Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes individuals, in respect to their health issues as well as their dietary considerations. There are no “one size fits all” herbal regiments or diets in TCM. Everything is tailored to the individual’s needs, and it’s recognized that individual needs can differ widely.
I will work closely with you in balancing your diet to see if this has any affect on health issues that you are seeing me for. As your acupuncturist, I am concerned about your whole self , and in order to combat your problem, we will look at your diet along with your activities.
The Chinese viewpoint of a balanced diet is very different from that in the West. In the Chinese system, a balanced diet is one which includes all 5 tastes – spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, and salty. Foods and herbs which have a particular taste tend to have particular properties. For example, bitter herbs and foods tend to be drying and cold. This tends to make them good for treating Damp Heat conditions, but contraindicated for people who are too Cold and/or too Dry. Many of them have antibiotic-like properties. On the other hand, the herbs and foods with a salty taste tend to be warming and moistening. This tends to make them great for treating people who suffer from Cold and Dryness, but they should be used cautiously in people who are Hot and Damp.
In addition to the 5 basic flavors, a bland taste is recognized. These herbs and foods tend to have the effect of being able to go places in the body where other tastes cannot go and of draining Dampness. Also, some differentiate between sour and astringent instead of lumping both these tastes under sour. Sour-tasting herbs and foods tend to have heating energy and be moistening. Astringent herbs and foods tend to be cooling and drying. (These remarks about taste are general because there are exceptions.)
The Chinese idea of a balanced diet is one which includes all 5 tastes. But, the ratio of those tastes are going to vary according the the individual’s needs and the season of the year. A person who is Yang Deficient is going to need a higher proportion of foods with Yang energy than other people do. These Yang energy foods will supply Yang energy s/he lacks and help the person obtain balance. On the other hand, a person who is Yin Deficient will need a higher proportion of foods with Yin energy. A person with Dampness problems needs to go easy on the foods and herbs with sweet, salty, and/or sour tastes because these tend to be moistening. A person with Dampness problems does not need an excessive amount of foods and herbs with moistening qualities adding to the Dampness. On the other hand, these foods and tastes can be great for some people suffering from Dryness. (There are exceptions. Everything is carefully tailored for the individual. I will also keep in mind if the person is too Hot or too Cold. Even though they all three tend to moisten, salty and sour tend to be heating, but sweet tends to be cooling. Sour tends to be more heating than salty so one really needs to watch out for sour in cases of Damp Heat. )
Too much information? Don’t worry, I will help you but start by thinking about using different colors and flavors in your own cooking. In the West, we are not as willing to “mix it up” as much as other cultures who are resourceful and use almost anything and everything at hand. Visit an Asian grocery store and ask about how to use the unusual ingredients found there. Start simply – use ginger. Add it to your vegetables and make it into tea. Great for the digestion and the palette. Look forward to working together.