Traditional medicine practices, from which acupuncture was formed, comprises not only needle work but lifestyle, herbs and diet. As such it is important, when considering wholistic wellness, to take some nutritional precautions along with your prescribed acupuncture protocol. Below are the basic principals as a general guideline. If you wish to have a tailored nutritional protocol for your individual constitution, seek out the services of a qualified practitioner.
Thermal Natures of food: the classical medical texts talk about the stomach as being a “100 degree soup”. Any food that we ingest needs to be warmed and preferably cooked as to not “cool down” the soup. Thus lowering body temperature, lowering metabolism and expending extra energy on digestive processes. It is said that raw, iced and cool food (anything colder than room temperature) will injure the digestion and lead to imbalances such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, undigested food in stools, lassitude, fatigue and poor memory. In fact many scientists link the ancient advancements of fire cooking food to the evolution of brain size and cognitive function. Even more interesting to note that studies are now showing that up to 50% of women on raw food diets develop amenorrhea – a sign that the body does not have enough energy to carry a pregnancy. Although some may argue that raw foods have higher nutrient density, cooking foods actually increases the bioavailability (what our body can break down to absorb) of those nutrients. That is not to say never eat raw food, but in general it is good to eat in moderation and according to the season. (more on seasonal eating below)
Energetics of food: Much like thermal natures of food, energetics of food is important for maintaining the “100 degree soup” needed for proper digestion. In general fruits and veggies are cooler in nature, grains and legumes are neutral, meats and spices are warming. Dairy, sugar, fried/greasy foods, wheat, and alcohol are all considered damp in nature. Of course there are many exceptions but this is the simplified way of looking at it. Cooking foods can change the energetic nature. For example steaming veggies will be considered more easily digestible than eating a salad. It is for this reason that vegans and vegetarians need to pay extra attention to their digestive energetics by adding warming spices and cooking foods thoroughly.
Seasonal eating: In this way of wholistic eating it is also important to consider the seasons and natural environment in which you live. External influences can also influence the “100 degree soup”. Living in colder, damp climates like we do on the west coast means we need to take extra precautions in the winter to eat warming foods. While during the summer heat it is suitable to eat fresh fruits and salads to balance the bodies warmer energies. As we consider our bodies are in constant relationship with the natural world, in general, whatever is growing fresh seasonally in your area are good choices for the body.
Individual constitution: Most importantly is to eat according to your individual constitution. This is where seeing a qualified practitioner can be very useful for customizing therapeutic food protocols. In general though, it is quite intuitive. If you are cold all the time, fatigued, lack energy/appetite, have weak digestion, gas, bloating and loose stools – it is best to eat warming foods, cooked thoroughly and moderately spiced. If you are hot or warm most of the time, anger easily, prone to headaches and neck tension, constipation, heartburn, insomnia and anxiety – its best to limit consumption of meats, spices, coffee, alcohol and greasy foods. If you are sluggish, foggy headed, prone to excess weight gain, have feelings of chest distention, experience acne, cysts, PCOS, you should avoid wheat, dairy, sugar, processed and greasy foods, alcohol and fatty meats.
Extra food for thought:
-Cultural eating practices are important! What your ancestors evolved eating will have an affect on your constitution and ability to assimilate nutrients.
-If prone to weak digestion, adding spices to your meals or drinking spiced teas after meals can help the break down and bioavailability of nutrients and prevent bloating, gas, indigestion and loose stools.
-Adding quality ferments like water kefir, kraut, kimchi, Kombucha, and miso can help rebuild probiotics in the gut and intestines to aid in digestion.
-If digestion Is a chronic ailment we always recommend seeing a naturopath or family doctor for further testing of intestinal overgrowth (SIBO, candida), parasites, food allergies or thyroid/autoimmune conditions in addition to your acupuncture protocols