If an illness is to be treated, treat it with diet therapy first, then with drugs if it is not cured.”
Sun Si Miao(581-673 AD), Thousand Golden Prescriptions For Emergencies
Life force energy (chi) is received from food which provides one of the three sources of Chi in the body. Therefore it needs to receive your special attention.
Traditional cultures use food for medicine and nourishment. Some foods are also used as symbols to represent certain aspects of their culture.
Food has a nutritional and healing (remedial) property. Given the absence of disease, nutrition is received through regular sustenance on a daily basis. The healing property is the balancing or resolving of acute or chronic conditions as well as a therapy to prevent illness. Today, this is left mainly in the hands of Chinese herbal medicine practitioners.
Basic nutritional foods are both practical and inexpensive. Unlike most forms of medication, they can be used forever without harmful side effects.
A properly balanced diet based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine helps create internal balance and harmony, whereas improper diet is a direct cause of ill health.
Diet related illnesses of the past such as scurvy, gout or goitre are not common today but modern conditions such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disturbances such as bowel cancer and others can still be relieved or prevented by proper nutrition. Psychological illness such as anorexia nervosa and schizophrenia can respond well to dietary improvements.
Food as therapy is used in Chinese medicine today.
Food is selected for its energy, flavour and movement of its chi. How it affects the meridians, organs, bodily functions and symptoms are also important. Contraindications for the use of some foods are also offered to ensure that food is selected for the proper condition or illness.
For example, cucumber has a cool and sweet energy. It detoxifies, promotes urination and quenches thirst. It is also effective in relieving acne. This is because acne is due to excessive heat in the lung and stomach chi. This is balanced by the cool energy of fresh cucumber. The Chinese preserve cucumbers and eat them as a vegetable to cleanse the blood, clear up internal heat or relieve hot skin conditions. The juice of a squeezed cucumber can be applied externally to affected areas to relieve burns. The leaf of the cucumber plant is also effective. Even old cucumbers that have turned yellow are used. They are boiled as a soup to ease dry cough in the autumn as the season exerts its pathogenic energy of dryness. The symptom of coughing is because the lungs are most susceptible to external pathogenic influences.
The Chinese believe that there is a direct relationship between the quality of your life and the quality of the food you eat. You can achieve balance and improve health through good selection, preparation and serving methods, regular eating times, methods, conditions and frequency. Eating imported foods out of season, upsets the balance of Chi in your body.
The natural produce of the current season is most likely to be right for a balanced diet at that time of the year. For example, temperature is a very important aspect of a balanced diet. Hot or warm foods (Yang) heat you up and cold or cool foods (Yin) cool you down. This is why we eat hot soups in winter and salads in summer. The vegetables in the soup are grown and available during winter months and the salad foods grow in the summer months. In winter, one should eat food with warm or hot energy such as ginger, ginseng, leek or walnut. The hot summer months are soothed with food which has a cool or cold energy such as barley, bean curd, cucumber, eggplant or grapefruit.
The Tao teaches us to avoid extremes and keep overall balance. With food from every part of the world available all year round, the balance is easily upset. Taoists maintain that food eaten should be from the same geographical region. If you are in the winter season, you should eat winter produce and not the summer produce which is readily imported from another part of the world.
Recently, western society has changed its attitudes towards diet. Many people now advocate the need for more organically grown fruit, vegetables and cereal fibre accompanied by a reduction in meat and animal fats, refined foods, sugar and salt. This is along the lines of the Taoist diet.
Here are some basic principles you can follow that will enormously improve your health:
Eat only when hungry and do not overeat. Try to eat three to four small meals a day on a regular basis.
Eat only natural foods. (Avoid processed, synthetic or chemically enhanced foods.)
Eat more natural whole grains, vegetables and fruit in season. Choose organically grown food.
Chew your food to a paste.
Drink pure water or herb teas.
Avoid animal fat. Reduce meat consumption to a healthy minimum.
Breathe clean air often.
Avoid cold food and drink if possible; room temperature is best.
(taken from Healing Secrets Of Ancient China by Pier Tsui-Po)
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