Food is Medicine
What we eat is vital to our health. Food is medicine; it is what we have everyday that builds our very cells. If we eat and drink well and digest well, our bodies make quality blood and fluids which is what builds healthy immunity, healthy hormones, organs, skin, hair, eyes ears, tendons, muscles… all of us. It directly affects how we feel, and thus how we behave.
Yet when contemplating what is the “right” thing to eat, there is so much information, so many conflicting ideas out there it often becomes overwhelming. Then eating is riddled with guilt and overthinking. The two emotions that suppress our digestion!
I teach my patients how to simplify, how to enjoy nourishing food daily without the confusion, complications and harsh restrictions of common ‘healthy diets’. We start simply and can go as deep as they desire over time, as Chinese dietary therapy is a wonderfully sophisticated system that mirrors the intelligence of its herbal medicine.
The main starting points for eating for health according to Chinese Medicine principles are
- Whole food. What our grandparents used to eat!! A recent study in the UK showed that processed food is unrecognizable to the human body and increases chances of cancer and morbidity by a staggering amount.
- Warm food. Cooking food and eating it warm enables the nutrients to be absorbed more easily and completely. It assists digestion and soothes digestive issues such as bloating, reflux etc. Heat is essential to all chemical reactions, as our digestion and our bodies are a series of bio-chemical processes, cold or raw food will slow these down or block them entirely. Smoothies and salad may seem healthy but can be very hard to digest.
- Wet food. Adequate fluids are the basis for effective digestion and for healing. Eating dry food, such as toast, pulls more water from our systems, robbing us of the vital substances needed for health. Soups, stews, porridges, daal etc keeps our cells hydrated and digestion optimal.
- Enjoy eating, eat slowly and chew well. Eating has such a big emotional and social component. When we start to change our diets to consist of mainly whole foods, we begin to really taste the sweetness of vegetables, feel the nourishment of a beef stew, and we begin to notice the difference in how we feel. Food shouldn’t be tastless and hard work, it is to be enjoyed. There are so many wonderful culinary herbs and spices and different easy recipes around. And having a pizza with friends or family once in a while can be just as nourishing when done with joy and acceptance.
- Take time to listen to your body. For some people gluten will cause all sorts of issues, for some none at all. Dairy may give you headaches and sinus pain, but your sister can eat it no problem. We are all so different. Cutting out some foods that cause you inflammation is important, and that starts with listening in. Part of the beauty of bodywork, such as yoga or acupuncture is how it helps us become more and more aware of what our bodies are telling us.
So let’s start to slow down and simplify. Let’s get rid of guilt and turn it into pleasure and wellbeing. Lets nourish and strengthen our bodies and minds so they can serve us, our families and communities in the most positive way.
Xx Dr Nicky Brooks (TCM)
Image from the beautiful Recipes for Self-Healing by David Leggett, illustrations by Katheryn Trenshaw.