For the past two months I have been taking a weekly TCM class. I picked this class because it is fairly low-key ( read: no tests or assigned reading) and it focuses on the use of food in traditional Chinese medicine. Something I was hoping to finally understand after so many years of hearing about it and, I must admit, not really believing it.
The class ends in two weeks and I can’t say I have grasped all the concepts but I am more of a believer and I will tell you why (you knew I would!). In a nutshell keeping the qi flowing and the yin and yang balanced keeps your body in harmony( read: healthy). Naturally there will be things that can upset the body’s harmony and disrupt the qi , including your environment, your lifestyle and your diet. The wording may be different but often the recommendations from TCM to address health issues and restore balance mirror those given by western medicine.
For example to maintain good digestion and appetite TCM recommends that you should walk for 30 mins after your meal. Western medicine has said recently that sitting for long periods is bad for our health. Think about how you feel when you do manage to take a walk after dinner? Thirty minutes sounds daunting? Do 10, 15 or 20 minutes. Every little bit will help you in both the eastern and western worlds!
And when your Qi is weak, the TCM doctor will recommend more sleep, more exercise and a regimen of ginseng and wolf berries ( aka goji berries). Generally speaking western medical experts will say most people don’t get enough sleep or exercise. Just about everyday dietitians and nutritionists recommend that we eat foods, such a wolf berries, that are high in anti-oxidants to help reduce inflammation and improve our health. And ginseng? While ginseng has been used for hundreds of years in TCM as an energy booster, western medicine has yet to give it a seal of approval because clinical studies on ginseng in the general population are inconclusive.
Feel great already? Traditional Chinese medicine diet recommendations for general good health include eating sunflower seeds, figs, almonds, white/black fungus and olives. Does this sound familiar ? These are the same super foods that make up the Mediterranean diet, now considered by western medical researchers as the best way to maintain a healthy heart.
TCM is far more involved and the dietary prescriptions more complicated then these few examples and I respect the deep history of this approach to health. What I like best about TCM is the belief in the power of food to strengthen and restore health. And I think food is always a good place to start.
Eat Well, Live well Have Fun!