “Power of Energetics” blog series.  In this series I will break down what the Energetics of Food means, the theories behind the energetics, and how they are differentiated.

 

Many people love our food blog here on Wellitude.com, but I always get asked what Energetics of Food actually means.  The most basic answer is that the Energetics of Food is the Chinese thought that you can and should use food as medicine.  Within Chinese Medicine there is not a one-treatment fits all, every person is different and thus every treatment is different.  The same goes for the Energetics of Food or food as medicine­­—there is not one diet that works universally.

 

Chinese Medicine and energetics are about creating and maintaining the balance of Qi—the vital essence found in all things—within your body to achieve optimal wellness. Sickness and disease is thought to be created by imbalances of Qi within body and treatment for these illnesses is to rebalance your Qi. This is done by acupuncture, herbal remedies, tui-na, cupping, and most importantly diet.  You can also use these treatments to maintain your balance of Qi, but using food is by far the easiest method in which to do this.

 

d749535dfd6f3a52676647f2957e3179While Chinese Medicine looks at nutritional values of foods, such as calories or carbohydrate content, it focuses mainly on the other dimensions or energetics (warming vs cooling, yin & yang, etc.).  Each person has their own constitution and thus each person must eat according to what their body needs. For example, I myself tend to be yin, damp, and cold. Therefore, I usually try to avoid eating too many cold or damp foods; I can handle them in moderation, but if I overindulge them, I get an imbalance or excess of cold in my body.  Chinese Medicine and Energetics does not follow a set protocol for what to eat—there is no magic food flow chart—they work by differentiating between multiple factors to find the ideal diet.

 

In this blog series I am going to be covering the 5 main differentiating principles which include the principles of Yin & Yang, 5 Properties, 5 flavors, 5 elements, and the 4 directions. As a bonus I am also going to be doing a blog on The Enjoyment of Food and The Art of Chewing.  I hope this series gives you a sound idea of what the Energetics of Food means and how to incorporate it into your daily life.

 

While waiting for the next installment, please take a look at the foods in our other blogs to see how to choose the most nutritious groceries, how to store them to retain freshness, the nutritional benefits, and of course—the energetics.    

Energetics of Jackfruit: Jack of All Trades

Native to South India, this fruit is very popular in tropical regions and is even the national fruit of Bangladesh. Jackfruit is in the Moraceae family, which includes the fig, mulberry and breadfruit. It is the largest tree-born fruit, easily getting up to 80 lbs.

Jackfruit is known for having a strong aroma to it, the aroma is a sweet combination of banana and pineapple. The taste is similar to its aroma.  Everyone who tries it has a different impression but the most common flavor profiles people taste are combinations of apple, pineapple, mango, or banana.  I personally think it tastes like a strawberry banana smoothie.   The seeds are also special, in that they apparently smell like chocolate after they are roasted.

Varieties

These are distinguished by the characteristics of the jackfruit flesh.  Both the jackfruit’s flesh and seeds are consumed.

Varikka/Kaapa/Jaca-dura: The inner flesh is hard when ripe and tends to be drier and less sweet.

Koozha/Barka/Jaca-mole: The inner flesh is very soft when ripe and almost dissolves when you eat it due to its moistness.  This variety is very sweet and tends to have a darker gold colored flesh.

Imba: This type is ground up and spread over a mat to dry in the sun to make a natural chewy candy.

Ripe jackfruit is naturally sweet with subtle flavors and is used in many dishes, mostly dessert or sweet dishes.   The seeds of the ripe jackfruit are edible and have a milky, sweet taste.  They can be boiled, baked, or roasted.  The roasted and dried seeds are often used in curries.

Unripe or young jackfruit is extremely popular in South and Southeast Asia.  It is used in many cuisines, including curries and as filling for cutlets and chops. Young jackfruit is very sought after by vegetarians and vegans for its ability to be a meat substitute. In order to eat unripe jackfruit you must first peel it and then the remaining fruit can be chopped into edible portions. It has a mild taste and has a distinct meat-like texture (think shredded chicken).

How to Choose and Store

Jackfruit comes as a whole fruit, which is very large with spiky skin, or it comes pre-cut up and packaged for your convenience.

Ripe: When shopping for whole ripe Jackfruit look for ones that give off a strong sweet smell, which starts happening a few days bore it is fully ripe.  For pre-packaged ripe jackfruit, make sure that the pieces are not discolored, they should be vibrant yellow, and they should be soft and tender.

Unripe: When shopping for whole unripe jackfruit, look for ones that do not have a strong smell.  Pre-packaged fresh unripe jackfruit are harder to come by, as most stores only sell ripe jackfruit fresh, but you can find canned unripe jackfruit in the canned foods aisle of your grocery store.  When buying canned jackfruit, always buy jackfruit that is in water or brine, never in syrup.

Cut up jackfruit can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days and the freezer up to 2 months. Although, for the best flavor eat jackfruit as fresh as possible.

Pro-Tip: Jackfruit are very sticky, so when cutting into the fruit it is best to coat your knife in oil first.

Nutrition

Jackfruit is surprisingly low calorie for a fruit, at only 95 calories per 100g. It is also rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C.  Jackfruit is a great source of the B vitamins pyridoxine (B6), niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), and folic acid (B9). It is also a small but significant source of vitamin A and the flavonoids carotene-B, xanthin, lupine, and cryptoxanthin-B. Jackfruit is a good source of potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron.

Energetics

Jackfruit is both sweet and sour, as well as cooling.

Jackfruit is considered empty sweet and is therefore heavily cleansing and cooling. Jackfruit can help build the yin-fluids, such as tissue and bodily fluids, and help tonify a thin and dry person.  Jackfruit helps moisten dry conditions in the lungs.

Unripe jackfruit tends to be more sour than sweet. It has an astringent effect which can help prevent or reverse abnormal leakage of fluids and energy.  It also dries and firms the body tissues.

Cautions: Those who are overweight, sluggish, or have a damp constitution should avoid overeating jackfruit.

Smoky Slow Cooker Pulled Jackfruit Chili

Ingredients:

  • 18 oz black beans drained and rinsed if from can,
  • 18 oz kidney beans drained and rinsed if from can,
  • 18 oz cannellini beans drained and rinsed if from can,
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 5 oz mushrooms diced
  • 2 20 oz cans of young green jackfruit in water NOT in syrup or brine!
  • 2 28 oz can of Ro*tel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilis drained
  • Homemade smokey chili seasoning recipe below

Homemade Chili Seasoning

  • 2 TBSP chili powder
  • 5 TBSP garlic powder
  • 5 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsps crushed red pepper flakes less if you’d prefer no heat
  • 5 tsps dried oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cracked black pepper

Garnish

  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Grated cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Mix all of the contents for the homemade smokey chili seasoning together until perfectly blended. Set aside.
  2. Place all of the chili ingredients into the slow cooker.
  3. Dump the chili seasoning into the slow cooker and mix well to blend.
  4. Keep the slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.
  5. Serve and garnish with optional garnishes.

Source

 

Energetics of Plantains: A Plethora of Pleasant Pancakes

Plantains are a wonderfully delicious and beneficial fruit from the plant family Plantaginaceae. This is amongst the few fruits which can be consumed—and thoroughly enjoyed—during a wide range of unripe to very ripe states. Each varied state of ripeness will provide a wide gamut of flavor profiles, and of course, energetic qualities that affect the body in very specific ways.

Energetics:

Unripe (bitter) plantains strengthens yin, directs energy inward and downward to the lower body, are cooling to the system, and are helpful in relieving diarrhea, colitis, and hemorrhoids; bitter foods affect the heart & small intestine Officials and assist in reducing body heat and drying body fluids.

Ripe (sweet) plantains strengthens yang, are warming to the system, lubricate the intestines and lungs, benefit conditions of thirst and dryness, and detoxifies the body. Sweet foods affect the spleen-pancreas & stomach Officials. Ripe plantains are especially beneficial in the treatment of constipation and ulcers, dry lung or dry cough, addiction (especially alcoholism), and hypertension. Furthermore, ripe plantains are supportive to the elderly as they are helpful in regulating blood pressure, relieving dryness, and are easy to digest.

Preparation:

Depending on the taste profile that you prefer—and most especially the energetic health effects that you’re looking for—choosing your ideal ripeness is essential for the preparation of plantains.

Green (unripe & bitter) plantains are going to be closer to the consistency and starchiness of a potato and less messy when removing the skin.

Yellow -> black (ripe & sweet) plantains are much closer to the taste of a banana and can be messy when removing the skin. If you’re looking for the sweeter taste, then you want the plantain skin to be BLACK. I know this seems weird compared to most other fruits, however, this is when it is in its prime sweetness; simply be cautious to make sure that it has not developed mold while ripening.

Plantains don’t peel like a banana; you need to cut off both ends, slice into the ‘seams’ of the fibrous peel (without cutting into the fruit), and then use the knife to pry the peel off of the fruit. Here’s a great Plantains 101 blog if you want some more guidance on this process

RIPE Plantain Recipe:

Plantain & Coconut Pancakes by Sonia, The Healthy Foodie

Ingredients

  • ½ very ripe plantain, peeled and sliced
  • 3 whole eggs
  • ¼ cup coconut water
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • Pinch Himalayan or unrefined sea salt
  • ¼ tsp chai spice (see this post for Sonia’s mix)

Garnish ideas

  • 1 tbsp full fat coconut milk (refrigerated works best)
  • 1 tbsp toasted coconut shavings (organic, unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp unpasteurized/raw liquid honey

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and blend until very well combined.
  2. Let the batter sit for a few minutes to give the coconut flour a chance to thicken.
  3. Meanwhile, add some coconut oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  4. When pan is hot enough, slowly pour about ¼ of a cup of batter per pancake and cook until tops become sort of matte and dull looking and edges appear cooked.
  5. Very delicately flip the pancakes and continue cooking until golden.
  6. Place the cooked pancakes in a very low temp oven to keep them warm while you cook the remaining pancakes.
  7. Garnish with coconut milk, a drizzle of honey and sprinkle with toasted coconut shavings, if desired.

UNripe Plantain Recipe:

Egg-Free Green Plantain Pancakes

Recipe by Amanda Torres, The Curious Coconut

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 -15 minutes

Total time: 15 – 20 minutes

Yield: about 12 large pancakes

Ingredients

Cooking Directions

  1. You will need a good blender to make this recipe. Begin by peeling the plantains and slicing into pieces about 1 inch wide. To peel, use a knife to cut both tips off, then cut the plantain in half or in quarters. Next, use your knife to cut a slit down the length of the fruit, being careful not to cut into the flesh of the fruit (it may come off with the peel if you do). Use your fingers to lift the peel off. Use your knife to help clean up any bits that are hard to remove with your fingers. Add peeled plantain pieces to blender.
  2. Add your seasoning of choice, salt, baking soda, and coconut oil to the blender. Don’t turn it on yet.
  3. Prepare gelatin. **YOU CANNOT USE GREAT LAKES COLLAGEN HYDROLYSATE (green can) IN THIS RECIPE.** I recommend the RED can, since it comes from grass-fed cows. First, you need to “bloom” (wet) the gelatin, then melt it. To bloom, put the 3/4 cup filtered water into a small pot. Slowly sprinkle gelatin on top of water and watch that it soaks into the water. When you near the last of the gelatin, you will need to use a fork to stir the dry gelatin into the wet gelatin. I whisk it several times. Put pot on stove and heat over medium low heat while continuing to stir. Continue heating until all gelatin has melted and no clumps remain. Pour into blender with other ingredients.
  4. Pre-heat a large pan or skillet over medium heat. I use an anodized aluminum double-burner skillet that doesn’t require greasing. If using a frying pan, heat a few Tbsp of coconut oil in the pan.
  5. Blend on high. Use a spatula to scrape down sides of blender to ensure that all of the plantain gets pureed. I usually have to scrape the sides down once or twice and blend for a total of about 60 seconds or so.
  6. Pour batter into your hot pan in desired size. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then flip. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes then serve.
  7. This recipe will make about 12 large pancakes and is enough to feed 2 – 4 people. I like to top with fresh or cooked berries (cooked with a splash of water in a small pot until crushed easily) and a bit of grade B maple syrup. Non-autoimmune paleo topping options include creme fraiche, yogurt, or even some soft cheeses. I also like to pair these with a few slices of bacon for a great sweet and salty juxtaposition.

One Last Alternative Recipe (non-pancake): Monfongo

Energetics of Food: Why is it Important?

yin_yin-yang_yang-imageThe energetics of food can be quite the tricky concept for the Western mind to understand. It’s definitely not impossible to understand; it’s more that the concept of energetics is a cross current pattern of thoughts that collide against the way in which most Westerners think about the food that they consume. I am one of these Westerners; my Western mindset gave me a lot of applicable and helpful knowledge. However, this mindset also led me astray when it came to my own health. I was so engrossed with consuming items that had phenomenal nutrient profiles that I had not considered the energetics of the food that I was eating. Once I accounted for the energetics of food, applied these Eastern concepts into my diet, and began Western nutritional supplementation, it was then that my health came back online.

energetics-apple

This image uses special photography to see the energetics of this apple. This is a real image of an apple. http://kirlian.com/

If you’re wondering, “what does the energetics of food even mean?” then please read this phenomenal series by Kaely Shull: Power of Energetics: Food as Medicine, Power of Energetics: Yin and Yang, Power of Energetics: 5 Properties, and Power of Energetics: 5 Flavors (Part 1) & Part 2. These blogs do an amazing job at exploring the dense, broad, and integral concepts related to this topic.

I am writing this blog post to share my personal experience with you: optimal health can sometimes require both Eastern and Western methodologies of medicine.

Over the last 8 years I have been attempting to widen my perspective to include ideas, concepts, and ways of being that are not aligned with my culturally adopted way of thinking. Chinese medicine—and the vital knowledge of energetics—has been one of the avenues which deeply expanded my thought processes, and more recently, has shifted me into better understanding how the energetics of food directly affects my body. To be completely honest, this transition into Eastern thinking literally feels as if my brain is turning inside-out and upside-down from its normal Western alignment. I feel like a ship lost at sea with only a half-working compass.

Not to worry though! Our minds and our bodies have the ability to make sense of this “lost” feeling. Eventually we can re-calibrate, and quite naturally, these two mindsets can learn to live harmoniously. The synergistic relationship between these two seemingly opposing ways of thinking can begin to inform one another and a new level of health can be established—one which would be almost impossible with either side being alone by itself. As with anything, this is an ever-growing process, and it is one that I am currently adapting to because of a recent health issue in my own life that has resurfaced from my past: dermatitis.

I’m currently 28 and this recent health issue, although in a new area of my body, was not something that I hadn’t experienced before. As a child I had extreme (well, to me) spouts of diagnosed eczema that had ebbed and flowed throughout my life and throughout different parts of my body. This form of dermatitis had been diagnosed and treated by Western medicine specifically via applying steroid creams and pharmaceutical liquids; this ‘fixed’ it for the time. After my body went through puberty my symptoms of eczema mostly stopped, and every once in a while since then, a small patch would show up in what seemed to be random parts around my body and I could not figure out what caused it. These small patches were minor and didn’t affect my daily life. I began to notice that my skin was my “Achilles heel” since I hardly got sick outside of skin issues, so I began changing my diet in the ways I knew best.

superfoodOver these last 8 years I have tried a multitude of different ‘healthy’ superfoods, drinks, smoothies, practices, etc. in order to optimize my own wellness and to detoxify my body from the things that I consumed before I became aware of the importance of food as medicine. However, my thought processes which lead me to these ‘healthy’ items was confined to my Western model of thinking—one which had overlooked the importance of the energetics of food, and instead, singularly focused on the nutritional profile. I was so busy seeking various superfoods containing abnormally high amounts of antioxidants, anticancer-agents, omegas, fiber, and protein that I unintentionally disregarded the importance of also utilizing the energetic qualities that were imbibed within these healthy sources: yin & yang, 5 properties, 5 flavors, 5 elements, and the 4 directions.

path_through_the_forest-t2My lack of applied knowledge, within the vital field of the energetics of food, led me astray. My hand flared a fiery red with inflamed dermatitis; the discomfort associated with this kept me from sleeping and was a constant struggle of attempting to rehydrate it will various oils; the less I slept, the more I stressed, the worse my hand inflamed. I then saw Donna, our practitioner here at East-West Wellness, and she reminded me of the importance of the energetics of food. After a month of this, I was finally able to see through the forest and know the path that I needed to take. I back-peddled through my mind to try to find where I went wrong. What was I doing that could have caused this to happen? If there isn’t a directly specific cause, then what things are feeding this fire on my hand?

Here lies one of the things that started the fire on my hand: my most recent blog posts (written 3 months before this blog and about 1 month before my hand flared) were written about the energetics of turmeric (Part 1 & Part 2). Turmeric has a plethora of amazing benefits for the body so I decided to prescribe myself ‘therapeutic dosages’ of turmeric. Even though I wrote this article with the intention of expressing its energetic qualities, I again still focused on the Western sense of a nutritional potency: I made a golden paste (highly condensed turmeric) and put this into most of my foods; I would sprinkle turmeric on almost every meal that I ate; I would also add it into my coffee and cacao drinks. I did this heavilTumeric and tumeric powder.y after I wrote that set of blogs, and then after a month of heavily consuming turmeric, my hand slowly exploded with dermatitis that got worse day by day.

Turmeric has a warming energetic constitution; this energetic quality of turmeric—even though it is also anti-inflammatory in Western terms—most definitely fed the inflammation on my hand. I also love spicy foods of all sorts, so naturally I had been consuming many spicy foods at the same time as this new influx of turmeric came into my digestion. Donna explained to me that the dermatitis on my hand has a hot energy to it (as it was obviously inflamed, red, and felt very hot in temperature), and therefore I should remove all energetically warming foods, begin to include more cooling foods, and to also use a topical neem cream with added vitamin D. I did all of this as well as ingested Chinese herbs prescribed by her which helped to clear the extra heat that I had in my system. After a blood test, I was also prescribed a few Western supplements to bring my nutrient levels back into an optimal state.

energetics-pear

Visual Energetics of a Pear

Almost two months later, after being urged to become aware of the energetic impacts of the food that I choose to consume, I now feel and see an immense improvement in my hand. The inflammation has receded, the pain has gone away, and my skin is beginning to feel normal again (FINALLY!). The miraculous thing about this improvement is that this improvement in health was able to occur during my most intensely stressful semester of college-level chemistry and biology (which was definitely among one of the causative factors).

All of this to say that by me shifting my perspective into applying the importance that energetics can play within my own body was a mind-body altering experience for me. Now, I can’t say that turmeric and warming foods were the only culprit—that is very obvious to me—as the ways in which I was dealing with my stress was also a contributing factor, and there were many other things that I had to become aware of (e.g. ingredients in soap, my need to increase exercise, etc.). However, I do feel that being armed with medical knowledge from a multitude of cultures, and now the direct experience of how the energetics within all foods affects my biology, became a key concept that allowed me to take control of my own health. This applied knowledge allowed me to be empowered in the decisions I make every day: what will I eat today? How will this food choice affect my energetics?

Now this doesn’t mean that I can never eat spicy foods or turmeric ever again—unless of course I took a food sensitivity test and found out otherwise. It does mean, however, that I need to learn how to balance my foods in relation to the qualities that these foods bring into my body. This is an art within itself; one that I am immensely excited to learn more about and integrate into my ever-evolving diet.

I know within my heart that this disruption in my health was a blessing in disguise. It is my hope that this experience can also be of help to those of you who read this. Feel free to post if you have any questions or comments =)

energetic-temperature-of-food

Click image to enlarge and save it for your reference

Energetics of Turmeric: An Honourable Herbal Spice with a Multitude of Applications (Part 2)

turmeric-heart-320x209This blog on turmeric is part 2 of 2; if you haven’t read part 1 yet, then click here and check it out.

The use of turmeric as a spice, and as a household remedy, has been utilised across various cultures and has known to be safe for centuries. To date, no scientific studies in either animals or humans have discovered any toxic effects associated with the use of turmeric (Lao et al. 2006), and it is clear that turmeric is not toxic—even at very high doses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted its own clinical trials with turmeric and published a 300-page monograph. The FDA has declared turmeric, and its active component curcumin, as GRAS (generally regarded as safe).

Turmeric has been scientifically tested in a multitude of aspects and has a substantial list of observed benefits. These health benefits span a wide range of useful applications: anywhere along the spectrum from anti-aging qualities to anticancer functions.

Turmeric has been observed to:Turmeric

-Support collagen production: collagen is the ‘glue’ that holds the body together. This connective tissue is the most abundant protein in the body. Turmeric also provides a mineral, manganese, which helps to rebuild/replace old collagen in the skin and elsewhere throughout the body—thereby keeping skin young-looking, soft, and less prone to wrinkles

-Help to hasten gallstones out of the gallbladder: great preventative for those whose family has a history of gallbladder stones/removal or those that may be on the brink of needing gallbladder surgery.

-Be at least 10 times more active as an antioxidant than vitamin E (Khopde et al., 1999). Extracts can scavenge free radicals, increase antioxidant enzymes, and inhibit lipid peroxidation (stops cell damage due to free radicals).

-Be antimutagenic: this means that its compounds can prevent the mutation of your cells & genes. If the body has too many toxins, free radicals, etc. then genetic mutations can occur; these mutations cause disease and illness. Because toxins lie within everyone’s bodies, ingestion of antimutagenic agents become imperative.

-Prevent damage to the liver (Miyakoshi et al. 2004) and also serves to protect the heart (Mohanty, Arya, and Gupta 2006)

 turmeric list Specific Ailments Turmeric is Beneficial for:

Turmeric is used as an herbal medicine for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic anterior uveitis, conjunctivitis, skin cancer, small pox, chicken pox, wound healing, urinary tract infections, and liver ailments (Dixit, Jain, and Joshi 1988). It is also used for digestive disorders; to reduce flatus, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, and colic; for abdominal pain and distension (Bundy et al. 2004); and for dyspeptic conditions including loss of appetite, postprandial feelings of fullness, and liver and gallbladder complaints.

It has anti-inflammatory, choleretic (increases bile/solids secretion), antimicrobial, and carminative actions (decreases gas/bloating) capabilities (Mills and Bone 2000). Turmeric targets the digestive organs: in the intestine, for treatment of diseases such as familial adenomatous polyposis (Cruz-Correa et al. 2006); in the bowels, for treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (Hanai and Sugimoto 2009); and in the colon, for treatment of colon cancer (Naganuma et al. 2006). For arthritis, dosages of 8–60 g of fresh turmeric root three times daily have been recommended (Fetrow and Avila 1999). For indigestion (dyspepsia), 1.3–3.0 grams of turmeric root is recommended. No known interaction of drugs with turmeric has been reported by the monographs of the German regulatory authority, Commission E (Blumenthal, Goldberg, and Brinckmann 2000).

In a study with human subjects, the effect of turmeric was examined on patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). When 1 or 2 tablets of turmeric extract were given daily for 8 weeks, the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome was significantly decreased, as was the abdominal pain/discomfort score (Bundy et al. 2004).

Turmeric volatile oil is also effective against respiratory tract disorders (pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, etc.) . The volatile oil is active in removing sputum, relieving cough, and preventing asthma. Thus, turmeric volatile oil may be an efficacious drug in the treatment of respiratory diseases (Li et al. 1998).

Anticancer Properties Observed:

cancerTurmeric inhibits cancer cell multiplication (cell proliferation), induces programmed cell death (apoptosis) of cancer cells, and thus has many anticancer properties (Azuine and Bhide 1994; Deshpande, Ingle, and Maru 1997; Garg, Ingle, and Maru 2008). This fact is vitally important because cancer’s main ability to grow and replicate is due to its cells having an ‘infinite’ life program. This means that it can continually replicate and grow without needing to live by the rules of other healthy, non-cancerous, cells. Therefore, turmeric combats cancer by attacking its main forms of living/growing/replicating.

turmeric pillsThese animal studies have also shown turmeric to fight against the development of skin cancer (Villaseñlor, Simon, and Villanueva 2002), breast cancer (Deshpande, Ingle, and Maru 1998a), oral cancer (Azuine and Bhide 1992a), and stomach cancer (Azuine and Bhide 1992b). Turmeric prevents the formation of cancer at various steps, including inhibiting mutation (Polasa et al. 1991), detoxifying carcinogens (Thapliyal, Deshpande, and Maru 2001), decreasing cell proliferation, and inducing the death of tumor cells (Garg, Ingle, and Maru 2008). Certain organic chemicals within turmeric are able to infiltrate cancer cells and destroy them from the inside out: this process can be likened to well-trained ninjas; the cancer cells have no idea that they have invited in those who will destroy them. Even though these studies were all observing turmeric on animal subjects, it seems that multiple cultures throughout history—over a 4,000 year span—have had phenomenal reasons to apply this medicinal herb into their diets.

Further Health Benefits:

Would you like to increase the functioning of your gut? Turmeric acts as a potent digestive stimulant. As a dietary supplement, it enhanced the activities of pancreatic lipase, chymotrypsin, and amylase; each of these are important digestive enzymes that reside in different parts of the digestive system. Moreover, turmeric mixed with other spices such as coriander, red chili, black pepper, and cumin brought about a pronounced stimulation of bile flow and bile acid secretion (Platel et al. 2002). Mixing any of these singular herbs with turmeric creates a synergistic relationship where each herb becomes more effective. Increasing the bioavailability of turmeric in this way will induce higher amounts of bile flow which allows for the liver to detox more effectively, lessens the likelihood of gallbladder stones, and simultaneously increases the effectiveness of the digestive process.

Turmeric Golden Paste Recipe:Turmeric-Paste

-1/2 cup – turmeric powder

-1 cup – filtered water (estimated; might need more depending on desired thickness)

-1 1/2 tsp – ground black pepper

-1/4 cup – high quality cold pressed organic oil of your choice (olive, avocado, coconut, etc.)

 

Directions:

-Gently heat water in a pan (do not use Teflon coated or aluminium pans, if possible)

-Add turmeric powder & ground black pepper into the pan as it heats

-Gently stir until you get a thick paste (~6-10 mins)

-Add oil & stir more

-When you have desired thickness, then turn off the heat and allow to cool

-Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks

As stated earlier, black pepper assists turmeric in becoming highly bioavailable which helps it to be more effective within the body. The added oils will allow for the stomach to more easily absorb and assimilate the golden paste.

This paste can be used as an herbal remedy when feeling a flu or cold. It can also be used as a way to prevent illness and keep your immune system healthy and within the optimal range. Turmeric paste can be mixed with milk or water an d taken to treat intestinal disorders, colds, and sore throats. This paste can be eaten by itself, added to coffee, a smoothie, or your favorite dish. Get creative and enjoy!

Check out this website or this website for further information on ways to use this golden paste =)

 

Resources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/

http://www.turmericforhealth.com/

Organic Non-GMO Turmeric

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