Overcoming Diseases Through Nutrition
by Ken Andes, L.Ac.
“If a person is diseased, he should be treated with food first. If food treatment fails to work, then use herbs.”
— Bian Que, Famous TCM Physician , Warring States Period
I cannot address and emphasis it enough how important TCM food therapy is as an acupuncturist. Since acupuncture is only part of the whole Traditional Chinese Medicine, in my opinion, to understand and learn TCM nutrition and food therapy is the most important component of health care in our profession. All of the fancy fitness machine, retreats, expensive vitamins and anti-aging hormones, and surgical procedures that money can buy will not make up for a poor diet life style.
A simple way to lead a healthy and happy life is to make a healthy life style change step by step start from diet.
When people come to my office with a long list of complicated health problems, the first thing that we do is correct their diet. When people come with a history of chronic disorders such as irritable bowel, diabetes, heart disease, and even emotional disorders, more often than not their diet is not suitable for their body type and current medical condition. If they are able to make certain changes in their diet and eating habits synergistically with exercise, natural herbs and acupuncture treatment, it is not only overcome disorders of the body but support and strengthen body for better health and prevent from disease recurrent.
If they continue to eat poorly, not only are the chances of recovery slim but a quick recurrence of the disorder is almost guaranteed even if a temporary recovery is seen.
The following nutritional guidelines come from over 15 years of study as both a health professional and competitive athlete. They combine both western nutritional sciences with ritualistic nutritional theories from Chinese Medicine. These are the guidelines that I give to my patients and I have yet to meet a single person who has not responded favorably to them. Enjoy!
Ultimately the healthiest way to eat is to choose foods based upon what your bodily instincts tell you to eat. When to eat, how much, and what particular foods to eat can be determined if you are sensitive enough to the messages your body gives you. The problem with this is that most of us have lost our natural instincts in a society where we are force fed unnatural food several times per day. TCM teaches that we are born with different body constitution; the choice of diet should fit in different body constitution in order to maximize our body resistant, promote well being and longevity.
Until this instinct is restored through natural living, follow these guidelines in addition to regular Qigong practice, holistic exercise, and plenty of sleep. This method of nutrition will not only improve your physical health, it will help you to reform a connection with Universal Spirit (Tao),in a word, Yang Sheng ( nourishing life)
Start with the premise that life as we know it comes from the yang energy of sunlight and the yin energy of water. Sunlight and water are the principle sources of life energy (qi), and it follows that the healthiest foods will contain the largest concentration of sunlight and water. Water is yin, and sunlight is yang, human life is supported by the heaven ( sunlight ,the yang energy) and earth ( water , the yin energy).
The foundation of nutrition first starts with proper hydration. It is imperative that you drink enough water throughout the day. Room temperature water is more easily assimilated than cold water and absorption will be further enhanced if you slowly sip the water rather than gulp it. You can easily determine whether or not you’re drinking enough water by observing the color of your urine. Anything darker than light yellow means that you’re not drinking enough.
After water, fruits and vegetables contain not only the highest water content, but are also directly infused with the yang energy of the sun. Because they are the most direct embodiment of the yin/yang energies of water and sunlight, at least 50% to 70% of your diet should be in the form of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, fresh fruits and vegetables contain the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber that western nutritional literature has already spoken about in depth.
I’m a big believer in using the glycemic index to choose foods. The glycemic index is a rating of various foods based on how drastic of an effect they have on your blood sugar. Foods with a high rating are to be avoided and foods with a low rating are preferred. I’ve always found it interesting that the only vegetables with a high (non-desirable) rating were potatoes and carrots, two vegetables that grow in the ground and receive very little exposure to the sun.
Next to fruits and vegetables, animal products contain the next highest infusion of water and sunlight. Lean meats such as pork, chicken, fish, and beef contain the qi energy of the animal, the yang energy of the sunlight it was exposed to, and the yin energy of the water content in its flesh. At least 25% to 50% of your diet should be in the form of quality protein sources.
Remember that the word “protein” comes from the Latin word “protos” which means “of first importance”. Protein is necessary for every metabolic process in the body.
In the past five years of my clinical practice, I have not met one single patient who has not experienced greater health, higher energy levels, and improved moods from the addition of more protein to their diet. Almost every single patient I have seen has also greatly benefited from the reduction or even elimination of starches and sugar.
As TCM teaches, that high starch content food tends to generate phlegm (fat) in the body according to Pi Wei Lun by Dr.Li Dong Yuan about 800 years ago in Chinese Medicine history. High starch food will overload Spleen organ, and compromise the transformation function of spleen that will lead to low energy production, low defensive energy and more phlegm accumulation in the body. People will manifest both physical and emotional disorders related to Spleen organ. (Editor’s comment)
If your budget allows, it is better to eat organic produce and meats. This is especially important when buying meats. Most commercially raised animals receive little exposure to sunlight, clean water, and often endure morbidly depressing lives. The qi energy from the flesh of such an animal is not going to be nearly as healthy or nourishing as that of a farm raised animal that was given lots of sunlight (yang), water (yin), and care (love). My feelings are that the extra money you spend on organic food will lead to decreased medical expenses, more productivity at work, and a closer affinity to the living energy of plants and animals.
If you are a vegetarian, the best source of protein for you will be a quality whey protein supplement such as Designer Whey. Other good sources of protein are cottage cheese and eggs.
I am not a fan of soy and tofu products. Not only are they incomplete protein sources that lack essential amino acids, there is still much debate about whether or not soy products can have damaging effects on one’s hormonal system. It is controversial subjects to discuss the benefits of Soy and Tofu since there are many confused information from both diary company supported research data and bio medicine research for the claim of hormone contents in the soy, even though in Asia, most of people has been living with soy and its related food products for thousands of year.
Eggs are considered in both western and eastern nutrition to be one of the most perfect foods. From a western perspective, eggs are a complete protein and contain every necessary nutrient except vitamin C. From an eastern perspective, eggs contain a tremendous amount of qi energy as they are the “seeds” of chicken, which brings me to my next point….
After water, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, nuts and seeds contain a very high concentration of qi and should be included in your daily diet. Seeds contain an enormous amount of life energy in that they are able to germinate into a large plant if given proper exposure to sunlight, water, and soil. Nuts and seeds also provide the body with essential fatty acids that are necessary for cell health and metabolic functions. About 10% to 25% of your diet should be from nuts and seeds. The best choices are almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
Remember that there are essential amino acids (found in protein) and essential fatty acids (found in nuts, seeds, and meats). However, there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. This should tell you something. The body does not need carbohydrates to live, although a certain amount of carbs will provide for optimum health. Your carbohydrate needs will be more than adequately met by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
So far you have learned that holistic nutrition is based upon receiving energy (qi) from foods that have a high exposure to and concentration of sunlight and water. Foods that are as close as possible to the living state will give you the highest levels of health and vitality. I now ask you, “Where do starches fit in to this?”
Starches such as breads (all kinds including whole wheat), rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes, and grains are essentially dead foods that contain almost no nutritional value. Because they are devoid of living properties, starches not only offer minimal qi, they sap you of energy by making you feel run down, tired, and dull.
Whole wheat and whole grain products are a nutritional industry scam and are just as damaging as white flour products. Don’t believe the hype.
From a western nutritional standpoint, most starches rate high on the glycemic index and can cause drastic fluctuations in blood sugar. Consumption of starches has been linked to a higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity.
Water, plant food, lean meats, eggs, nuts and seeds. These are the foods that Universal Spirit has provided in nature for human beings to eat. This also represents the healthiest diet that will allow you to quickly regain your health while living with vigor and vitality. Eating this way will help you reconnect with your natural instincts by infusing you not only with nutrients but the life giving forces of yin, yang, and qi.
This last guideline is especially important: how you eat is just as important as what you eat. You must remember that when you eat you are consuming something that was once alive. We are all part of the same energy within the Universal, and the act of eating represents the nature of one spirit flowing into another. Show respect for the spirit of the food by paying attention as you eat. Chew your food well and allow yourself to feel the immediate effects of the food on your body. This is an important exercise for relearning how to listen to your body and natural instincts. Many Americans eat while reading or watching TV, and I think this is a major cause for obesity in this country. Many people will eat an entire meal without having tasted the food because they were watching TV or engaging in some other distraction while eating. This causes them to overeat until they feel so full that more food will not fit in their stomachs!Dr. Ken Andes, L.Ac, D.Ac. (RI) is a licensed acupuncturist; board certified herbalist, and medical qigong instructor. Dr. Andes has practiced various qigong for over 14 years, and he serves as vice-president of WISH and runs a private medical practice in Suffern, NY.