Nutrition in Chinese Medicine: TCM Syndrome

When we come to talk about "health", food and our eating habits are the foundation of all. Proper eating and adapting the diet to a persons constitution, disease, or period of life, is a main focus within Chinese medicine.

 

A person that is "too cold" should not eat the same as a person that is feeling "too warm". A woman should not eat the same way just before, while, or after her menstruation. As a person working behind a computer should not eat as rich as a person working in the fields. 

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Organic Vegetables

As Hippocrates explains: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, Traditional Chinese medicine also believes that the structure and content of the diet will help to correct pathological imbalances. And if there is a disease, then the diet needs to be adjusted and adapted.

 

After seeing your Chinese medicine therapist, and discovering your imbalances or TCM "Syndrome", you can look into these classifications to understand "what is the key concept to follow regarding your situation, which food should you focus on, and finally, what should be avoided". 

Qi Deficiency

Key concepts

All food must be cooked and warm. Soups, broths and stews should be widely used. Chewing properly and eating slowly. Smaller meals but more often and on a regular schedule. More high complex carbohydrates and vegetables. Low meat intake. No extra fluids with the meals, no "heavy meals", no over-eating, do not miss a meal, and do not work or overthink while eating.

Focus on

​Oats, millet, corn, rice, rice porridge (congee), spelt, chicken, turkey, geese, duck, rabbit, lamb, beef, oysters, trout, lobster, salmon, liver, kidney, tuna, anchovies, fennel, carrots, leeks, chestnuts, ginger, garlic, coriander, hazelnuts, black sesame, walnuts, lentils, honey, egg, pumpkin, potato, radish, cherry, chestnut, jujube, lychees, apple, grape, licorice, sweet potato, chick peas, black beans, yams, peas, stewed fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, dates, rice syrup.

To avoid

Rigid or boring diets, cold and raw food, beer, salads, ice cream, dairy foods, sugar, chocolate, nuts and seeds (except chestnuts & walnuts), raw fruits, citrus, juices, wheat, sprouts, tomato, spinach, swiss chard, tofu, millet, seaweeds, salt, concentrated sweeteners, brown rice, excessive sweet, unnecessary antibiotics and over 1 gram of vitamin C per day.

Blood Deficiency

Key concepts

All food must be cooked and warm. Bone marrow soup is key. Soups, broths and stews should be widely used. Chewing properly and eating slowly. Smaller meals but more often and on a regular schedule. More meat and vegetables (especially green vegetables). Lower high complex carbohydrates intake. No extra fluids with the meals, no "heavy meals", no over-eating, do not miss a meal, and do not work or overthink while eating. Focus on iron and protein rich food. Folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements should be considered.

Focus on

High quality protein meat (organic if possible), chicken, bone marrow soup, beef and pork liver, pork trotter, pigeon, oyster, mussel, grains oats, amaranth, glutinous rice, red beets, red cabbage, chicken liver, beef, beef stock, veal liver, lamb liver, fish, squid, octopus, red grapes, sweet cherries, longans, plums, apricots, sesame, sunflower seeds, red tea, hibiscus, red grape juice, red wine (with moderation), eel, stocks and broths, eggs, legumes, black beans, green leafy vegetables, wheatgrass, spinach, carrots, beetroot, parsley, molasses, fermented bean products, miso, tempeh, seaweed, spirulina, black sesame seed, lychee, coconut, rice, stout.

To avoid

Cold and raw food, beer, salads, ice cream, dairy foods, sugar, chocolate, vinegar, raw fruits, citrus, juices, black tea, hot chocolate, garlic, ginger, pepper, curry, cinnamon, energetically hot drinks such as coffee, high-proof alcohol, yogi tea (chai), wheat, sprouts, tomato, salt, concentrated sweeteners, excessive sweet / bitter / sour / acrid and salty food, refrigerated or iced drinks, refined sugars, chemical additives and hormones.

Yang Deficiency

Key concepts

All food must be cooked and warm. Soups, broths and stews should be widely used. Chewing properly and eating slowly. Smaller meals but more often and on a regular schedule. More high complex carbohydrates and vegetables. Low meat intake. No extra fluids with the meals, no "heavy meals", no over-eating, do not miss a meal, and do not work or overthink while eating.

Focus on

​Oats, millet, corn, rice, rice porridge (congee), spelt, chicken, turkey, geese, duck, rabbit, lamb, beef, oysters, mussel, salmon, chives, trout, prawn, shrimp, lobster, salmon, liver, kidney, tuna, anchovies, fennel, carrots, leeks, chestnuts, ginger, garlic, coriander, hazelnuts, black sesame, walnuts, lentils, honey, egg, pumpkin, potato, radish, cherry, chestnut, jujube, lychees, apple, grape, licorice, sweet potato, chick peas, black beans, yams, peas, stewed fruit, dates, rice syrup, pistachio, raisins, cherries, peaches.

Greater use of warming spices: ginger, clove, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon, rosemary, turmeric, star anise, nutmeg, fenugreek, fennel seed, black pepper.

To avoid

Cold and raw food, beer, salads, ice cream, dairy foods, sugar, chocolate, nuts and seeds (except chestnuts & walnuts), soybean, glutinous rice, vinegar, soy milk, raw fruits, citrus, juices, wheat, sprouts, tomato, spinach, swiss chard, tofu, millet, seaweeds, salt, concentrated sweeteners, brown rice, excessive sweet and salt, refrigerated or iced drinks.

Yin Deficiency

Key concepts

Focus should be towards concentrated nourishment such as seeds and beans, bigger proportion of high quality protein, cooking with plenty of water such as soups, stews, steaming methods, etc. Using a lot of different green leafy, root kind vegetables, watery fruits and vegetables. Small amount of diary products (organic cow or goat milk, cheese, yogurt and butter). Moistening and lubricating food is good.

Focus on

Wheat, oats, rice, millet, barley, pork, pork kidney, chicken, duck, pigeon, bone marrow, egges, butter, milk and cheese in small amount, yogurt, tofu, tomatoes, tempeh, nuts and seeds, oily fish, sardine, oyster, mussel, clam, cuttlefish, squid, kelp, seaweed, spirulina, zucchini, potato, sweet potato, melon, string bean, beetroot, spinach, mushroom, white and black fungus, adzuki beans, black beans, black sesame seed, apple, pears, blackberries, banana, mulberry, strawberries, grapes, citrus, corn, mango, coconut, mung bean, peanut, olive oil, flaxseed oil, almond oil, cod liver oil, asparagus, orange, mandarin, lychee, pineapple, plum, pomegranate, peach, fig, papaya, soy milk, kidney beans, blueberry, Goji berry.

To avoid

Chilies, curry, spices, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, onion, shallots, leeks, basil, clove, wasabi, coffee, lamb, prawn, shrimp, veal, pigeon, vinegar, citrus, pickles, tea, alcohol, black tea, red wine, foods with yang characteristics.

Qi Stagnation

Key concepts

Eat less, main meals earlier in the day, light meals, mildly spicy, low meat, low carbohydrate, a lot of vegetables, eat in a calm and relaxed environment. Absolutely avoid processed and junk food, unnecessary drugs and intoxicants, eating when upset or under pressure, skipping meals, eating quickly and over-eating.

Focus on

Spices, onions, green onions, garlic, mustard, watercress, turmeric, basil, mint, peppermint, horseradish, pepper, coriander, cardamom, cumin, fennel, dill, mild chili, ginger, small quantities of red wine, coffee (1 per day), citrus, leek, vinegar, pickles, plums, plenty of fresh vegetables, sprouted grains, asparagus, taro, lettuce, cabbage, turnip, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beetroot, artichoke, olive oil, molasses, small amount of high quality meat and fish.

To avoid

Cheese, eggs, cream, ice cream, red meats, lard, butter, margarine, nuts, pizza, french fries, coconut milk, excessively hot flavors (hot chilies and peppers, spirits), beer, salads, raw vegetables, raw vegetable juices, white wine, artificial and synthetic substances (preservatives, colorings, etc.)

Blood Stasis

Key concepts

Eat less, main meals earlier in the day, light meals, mildly spicy, low meat, low carbohydrate, a lot of vegetables, eat in a calm and relaxed environment. Absolutely avoid processed and junk food, unnecessary drugs and intoxicants, eating when upset or under pressure, skipping meals, eating quickly and over-eating. Avoid cold and raw food that constrict the blood circulation.

Focus on

Turmeric, shallot, leek, chives, garlic, ginger, taro, eggplant, basil, cayenne, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, white pepper, adzuki bean, chestnut, crab, red wine (moderately), kelp, seaweeds, black fungus.

Anticancer: green tea, oolong tea, radish, ginger, pepper, vinegar, light salting, watermelon, tomatoes, pears, waterchestnuts, fungus or all kinds, adzuki beans, lotus seeds, chinese barley

Soften masses: crab, jellyfish, kelp, seaweeds, mussel, clam, sea cumcumber, abalone, hawthorn

To avoid

Cheese, eggs, cream, ice cream, red meats, lard, butter, margarine, nuts, pizza, french fries, coconut milk, excessively hot flavors (hot chilies and peppers, spirits), beer, salads, raw vegetables, raw vegetable juices, white wine, artificial and synthetic substances (preservatives, colorings, etc.)

Dampness & Phlegm

Key concepts

The key concept for "Qi Deficiency" should be followed. Emphasize on bitter and acrid flavors, cooked and warm food, low oils and fats, low dairy and sugar, eat less and light. Avoid late night meals, junk food, and fried food. Follow a diet that will support the functions of the Spleen and Stomach to improve digestion and proper elimination of Dampness.

Focus on

Buckwheat, rice, soy beans, mung beans, barley, corn, rye, sourdough bread, dry roasted oat, lettuce, celery, pumpkin, onion, shallot, garlic, turnip, watercress, adzuki bean, broad bean, radish, extra virgin olive oil, mustard, horseradish, clam, lean meat, white pepper, black pepper, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, dill seed, coriander, oregano, thyme, basil, fresh ginger, sweet potato, yams, kumera, potato, red tea, green tea, radish, fenugreek, fennel seed, cayenne, peas.

To avoid

Wheat, fast food, soda, ice cream, dairy products, juices, frozen food, alcohol, excessive meat, sugar, concentrated sweeteners, fatty meat, pork, duck, eggs, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, lard, butter, margarine, chocolate, nuts and seeds, avocado, raw and dried fruit, banana, tropical fruits, salt, vinegar, beer.

Heat & Fire

Key concepts

Focus on short cooking times, with plenty of water (steaming, stir-frying), water soups with mostly vegetables, some raw foods like salad and sprouts, more liquid in a general way (Water calms the Fire). Avoid deep-frying, roasting, BBQ, overeating.

Acute phase: maintaining fluids is essential. Use plenty of liquids such as fruit, juices, teas, broths or soup. Room temperature is best. Avoid ice or cold liquids.

Chronic phase: avoid cooking methods such as frying, roasting, deep-frying. Better use steaming, stir-frying or soups. Combining some raw foods with cook foods is also possible. Diuretic foods can help eliminating the Heat (celery, cucumber, beetroot).

Focus on

Celery, spinach, cucumber, lettuce, swiss chard, radish, asparagus, eggplant, chinese cabbage, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, apple, pear, watermelon, millet, wheat, barley, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, yogurt, mung bean, alfalfa sprouts, kelp, spirulina, crab, rice, oat porridge, banana, avocado, rocket, watercress, cabbage, peppermint, sprouts, peach, strawberry, lemon, carrot, pumpkin, white fungus, persimmon, olive.

To avoid

Chilies, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, garlic, mustard, horseradish, coffee, chocolate, heated vegetable oils, beef, lamp, chicken, alcohol, vinegar, prawns, shrimp, cheese, eggs, peanuts, excessive salt and sugar, shellfish, warming spices.

Dryness

Key concepts

Focus on food that moisten dryness and lubricate the body. Watery food and fruits and cooking exclusively with water, steaming, etc. should be used. Avoid food that damage the liquids or create excessive sweating or miction.

Focus on

Small amount of milk and diary products (butter and yogurt), pear, apple, banana, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, barley, millet, black and white fungus, almond, pine nut, peanut, sesame seed, eggs, pork, herring, asparagus, rice, oats, mung beans, sweet potato, spirulina, sardine, mackerel

To avoid

Hot, acrid, bitter and dispersing substances such as tobacco, chilies, coffee, lemon, bitter melon.

Written by Cedric Mallants / Acupunctuur en Traditionele Chinese Geneeskunde therapist in Eindhoven.

 

Source

  • Huang Di Nei Jing (黃帝內經)

  • The Tao of Healthy Eating (Bob Flaws)

  • Clinical handbook of Internal Medicine (William Maclean)

  • La diététique du Tao (Philippe Sionneau)