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Home > Diet & Nutrition > Dietary Therapy

Applying Dietary Therapy

By Misha Ruth Cohen

from The Chinese Way to Healing: Many Paths to Wholeness

Chinese Nutrition & DietDietary therapy provides a powerful tool for correcting disharmonies and is used in conjunction with acupuncture, herbal therapy and Qi Gong to restore balance to the Essential Substances, Organ Systems and channels. Generally, diet therapy can help sedate Excess, tonify Deficiencies, cool off Heat problems, warm up Cold problems, moisten dry problems and dry up Excess Dampness. Symptoms describe what you feel when you are not well. Signs are the manifestations of disharmony that guide Chinese medicine practitioners when identifying and diagnosing particular imbalances.

To Treat Deficient Qi

Symptoms include lethargy, loose stools, fatigue, weakness, decreased appetite, shortness of breath, and occasionally, cold extremities and frequent urination.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a thin, weak pulse and a tongue that is pale and possibly swollen.
Western diagnoses: Chronic fatigue, asthma, or urinary incontinence.

Your diet should contain the following
Half of total calories should come from grains and legumes, a third from vegetables, about 15 percent from meats, but to avoid taxing digestion or building mucus, eat only two to three ounces per serving. Five percent of total calories should come from dairy. Recommended foods include rice or barley broth, garlic, leeks, string beans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and carrots.
No. Raw food, salads, fruits, and juices in excess.

To Treat Cold Symptoms with Deficient Qi

Eat dried ginger, cinnamon bark, and chicken's eggs. Do not take ginseng without a doctor's advice.

To Treat Deficiency Spleen Qi

Symptoms include lack of appetite, bloating, loose stool, and fatigue.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a weak pulse and a pale, soft tongue with thin, white fur.
Western diagnoses: diarrhea, gastric or duodenal ulcers, anemia, or even chronic hepatitis.

Your diet should contain the following

Yes. Cooked, warming foods such as squash, carrots, potatoes, yams, rutabagas, turnips, leeks, onions, rice, oats, butter, small amounts of chicken, turkey, mutton or beef, cooked peaches, cherries, strawberries, figs, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, custards, small amounts of honey, molasses, maple syrup and sugar. Food should be well chewed and eaten in moderate amounts.
No. Salsa, citrus, too much salt, tofu, millet, buckwheat, milk, cheese, seaweed, and excess sugar.

Dietary Guidelines for Loose Stools

For Spleen/Stomach Qi and Yang Deficiencies for Food Poisoning
Digestive tonics:
Warm and cooked foods and moderate-sized meals
Congees and soups (not cream-based)
White rice
Black tea
Cinnamon tea
Ginger tea
Flora-enhancing foods:

Foods to avoid:
Raw and cold foods
Spicy foods
Fats and oils

After sickness subsides... Flora-enhancing foods:
Alfalfa greens

Note: If loose stools continue, follow Spleen/Stomach Deficiency Guidelines.

To Treat Deficiency Spleen Qi Leading to Deficiency Yang

If Deficient Spleen Qi is not treated early, the body becomes ever more depleted. The Qi cannot be replenished through what you eat and drink. Eventually, a more serious Yang Deficiency develops.

Symptoms include aversion to the cold, a craving for warm drinks, and chilled fingers, toes, ears and nose tip.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a slow, thready pulse and a tongue that is moist and pale with indentations on the side.
Western diagnoses: swelling, gastritis, enteritis, kidney disease and colitis.

Your diet should follow the guides for Deficient Spleen Qi, and the following.
Raw or chilled foods or those that are hard to digest, such as fatty foods, raw broccoli and milk. They exhaust the digestive fire.

To Treat Dampness Associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency

This is a complicated case of Excess and Deficiency.

Symptoms include headaches, watery stools and queasy stomach.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a slippery pulse, tongue fur that is thick and greasy and a tongue body that is swollen with toothmarks along the sides.
Western diagnoses: hepatitis, dysentery, or gastroenteritis.

Your diet should include the same foods that are recommended to treat Deficient Spleen Qi and the following.
Foods that drain excess dampness such as barley, corn, adzuki beans, garlic, mushrooms, mustard greens, chicken, alfalfa, shrimp, scallions and rye.
No. Too much red meat, salt, or sugar. Also stay away from foods that produce damp, such as dairy, pork, shark meat, eggs, sardines, octopus, coconut milk, cucumber, duck, goose, seaweed, olives, soybeans, tofu, spinach, pine nuts and alcohol.

Dietary Guidlines for Fatigue and Lethargy

Fatigue and Lethargy can stem from Deficiency, Xue Deficiency, Yang Deficiency, Dampness and Qi Stagnation. To remedy fatigue caused by Qi Deficiency eat foods that tonify Qi and increase energy.

  • Cooked and warm foods
  • Frequent, small meals
  • Sweet foods (not with sugar, but those designated on the food list)
  • Cooked, yellow vegetables
  • Small amounts of chicken or turkey, especially in soups
  • Warming spices such as dried ginger and cinnamon (except with Xue Deficiency)
  • Avoid cold or cooling Coods and tofu, milk, cheese, and liquids with meals and excess sweet foods

To remedy fatigue caused by Liver Qi Stagnation, eat foods that move Stagnant Qi and motivate stuck energy.

  • Chicken livers
  • Kelp
  • Nori
  • Eggplant
  • Saffron
  • Avoid alcohol, fatty foods, food additives, unnecessary medicines and overindulgence in sweets
  • Avoid chicken and turkey
  • Spicy foods in small amounts motivate the Qi, but excessive use of spices creates more stagnation.

To Treat Spleen Qi Deficiency With Damp Cold

Symptoms include water retention, puffiness, a cold feeling, mild nausea, trouble breathing, watery stools and clear, frequent urine.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a pulse that is weak and slippery or soft and slow and a tongue that is pale with teeth marks on the sides.
Western diagnoses: edema, parasites, ulcers, or Crohn's disease.

Your diet should contain the following
Grains and legumes equalling 65 percent of total calorie intake. Around a quarter of your diet should be vegetables. Eat only 10 percent red and white meat-no more than twenty-five ounces a week.
No. Raw food, fruits, sugar and dairy products.

To Treat Spleen Qi Deficiency With Damp Heat

Symptoms include a hot and heavy feeling, fever, nausea, costal or abdominal pain, labored breathing and diarrhea.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a weak and slippery or soft pulse that's rapid and a tongue that's swollen and reddish.
Western diagnoses: colitis, acute hepatitis, or Crohn's disease.

Your diet should contain the following
Grains and legumes equalling 70 percent of calories; cooked vegetables, 30 percent; and white meats, 5 percent-not more than twelve ounces a week. An occasional salad is suggested.
No. Red meat, raw vegetables, fruit juices and dairy products.

To Treat Upward Movement of Qi and Mucus

This condition is the result of several underlying disharmonies that, only when added together, create symptoms. First, the stresses and strains of daily life coincide with a stressful diet of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol or drugs. This exhausts the Kidney Fire (in the Lower Burner) and digestion (Middle Burner) becomes sluggish. Mucus builds up. Simultaneously, stress triggers an elevation in Liver Yang. Negative emotions make the Liver energy rise upward. Qi and fluid from the Lungs rises and becomes rebellious, uncontrolled, and erratic. This combines with the excess mucus production.

Symptoms include sexual problems, cold extremities, low back pain, susceptibility to every passing cold or flu, joint pain, fear, Anxiety and impatience.
Signs: Your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for various manifestations, but whatever else is present, there are always the signs of weak Spleen, Kidney and Stomach Systems.
Western diagnoses: sinus allergies, watery eyes, skin rashes, sinus headaches, or chronic cough.

Your diet should include the following
Yes. Cooked foods, rice, mung beans, sweet rice congee, adzuki beans, mustard greens and vegetable broth-based vegetable soups.
No. Sugar, coffee, alcohol, citrus, dairy, soy, all raw, iced, or chilled foods and all energetically cool and cold food.

To Treat Excess Heat

Symptoms include warm or hot extremities, sweatiness, acne or boils, decreased bowel movements, a loud voice, irritability and feeling hot.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include rapid, full pulse and a tongue that is red and may have a yellow coating.
Western diagnoses: skin disorders accompanied by redness; digestive difficulties; chronic constipation; manic behavior; and/or headaches.

Your diet should contain the following
Yes. Almost half of your total calories should be grains and legumes. A third should be from raw and cooked vegetables. About 20 percent should be from juices and fruits.
No. Frozen or icy foods and chicken. Eat only minimal amounts of meat, sugar and dairy products.

Dietary Guide For Constipation Caused by Dryness

Foods That Lubricate Bowels Foods That Promote Bowel Movement Flora-Enhancing Foods
Alfalfa sprouts
Pine nuts
Sesame seeds
Soy products

To Treat Stagnation of Liver Qi

Symptoms include tenderness in rib cage, nausea, premenstrual lability, irritability and swollen breasts and abdomen.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a wiry pulse and a tongue that is dusky or purplish.
Western diagnoses: alcohol abuse, type A personality, fibrocystic breasts, swelling or lumps in groin or breasts, goiter, PMS, menstrual irregularities, or headaches.

Your diet should include the following
Liver-sedating foods such as beef, chicken livers, celery, kelp, mussels, nori, plums and amazake, a fermented rice drink. Also recommended are foods that regulate or move Qi such as basil, bay leaves, beets, black pepper, cabbage, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, leeks, peaches, scallions and rosemary.
No. Alcohol, coffee, fatty foods, fried foods, excessively spicy foods, heavy red meat, sugar and sweets.

To Treat Fluid Dryness

Symptoms include dry throat, dizziness, emaciation, spontaneous sweating and shortness of breath. Other symptoms vary depending on whether the underlying syndrome is Xue Deficiency or Yin Deficiency.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a pulse that is fine, halting, or hollow and weak and a tongue that is uncoated and pink.
Western diagnoses: Type II diabetes or chronic constipation.

Your diet should include the following
Dairy products, most noncitrus fruits, honey, pork, liver congee, tofu, oiive oil, peanut oil and sesame oil. For Kidney Yin Deficiency, eat kidney congee and liver congee. See Xue Deficiency and Yin Deficiency for additional guidelines.
No. Raw fruits and vegetables, cold foods, caffeine, purgative herbs and medicines and alcohol.

To Treat Xue Deficiency

Symptoms include dizziness, low weight, blurred vision, tingling toes or fingers, dry skin or hair and a pale, lusterless face. The symptoms vary depending on the relative Xue Deficiency in a specific Organ System.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a thready pulse and a pale tongue.
Western diagnoses: anemia, headaches, Anxiety, nervousness and a lack of or painful monthly periods.

Your diet should include the following
Oysters, sweet rice, liver, chicken soup, Dang Gui Chicken (see recipe in this book), eggs and green beans.
No. Raw fruit and vegetables, cold liquids and ice.

To Treat Stagnant Xue

Stagnant Xue results from a traumatic injury or as a manifestation of gynecological imbalances.

Symptoms include missed periods, excessive clotting with period, fixed, painful lumps, dry skin and lips, thirst, easily chilled extremities and constipation.
Signs that your Chinese medicine practitioner will look for include a choppy pulse and a tongue that is purple and may have purple spots on the sides.
Western diagnoses: endometriosis, menstrual cramps, PID, fibroids, bruising and fixed pain.

Your diet should include the following
A small amount of chives, cayenne, eggplant, saffron, safflower, basil, brown sugar and chestnuts to improve Xue circulation. Turmeric, adzuki beans, rice, spearmint, chives, garlic, vinegar, basil, scailion, leeks, ginger, chestnut, rosemary, cayenne, nutmeg, kohlrabi, eggplant and white pepper to disperse Stagnant Xue. Rice, trout, smail amounts of chicken and chicken liver to strengthen the Stomach/Spleen System to promote sufficient production of Xue. Mussels, wheat germ, and millet to build Yin, which strengthens Xue.
No. Duck, alcohol, fatty foods and sweets. If you are cold, avoid citrus fruits and tomatoes.

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