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Chinese Dietetic Therapy

The nutritional therapy in Chinese Medicine, or food-therapy, was handed down by our ancestors after persistent fight with diseases, and the rewards is significant when applying food as a prophylactic to prevent diseases.

1. Origins

Chinese food-therapy goes back to the Hsia-Dynasty, more than 3000 years ago.

In a famous Chinese classic named Qian Jin Yao Fang (Recipes of Thousand Gold), one chapter is focused especially on therapy with food. The author states: “Food can dispel harmful influences, benefit the internal organs, refresh the spirit and replenish the qi and blood.”

It also advises: To cure a disease, try dietetics first; if it does not help, consider treatment. He promoted the application of dietetics especially in the geriatric treatments.

The therapists have gained valuable long-term clinical and experimental experience, with its theoretical results in nutritional health care in order to keep healthy, defeat aging and prolong life. They have provided an abundance of reference materials throughout the history.

Nowadays the modern medicine and dietetics have further developed the theory and application of food-therapy. The dietetic methods based on the traditional origins of food therapy have great benefit of strengthening the aging body and prolonging life.

2. Application of the food therapy

 I. Supplement nutrition

The functions of the stomach/spleen system decrease in old age, and the digestion system suffers from weakness, which often results in lack of essential nutritive factors and finally leads to diseases. With food therapy those malfunctions can be corrected and moreover necessary factors be reinstalled in order to regain the body’s primary strength.

In order to harmonize functions of distorted organs, the organs of animals are also used in TCM: Bovines pancreas for diabetes, pigs heart for treating angina and insomnia and sheep’s thyroid glands for hypothyreosis just to name a few. This kind of organ “substitute” therapy, also called organ treatment and has undergone clinical research and application with definite success.

II. Harmonizing the equilibrium of organs

The organs in the body become weaker (as TCM defines) because of loss of

equilibrium between YIN and YANG, being the main reason for resulting diseases. Food and beverage such as the pu-erh tea can correct this imbalance. So by selection of the right food and beverage, the organ systems’ balance can be regained and positive result by any treatment can be achieved more easily, no matter what kind of therapy is applied.

Food therapy is often applied under varying circumstances of personal constitution, time, and disease. So if there is a “heat”-syndrome (often easily dry mouth, acne, hard stool, deep yellow urine etc.) or “heat” disease, cooling foods will be prescribed, as mung-beans, watermelons, pears, coicis seeds (Yi yi ren) etc. If a “cold”-syndrome is present (cool extremities, fear of cold temperature, diarrhea after eating cooled food etc.) or even a “cold” disease, then warming foods are recommended, such as ginger, garlic, lamb.

If the lung is affected and coughing prevails, white pears, lilly bulbs and ginkgo seeds (bai xue li, bai he, bai guo) are of good use.

If the heart and the spleen system is deficient, cinnamon and red lychee are very useful. The medicine has to be arranged differently, according to each individual body-constitution, with principles like “hot treats cold”, “cold treats hot” in order to guarantee a predictable outcome of all cases in vivo.

III. Food restrictions for seniors

The term suitable or unsuitable foods is referring to foods with medical properties that can or should be eaten in larger amounts or respectively foods that should be avoided because of their harmful effects on the patient.

Older people with weakened spleen and stomach system functions especially after a disease must pay more attention to what they eat. There are two common questions often being asked during the anamnesis: What should I eat? What is bad for me? This shows that many people know about the importance of applied food therapy, and that they are willing to care about it.

According to TCM, foods can be categorized as cold, hot, cool and warm according to their characteristics. When right food applied, it can help patient to overcome an inclination or even a manifested disease and thus achieve the same goal which medicaments will do.

The following is a listing of often used foods with medical properties and their corresponding temperature-quality:

a. Foods with warming qualities:
Long-yan fruits: Support heart, calms down nervous system, nourishes blood and improves function of the spleen system.
Lychee fruits: Sweet-warm property, nourishes blood, improves blood circulation and moistens skin of face when often eaten.
Sugarcane: Supports the middle-abdomen area, relieves pain, moistens lung system and stops coughing.
Lentils (string beans): strengthens spleen system, nourishes stomach system; transforms, dispels and moisturizes “summer heat”.
Hawthorn: helps digestion, strengthens stomach system, revives and revitalizes blood and transforms stagnation.
Walnuts: Supports kidneys, helps the YANG, restrains (overactive) lung system, calms breathing and moistens intestines.

b. Other warming foods
Grain products: Noodles, fermented rice, bean pickles, soy sauce, vinegar;
Vegetables: Ginger, garlic, onion, Chinese chives, coriander leaves,;mustard, carrots, jiu bai (a kind of shallots grown covered to remain white);
Fruits: Plums, olives, papayas, black plums, chestnuts, grapes;
Sugars: Brown and raw sugar;
Meat: Chicken, fowl, goat, beef, deer;
Fish: Silver carp, shad, shrimps, catfish.

c. Foods with cooling properties
Euryale’s seeds: replenishes spleen system, prevents loose bowels, long-term application makes body light and improves the qi.
Green mung beans: clears heat, detoxifies, dispels summer heat (shu).
Elocharitis tuberositas (Water chestnut): dissolves phlegm, disintegrates massive swellings, clears heat, increases secretions, reduces swellings of thyroid gland.
Chrysanthemum flower: refreshes liver, clears eyes, dispels heat / wind symptoms.
Mulberry: nourishes and raises Yin and blood, applied at deplete Yin symptoms of kidney and liver system and for early grey hair.
Lilly bulb: moistens lung system, stops coughing.
Kaki fruit syrup: clears heat, quiets the troubled spirit, strengthens spleen system, and transforms phlegm.
Pears: fresh one cools heat symptoms, stop coughing; the cooked nourishes the Yin and moistens dryness.
Watermelon: quenches thirst, cools heat, dispel summer heat (shu), increases urination; the juice applied regularly in large amount cures edema and inflammation of the kidneys

d. Other cooling foods
Grains: rice, oat, tofu, fermented soybeans, thick soy sauce
Tuberous vegetables: xian cai (kind of spinach), rape, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, bitter gourd, bamboo sprouts, taros, eggplants
Fruits: water caltrops, lotus roots, sugar canes, gingko nuts, dried kaki fruits
Games: meat of hare and deer
Sea foods: eel, frog, lobster, turtle, tortoise, clam, oyster, etc.