Traditional Chinese Medicine, Part V
You can become a healthy centenarian with the common sense approach of the Asian diet, as used in Chinese Medicine dietary therapy.
In the West, we break down diet into calories and the building blocks of food: Protein, Fats, Carbohydrates. By this way of thinking an omelet is equivalent to a bowl of noodles with sauce–if the amount of protein and calories is the same. So, let’s talk about the Asian diet pyramid.
In our time the brightest people go into computers or engineering, but the geniuses of ancient China were in medicine. And the best doctors were employed in the Emperor’s court.
The Emperor’s goal was to live a long time, to have many sons, and to stay in power. So he put the best minds of the time to work to develop a way of living healthily into advanced old age, to become a healthy centenarian.
This is quite very different from the focus of modern Western medicine on heroic lifesaving measures which has produced brilliant emergency medicine.
So, these doctors developed a unique approach to the Asian diet. The Chinese have a concept they call Jing, which we could define as our bodily constitution.
They broke Jing down into two parts: pre-natal Jing and post-natal Jing. Pre-natal Jing is passed down from your parents, so we can think of it as your genetic legacy from generations past. Post-natal Jing is created from the way you live after you are born, the air you breathe, the food you eat, the thoughts you think, the way you move.
If you live well you begin to store Jing and it actually supplements and augments your pre-natal Jing–you can actually improve and support your genetic legacy. It’s amazing to think that in ancient China they already knew what our modern science is just learning–that we can profoundly impact our genes through food (see the great book Genetic Nutritioneering).
In Asian dietary therapy, just as with medicinal herbs, our constitution, the climate, the season and level of illness are all factors in determining an appropriate diet. People with congestion need decongesting food. People who are hot and dry, need moisturizing, cooling foods.
Another factor influencing diet choice is a person’s level of illness. If someone is recovering from an acute illness like the flu, their diet should be based on their symptoms. If they have a high fever, with a dry mouth, and dry hot skin, they should be eating moisturizing and cooling foods. If they have a fever with chills, foods that are warming are indicated. Of course in this case, they would also be taking Chinese medicinal herbs.
The season and climate are also influences. Warm nourishing foods are recommended when the weather is damp and cold. Cooling juices are more appropriate in the summer heat.
This unique Asian diet approach is very sophisticated and ingrained in the Chinese culture. Studying these ideas can help us regain our common sense about food.