Traditional Chinese Medicine, Food Therapy and Cancer Prevention
by Helen Hu, OMD
When we discuss how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help prevent cancer, we might think we have to take something to kill the cancerous cells in order to prevent those cells from growing into a tumor. I believe that by the time cancer cells begin to grow in a body, that body already has a “pro-cancer condition” that creates a cancer-friendly environment. If the “pro-cancer condition” is eliminated, the more chance one has to win the battle.
The concept of “pro cancer condition” is very broad. It is a condition of imbalance between our body and our living environment (such as extreme sun exposure, cold, hot, dampness, or pollution), and an imbalance of our internal organs.
The cells in our bodies need a healthy, nourishing, and non-toxic environment. Like the optimal soil conditions necessary for seeds to grow, our cells require the right temperature and ph-balance to function normally. No matter how good the “seeds” are, they cannot grow well in a bad soil. Similarly, our cells cannot function normally in a pro cancer condition, a condition that increases the chance of someone producing cancer cells.
Another part of the pro cancer condition results from an imbalance within internal organs, which primarily derives from an unhealthy diet, life style and stress. These imbalances can create phlegm or stagnate the blood or Qi (energy). If there is a blockage in these areas, both congestion and deficiency will occur – as if a river was blocked; one side would result in congestion, the other side would be void of water (deficiency). Water that is congested for a long time will turn into a stagnant pond. This can be compared to a lump starting to grow in the body. In addition, at the same time, the deficiency side of the blocked river has no fresh water flowing, similar to the way blockages in our body contribute to decreased circulation and decreased ability to provide nutrients to our organs. In a pro-cancer condition, organs lose their balance and the body does not have the strong immunity necessary to clean up the toxins, resulting in a weak defense against cancer cells.
What are the indications that our body’s immune system has started to weaken?
TCM believes that our body’s strongest defense comes from good and free flowing Qi (energy) within and among all five important organs: heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidney. Each organ’s defensive energy will guard certain parts of the body. We need to pay attention to our bodies, to identify the signs and symptoms that indicate our bodies’ immune systems are weak. Here are some indications:
- Easily catching colds and the development of allergies or herpes are related to the decline of lung organ defensive energy.
- Easily fatigued, a bland taste in the mouth, or prone to diarrhea indicates a weakness of the spleen organ
- Skin changes (with more small red moles especially around wrist and abdominal area), easily angered, short temper and impatient is related to liver organ imbalance
- Sensitive to cold, feeling cold and frequent urination indicates low kidney energy.
- Insomnia, anxiety, ulcers in mouth, and no motivation to participate in activities indicates weak heart energy
What should we do if we start to show signs of a weakened immune system?Our immunity gradually decreases with age. The first step in strengthening our immunity is to correct any unhealthy life style factors that compromise our immunity. As a first step, one’s basic life style needs to be examined and perhaps modified:
- Sleep: It is very important to have at least a good 7 hours of sleep per night for people after middle age. In Chinese Medicine, it is believed that nighttime is yin time. The body is rebuilding during this time and restoring body energy and substance that we consume during the daytime (yang time). Long-term sleep deprivation causes the body to lose the time necessary to rejuvenate. If the immunity is compromised, it decreases the lymphocyte numbers and liver detoxification process
- Unhealthy emotion: constant worry, depression, negative thinking and prone to become upset easily by little things. All these emotions can directly or indirectly affect the production and maturity of immune cells.
- Sedentary life style: recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
- Excessive drinking and smoking: both can decrease the activity of NK (nature killer) cells and impair the body’s anti-viral capabilities.
Chinese Food Therapy:
Chinese food therapy is a very important part of TCM. Restoring and nourishing the body by using food therapy is the best way to be proactive in prevention. If one sees signs of a pro-cancer condition in the body, there are several basic food therapies/recipes we can consume daily:
When one sees signs of Lung energy deficiency
Lung Qi CongeeSpring rice: 100g Wild Chinese Yam (Dioscorca Opposita Radix) : fresh 100g ( dry : 30g) Bai he (Lily bulb): fresh 100g ( dry 30 g) Astragalus: 20 g
Make with water; cook all ingredients until they are soft and smooth. Serve as breakfast daily.One Cucian Carp fish tail (Carassius auratus) 150 g. Dry ginger: 10g Dry tangerine peel: 5g Pepper: 1g Sha ren (Cardamon): 3 g
Mix all spices and fish with a small amount of salt. Cook with water. Drink the soup and eat the fish. Once a day for 2 weeks as course of treatment.
Liver organ imbalance
The first step to alleviate liver imbalance is to stop smoking and drinking, if you do so. The second step is use TCM food therapy, to support the liver in recovering from damages.Spring rice 100g Go Ji berry 30 pieces Sesame seed (50 g. baked to brown in pans, then crush into powder)
Cooked rice and Go Ji berries in water until soup becomes smooth; before serving add sesame powder and vitamin B1 powder Take once a day for 7-10 days as a course of treatment.Black fungus mushroom: 15 g (Soak in water until soft. Cut into small strips.) White fungus mushroom: 15 g (Soak in water until soft. Cut into small strips.) Chinese red dates: 15 pieces
Stir fry all ingredients for a short time (about one minute) then add 100 cc water and cover. Slowly cook for 5-8 minutes to make soup, then add salt, a few drops of sesame oil and green onion (cut into small pieces for flavor) right before serving.
Compromised Kidney energy
Lotus Seed and Ginger CongeeOrganic Black Rice 100g Astragalus: 30 黄芪 Walnuts: 20 g. 核桃 Eucommia Bark: 10 g. 杜仲 Dry Ginger: 10g Cinnamon: 5g 肉桂
Put above ingredients in a pot with water. Cook for 2-4hours over moderate heat. Best way to cook it is to use a crock-pot filled with cool water and cook overnight until everything becomes softened. Serve warm as breakfast or serve with dinner along with other kinds of food.
Take daily for one month as course of treatment.
Heart and sleep problem
Rice and Whole Wheat Porridge (Congee)Spring rice (or sushi rice) 100g Whole wheat (whole grain) 100g Chinese red dates: 6 pieces (without kernel) 大枣 Stir fry sour date kernels: 10g 炒 酸枣仁
Cooking instructions: Wash whole wheat and boil in water for 30 minutes. Use the wheat juice (dischard wheat) to cook rice, dates and the sour date kernels to make congee.
Serve: Take 1-2 times per day for 5-6 days
In her Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic, Dr. Hu has used one of her Chicken Soup recipes to restore overall body immunity, body energy, and promote well being. It has been used by many patients who undergo chemotherapy and experience fatigue and low immunity, patients with chronic conditions, and in recovery for illness. For people without ailments, it is best taken during the wintertime to promote health and strengthen the body’s immunity and well-being.
Dr. Hu’s Therapeutic Chicken Soup RecipeOne Whole Organic Chicken Astragalus: 30g 黄芪 Chinese Wild Yam: 30g Cordyceps capsule: 4-6 capsules 冬虫夏草胶囊 Shitake mushroom: 6-7 pieces 花菇 Chinese red dates: 2-4 pieces 大枣 Vegetables: as you wish Ginger Salt
Cooking instruction: put Cordyceps capsules (4-6) inside of the stomach of the chicken and add all of the other herbs and ingredients, with water to cover. Cook at a moderate temperature for 2 – 4 hours. Continue adding water to the pot to make a sufficient quantity of broth and cook the chicken until the whole chicken falls apart. Drink the soup and eat the meat as you wish for 5 days as a course of treatment. You can also use the broth as a base for other kinds of soups.
Note: this soup can also help people to restore their energy and support the immune system. It has helped many people with chronic disorders, post surgery recovery, people who are undergoing chemotherapy or after chemo. For healthy individuals, it is consumed for prevention, increased well-being and longevity.[Dr. Helen Hu, originally from Beijing China, has studied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since the age of 12. A Cardiologist and practitioner of integrated medicine for nine years before immigrating to the United States, Dr. Hu passed the “U.S. Licensing Medical Exam” (USLME) in 1997 while simultaneously obtaining her Oriental Medical Degree (OMD) in the US. Dr. Hu currently directs and manages a successful TCM practice in San Diego. She lectures locally on Acupuncture and the benefits of combining Eastern / Western styles of Medicine. Dr. Hu has been practicing Tai Ji and Qi Gong over 25 years, and she teaches these ancient Chinese arts Saturday mornings on Shelter Island in San Diego as a gift to the community and to help promote well-being and longevity. www.bodywithoutmystique.com or www.OMDweb.net]