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TCM #8: Chinese Food Therapy for Weight Loss part I

Posted Mar 07 2010 12:00am

Chinese people are very concerned about their daily food consumption; they consider it a first line of treatment. It is common for the Chinese to treat a minor ailment with a specially prepared meal or by including a particular ingredient in a dish. Based on the classification of patterns suggested above, there are two main ways of treating obesity by food therapy:

(a) Transform phlegm(1) and eliminate dampness(2) by drying the body and
(b) Fortify the spleen(3) and invigorate the kidneys(4).

A. Methods of drying the body

1. Promote urination

The first method is to promote urination, which may be compared with diuretics in Western medicine. Small red beans, corn and corn silk, Job’s tears, soya beans, wax gourd and garlic significantly promote urination.

2. Get rid of water in the Body
This method involves absorbing tissue fluids in the body. Absorbing water in the body can be compared to that of a sponge soaking up spilt water; promoting urination removes water from the body through excretion. The majority of foods and herbs that can absorb water inside the body are aromatic, and the two items used most frequently are broad beans and hyacinth beans. The aromatic foods not only can absorb water inside the body, but also can stop diarrhea for the same reason.

3. Cool the body to facilitate passage of water
A dry-hot physical constitution is not prone to obesity as is a damp-hot physical constitution. For example, if you set fire to damp firewood, it will not burn quickly but produce a lot of smoke, which is not good. Similarly when water and heat mix in the body, neither will go away. The result is difficulty when urinating or discharge of reddish urine in small quantities.

The strategy, therefore, is to cool the body, allowing water to flow. Food and herbs with a cold energy and a bitter flavor are used for this purpose, because cold energy can cool the body and the bitter flavor can dry it.

Bitter gourd – can significantly cool the body, reduce nervous tension due to its cold energy, and also can soften the stools due to its bitter flavor. People with a hot-damp physical constitution often suffer from constipation, which may be effectively relieved by using bitter gourd as a soup, as a vegetable or as a tea.

Mung beans. May be used by those with a hot-damp physical constitution to rid the body of excessive water. Although mung beans have a cool energy and a sweet flavor, they are rather effective in removing water and reducing body heat.

4. Warm the body
This is suitable for people with a cold-damp physical constitution. The strategy is to warm the body so that the water can flow out of the body, either through urination or perspiration. Foods producing best results should have a warm or hot energy and a pungent-sweet flavor. Hot or warm energy increases body heat, pungent flavor increases perspiration, and a sweet or light flavor promotes urination. Cinnamon satisfies these three conditions. Fresh ginger – is used frequently to counteract cold, particularly in winter and when it is used along with dry orange peel to make tea, its effects are significantly reinforced.

(1) phlegm:In TCM a disharmony of body fluids can produce either external, visible phlegm, such as sputum secreted by the respiratory tract, or internal, invisible phlegm. Internal, invisible phlegm is considered a particular problem in TCM. It is usually formed by dysfunction of the lungs and the spleen, and occasionally by the consumption of body fluids by fire and heat evils. Phlegm is one of the pathogenic (disease causing) factors responsible for the occurrence and development of a range of disorders.

(2) Dampness evil is considered a yin pathogenic (disease causing) influence. When it invades the body, it leads to sluggishness, tiredness, heavy limbs and heaviness in the forehead. Any bodily discharges will tend to be sticky and turbid and the tongue will have a sticky coat.

(3) In western physiology, the spleen is a large, vascular, lymphatic organ. It acts as a reservoir and filters the blood. It also plays a role in making blood early on in life. In TCM, the spleen does not perform these functions. It assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body.

(4) In western physiology, the kidneys are a vital excretory organ whose main function is to create urine to help the body get rid of toxins and unwanted water. TCM practitioners view the kidneys as a very important organ that not only regulates the urinary system but also exercises control over the reproductive, endocrine and nervous systems.

NEXT WEEK PART II: How can the body stop retaining water?

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