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How can Dietary Therapy help you?

Dietary Therapy is an essential part of Chinese Medicine because it allows the patient to see both faster and more powerful results from their treatments, and it allows them to continue their treatments on their own, preventing relapses of symptoms and imbalances within the body. According to the patient's specific presentation, the acupuncturist will advise the patient to avoid certain foods, continue eating others, and to incorporate certain foods into their diet to support their goals.

Also Read:
Michael's article on Chinese Medicine and weight management.

Chinese Medicine and Weight Loss

The purpose of this article is to put in perspective the possibilities that exist within the art and science of Chinese medicine to help each person reach and maintain their ideal weight. First of all, the differences in paradigms and "common sense" must be examined, so that the reader may approach the issue based on sound and logical information, and not magazine or gossip inspired myths. The typical jargon is that the less you eat, the less you weigh, and the more you eat, the more you weigh. And while this may make some sense in the high school physics sense of the phrase, the complexities of human physiology cannot be summed up by this reduction. There are numerous reactions of both the nervous and endocrine systems that are triggered by both the ingestion, and denial of food to a system that is asking for it by way of the hunger mechanism. If more than is needed is ingested, the body will hold onto this for further use. If these resources are used through mechanisms such as moderate exercise, then there will not be a net gain. This is plainly seen, and irrefutable. BUT, in response to adaptive mechanisms designed to ensure our survival, the denial of food in response to hunger will trigger the body to hold onto the present resources with the assumption that more food is not on the way. Falls in blood sugar further reinforce this conclusion of the body, and with this assumption further in place, whatever resources do come into the body after this mini fast will be firmly held onto in preparation for the next fast. This is commonly viewed in terms of the body's metabolism, and is the basis for severe altering of this metabolism resulting from yo-yo dieting and essentially starving and eventually gorging ourselves. This all results in the maintaining or increase of weight, despite the denial of food. In Chinese medical theory, the digestion is likened to a cauldron on a stove, the fire being the digestive processes, and the pot being the stomach and the food ingested. Imagine the pot with pipes linked to the rest of the body, avenues for the digested food to be distributed (intestines, and eventually blood vessels). Like the typical paradigm, if too much is put in the pot, it will essentially overflow into the pipes, and the result will be the increase in mass in the body. And like the correction to the typical paradigm above, if the pot is not filled with food, or the food intake is irregular, the food that is eventually eaten will not be properly digested and will flow into the pipes where the cooked food should be, also resulting in an increase in mass. In both cases, weight gain comes from both the overindulgence of food, and the irregular intake of food. This is because ideally, the digestion, will "cook" the food, and the resulting mush will be sent to the rest of the body for use. If too much is put in, the digestion becomes overwhelmed and backed up. If not enough is put in, the digestion can be damaged, because there is not enough energy to keep the fire going, and then what is put in will be inappropriately used/conserved. If stress disrupts the normal digestion, the food, even if ingested in normal/moderate amounts, will be undercooked and will build up in the body. If the body or the mind is overworked or fatigued, the digestion will also be impaired. The bottom line is that if the digestion is impaired, the possibility of gaining weight will always exist, and the four main reasons that the digestion becomes impaired are overeating, under-eating, stress, and fatigue. "What about exercise?", you may ask. Most people's assumption is that someone may gain weight because they do not burn enough calories through exercise. While this true to a degree, the possibility also exists that a person may gain weight by over-exercising, thereby fatiguing the body and damaging the digestion. Exercise, if done in an appropriate amount, will reduce or relieve stress, also making the digestion function more efficiently. "What should I eat?", is a common question as well, and based on the information established above, the best food to eat is food that is easily digested, so as not to disrupt the cooking process. The easier it is to be made into mush by the digestion, the easier it is to be utilized by the body, and the less likely it is to be unnecessarily held onto by the body. While the common perception is that salads are a great way to decrease calorie intake, the reality is that raw and/or cold foods require more cooking by the digestion, and therefore are more likely to be undercooked and held onto in the long run, they require more fire, and as a result decrease the strength of the fire, or digestive fire, overall. If these difficult to cook foods are combined with other factors that decrease digestive fire such as stress or fatigue, the consequence is increased. Many of us can think about friends or colleagues who eat nothing but salad, overwork and overstress themselves, and continue to gain weight. The simple solution to this problem is to eat foods that are cooked and easily digested, such as soups, stews, and stir frys, and avoid foods that are the terrible 3: cold, raw, and difficult to digest. A common example of the terrible 3 is ice cream. In this way of thinking, what we eat is just as important as how much we eat. Even small amounts of difficult to digest foods are as damaging as large amounts of easy to digest foods. "I feel hungry, but I don't want to eat or I'll gain weight." Again, while this is true to a degree, the conditions under which a person becomes hungry can change from day to day, and many people have trained themselves to become hungry under stress, because they use food as a stress reliever. This presents a double whammy, as people are eating when their body does not need sustenance, and the food they are eating is typically not easily digestible. On top of that, the presence of stress will compromise the digestion. But, denying the body food can also have negative consequences as discussed earlier. So the ideal result is to moderate the hunger mechanism, by moderating stress and balancing the emotions, both of which are easily accomplished by acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can moderate both the causes of weight gain (stress, emotions, fatigue), and the resulting damage to the digestion and increase in body mass. By directly affecting the nervous system and brain, the effect of stress and emotions on the body can be regulated, and the efficiency of the internal digestive organs can be increased. Unfortunately, the only one who can prevent stress and emotional imbalance is you and your lifestyle and environmental choices, but these choices can be easier to make with long term treatment, and, if necessary, adjunctive counseling. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is not a magic bullet. There is no magic needle that will melt the pounds off. But by discussing your individual circumstances and planning an appropriate treatment strategy, your weight management goals can be easily achieved. The important thing to remember here, is that healthy weight loss is achieved through maintaining healthy lifestyle choices, and reaping the benefits of those choices. It's a little like watching children grow up, they do so gradually, and then one day, boom, they are adults. So too will be your healthy weight management quest, and as always, the value lies in the journey, not the destination. 2009 by Michael Padilla, L.Ac.