Oriental medicine places high value on diet and nutrition. However, rather than the popular “you are what you eat” dogma, Oriental medical theory asserts that balanced dietary practices are just one piece of a healthy lifestyle.
“There are four basic foundations of achieving and maintaining good health,” said Bob Flaws, popular author and translator of Chinese medical texts. “These are: diet, exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, and a good mental attitude.”
The Chinese diet of balance is very different than that in the West. In cooperation with a Chinese medicine practitioner and nutritionist, individuals can tailor their diets to incorporate a variety of tastes, foods and herbs that will best serve their health needs. The Chinese diet system is about expanding food options in order to encompass all types of diet and nutrition sources.
Oriental medicine diet and nutrition includes five tastes – spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Particular tastes tend to have particular properties. For example, bitter foods tend to be drying and cold in nature, which makes them ideal for treating Damp Heat conditions. The bland flavour property is considered in addition to the basic five, and tends to aid areas unreachable by other flavours
Certain tastes are drawn to particular organ systems. As a basic and not absolute nutrition guide, salty tends toward the Kidneys and Bladder; sour to the Liver and Gall Bladder; bitter to the Heart and Small Intestine; spicy to the Lungs and Large Intestine; and sweet to the Spleen and Stomach.
The Chinese diet differentiates between six food groups: meats, fruit, dairy, vegetables, grains, and spices and herbs. Sometimes it is appropriate to have a diet that is in tune with the season, and each individual requires different properties and energies in their diet. It is also wise to work in conjunction with other aspects of healing, such as acupuncture and lifestyle advice.