Eating for the Season: The Chinese Medical Approach (DO YOU HAVE DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS?)
As we move into the holidays, the changing of seasons can sometimes herald a case of the sniffles, lethargy, and chills. What we know as the common cold. A strong immune system is able to protect the body from catching a cold and, better yet, support the body in generating optimal levels of physical and mental wellbeing.
Traditional holiday fare often includes an assortment of treats and sweets, which for an instant may titillate the senses on the tongue, but leave the body feeling heavy, dull, and slow. In Chinese medicine, this is called dampness. The body produces dampness when its digestive abilities are overburdened. Traditional Chinese Medicine also understands that the nature of sugar itself is inherently damp. A weakened digestive system often coexists with weakened immune function, as the digestive elements of the body are also responsible for creating and maintaining the body’s protective qi, or energy. This protective qi translates into the Western medical understanding of an immune system.
In addition to inhibiting the immune system, sugar also:
- Robs the body of minerals, especially chromium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
- Depletes vitamins, especially B vitamins, and interferes with transport of vitamin C, an antioxidant powerhouse.
- Produces free radicals, which act like a loose cannon in the body, capable of causing degenerative reactions.
- Stresses the pancreas and produces hard fats and cholesterol that interfere with insulin function.
- Feeds fungus and bacteria.
- Cross-links proteins, causing stiffening and hardening of tissues in the body. When sugars cross-link with proteins on the skin, this creates visible signs of aging, like wrinkles.
- Raises triglyceride levels in the body and increases risk for cardiovascular disease. The body turns sugar into fat in order to protect itself from the toxic effects of too much sugar.
The flu virus, bacteria, fungi, and parasites all thrive in an acidic environment, which sugar creates. Luckily, nature has provided us with tools to help our immune system along. In addition to avoiding sugar, a good way to support the body is by making sure that our diet has plenty of plant enzymes, which are found naturally in raw, organic foods. At around the age of 27, we naturally begin to produce less digestive enzymes. During the winter months, we are less likely to eat raw, enzyme-rich foods and typically more inclined to enjoy foods that have been cooked in some way. A full-spectrum enzyme supplement like Body Ecology Assist will help the body in breaking down nutrients and using them. When taken on an empty stomach, proteolytic enzymes, those that break down protein, can actually have an anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effect inside the body. Certain viruses have a protein coat that proteolytic enzymes destroy, helping the body’s immune system to fight viral infections.
Body Ecology Assistis a full-spectrum enzyme supplement that will help your body break down and use the nutrients you are eating. This will have a detoxifying effect on your body to dramatically improve your immune system!
Enzymes play a crucial role in strengthening a weakened digestive system, improving immune function, and keeping the body strong and youthful. Another way to get enzymes into the body is by digesting fermented foods. Yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut are all forms of fermented foods that contain enzymes formed during the fermenting process. These foods are also rich in probiotics, which help to curb sugar cravings and populate a healthy digestive tract.
Much of the Body Ecology Diet is about retraining the sense of taste and restructuring the inner terrain of our bodies. The Chinese understanding of dampness indicates that too much damp will lead to an impaired sense of taste; so if you eat lots of sugar, you will need more sugar to taste it! Allowing the body to reacquaint itself with the natural sweetness in foods that may be considered savory, such as aloe vera juice, BED grains, and fresh vegetables, helps you to celebrate what you are actually tasting while giving you the building blocks to create a healthy immune system.
CONGEE OR JOOK: A WARM WAY TO BEGIN THE DAY
Like the holidays, American culture has made breakfast into an elaborate sugar affair: biscuits, doughnuts, pancakes, waffles, maple syrup, scones, and baked goods. According to how qi flows through the acupuncture meridians in the body, this actually makes some sense. From 7 am to 11 am, energy flows through the acupuncture meridians that are dominated by the Earth element. The nature of the Earth element is sweet. However, just as there are good fats and bad fats, there are also good and bad sugars. Unhealthy sugars are the sugars that we identify as sweet, found in pastries, fruits, dairy and grains. These are all eventually broken down into glucose, which the body does need, however, not in the excessive amounts it receives on the Standard American Diet. Healthy sugars are sugars that actually boost immune activity and enhance communication between cells. These are called glyconutrients. Seaweeds and Chinese immune herbs like astragalus, Reishi, Cordyceps, and Chaga, which are now available in powdered extracts, are all rich in glyconutrients.
The Earth element governs digestive functions in the body. Breakfast is the perfect opportunity to redefine your experience with food. Certain foods and herbs will strengthen the digestive system and Earth element, rather than exhaust it. During the cold winter months, it is a good time to experiment with making congee or jook. Congee is a traditional breakfast food popular throughout Asia. Usually made with rice and cooked for a long period of time, it can also be made with the BED grains millet, quinoa, and amaranth. Adding sea vegetables and Chinese immune herbs will support your immune system and fortify your constitution.
BED CONGEE RECIPE
- 1 c. millet
- 4 – 6 c. water
- 2 tbs. fresh grated ginger
- 1 tbs. coconut oil
- ¼ c. chopped green onion
- 1 c. chopped bok choy
- ½ c. your favorite sea vegetable
- ½ tsp. celtic sea salt
- OPTIONAL: CHINESE TONIC HERBS
- ½ tsp. Astragulus powdered
- ¼ tsp. Cordyceps, Reishi, Chaga powdered
WHAT TO REMEMBER MOST FROM THIS ARTICLE:
Delicious holiday meals are often synonymous with an assortment of sweets, which can leave you feeling less than your best. The principles of Chinese medicine reveal that sugar naturally produces dampness in the body that overloads the digestive system. A weak digestive system will result in a weak immune system, which can be quickly corrected by balancing the energy of the body to improve the health of the immune system. The best way to keep your digestive system robust is by taking digestive enzymes and eating a diet rich in fermented foods and probiotics. It really is possible to survive the holidays while feeling your healthiest!