T h e R i c e s t u f f
By Michelle Margherita
What’s your Chinese food personality?
Are you cold, cold damp or suffering liver imbalance? Let your Chinese medicine personality determine the foods that are best for you-and indulge in yum cha, too.
Body and Soul Section, The Sunday Telegraph, October 14, 2001.
© copyright Sunday Telegraph. Reproduced with permission.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) declares that eating to nourish your body and soul is as fundamental as sleeping. Depending on your symptoms, the road to good health can be as simple as including more sweet potato in your diet. But it’s important to seek the professional opinion of a TCM practitioner to fully understand what your body is lacking.
TCM takes an wholistic approach to illness. A good TCM practitioner will look at your complexion, facial expression, your tongue, ask about your diet, listen to your voice and breathing, inquire about your problems and feel your pulse.
TCM theories suggest that when the mind and body are in total harmony there is no illness or disease, and while this is ideal, most people fall primarily into one of four categories; cold, hot damp, cold damp and liver imbalance.
Treating these symptoms through diet is easy, as long as you know which foods aggravate your condition and which relieve it.
Wholistic healer and Eastern therapies specialist Stephen Wayne-Smith says eating well is the starting point to remedying imbalances. “Chinese medicine goes to the root cause which is often diet”, says Wayne-Smith.” From an Eastern point of view, both diet and diagnosis are more defined. Breaking these conditions into categories means the individual can work on specific principles of healing more effectively.”
In TCM, “dampness” makes it difficult for your body to break down and get rid of the food you eat. Those suffering from dampness tend to feel the cold more than others, often feel tired and drowsy and complain of their body feeling “heavy”. Damp sufferers often find their digestive processes are also hindered.
According to TCM principles, those with cold symptoms tend to feel the cold, perspire a lot, suffer from nervous indigestion, diarrhoea and anaemia, and may also suffer from gastric ulcers or hepatitis.
Common signs of cold:
Loss of appetite
Needing to be constantly warmed
Hiccups or burping
Constantly passing wind
Urinate a lot
Pale tongue surface
Slow, deep pulse
To treat Cold symptoms
You must “warm” the spleen and avoid foods and drinks that “cool” the digestive system. Raw fruits and vegetables aggravate the condition, so go for cooked foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner that will “warm” the body. Root vegetables are great for warming, so when shopping fill your trolley with carrots and sweet potatoes. Also include pumpkin, eek, chicken, turkey and ginger in your diet as well as rice and oats that have been cooked until very soft.
Avoid “cold” foods such as citrus fruits, milk, cheese, salads and juices and instead go to warm vegetable salads, warm non dairy drinks and thick hearty soups. Avoid an excess of salt and liquid in your diet, grains that are undercooked, tofu (unless it has been marinated and baked) and very sweet foods.
There are two types of dampness; cold damp and hot damp. In addition to feelings of coldness, lethargy and heaviness, those suffering from cold damp will more than likely have sinus and mucus build ups, a poor appetite and not be able to fully taste their food.
If cold damp is left untreated for too long, it transforms into hot damp, a condition that not only aggravates allergies, but which can manifest itself in similar ways to candida. It is also very difficult to treat.
Like most elements of TCM, hot damp doesn’t only affect the body-it affects the person’s mental state, making them feel as if they can’t get ahead or get to the next level.
Common signs of cold damp
Watery stools and diarrhoea
Pus filled blemishes
Thick, pale coating on the tongue
To treat cold damp symptoms
It’s important to get cold damp under control as soon as you can so it doesn’t become hot damp. You can do this by eating “warming” foods that drain away dampness from the body. Get down to your local fruit and vegetable market and stock up on corn, pumpkin, turnips, mustard greens, garlic, alfalfa and celery. Cook these veges with azuki beans, red kidney beans, miso, lentils, chickpeas, shitake mushrooms, Chinese barley, tuna, perch and chicken, and be sure to eat plenty of delicious sourdough bread.
Avoid “cold” foods that may block up the body such as dairy products, eggs, seafood except tuna, pork sugar and olive oil. When shopping for veges, give fruit, spinach and cucumbers a miss, as well as wheat, seaweed (no sushi) soybeans and olives.
If you’ve ever had candida, you’re most likely aware that it’s a hot moist and sticky situation. Having hot damp in your system is unfortunately quite similar to candida, and can sometimes be brought on by antibiotics. Hot damp is also aggravated by muggy, humid, tropical climates, so get yourself back on the road to good health by staying cool and clearing the heat from your body.
Dose up on echinacea and begin eating foods that will not only remove damp but will also restore your acid/alkaline balance.
Common signs of hot damp
headaches and migraines
fatigue and lethargy
joint and muscle pain
hives or rashes
irritable bowel syndrome
nail and skin fungal infections
upper abdominal pain
high blood pressure
To treat hot damp symptoms
Eating the right foods will only get you halfway to achieving body-soul equilibrium. You’ve got to get active and begin exercising and perhaps even acupuncture treatments or Chinese herbs.
It’s best to avoid alcohol, tea and coffee, dairy products, salads and fruits, seafood (except tuna), meat, garlic and spices, wheat, foods that contain yeast, fatty foods, sugary foods, and processed refined foods.
If you’re thinking that this leaves very little you can actually eat, you’re right and that’s the point. Hot damp is difficult to treat, and a diet of brown rice, pumpkin, polenta, tofu, tempeh, zucchini, miso, wakame, pecans and celery is a sure way to put you on the road to recovery.
In extreme cases, a 10 day diet of grilled tuna, steamed pumpkin, mustard greens and leafy green Chinese vegetables such as bok choy and Chinese broccoli is recommended, but only attempt this under the guidance of a TCM practitioner.
If we let stress, the environment and a bad diet get the better of us, it can result in liver imbalance. Many people are guilty of eating “heat-inducing” foods like red meat, spices, sugar, and deep fried food, as well as drinking alcohol, too many cafe lattes, and smoking. It’s these things that weaken the liver, and according to TCM principles, a weakened liver leads to a weakened emotional state and a growing inability to cope.
Common signs of liver imbalance
dark or clotted periods
pressure behind the eyes
fluctuating between constipation and diarrhoea
a bad temper
irritability and over sensitivity
a pale bluish/purple coating over the tongue
a full pulse
To treat liver imbalance symptoms
Relax both your body and your mind. An overactive mind that races just before bedtime is as damaging to your liver as alcohol and coffee, so breathe deeply, exercise regularly and chill out to avoid extra stress being placed on your liver.
You can build up your energy by including herbs and spices such as basil, bay leaves, dill seeds, black pepper, garlic, ginger, marjoram, rosemary and saffron on your shopping list. Make tasty meals using these spices and eat peaches, instead of sugary desserts for a sweet treat after meals. Stay clear of liver nasties like alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, drugs and medications as well as deep fried and greasy foods, chillies, red meat and sugar.
With these dietary changes, a little acupuncture and a few prescribed Chinese herbs, your liver will soon be healthy and happy in no time.