Dietary Choices Based on Chinese Medicine Disorders

TCM Theory

Dietary Choices Based on Chinese Medicine Disorders

Within traditional chinese medical theory there are a number of factors which either cause a/or are the result of disease. The factors can be physical/climatic factors such as heat, cold, wind, dampness and dryness. These can be both internal and external such as a cold condition from using too much internal energy or a heat condition from an external source such as radiation. There are also emotional factors which tie into the five element theory above, such as anger effecting the functioning of the liver leading to headaches, for example, or excessive joy effecting the heart leading to insomnia.

From a practitioners perspective an eastern medicine diagnosis does not usually carry any association with the western medical diagnosis. For example, using eastern medical theory we might call a "headache" Qi or Blood stagnation. From a nutritional standpoint it is important to understand what each diagnosis means and how you might aid your healing by choosing appropriate foods.

The chart below describes the food choices which may be helpful for a particular TCM diagnosis. It should be mentioned that the Spleen is of the utmost importance in the majority of these disorders when looked at from a nutritional perspective. The Spleen is the foundation of digestion and consequently plays a primary role in the production of Qi and Blood in the body. Thus, food choices, cooking styles and eating habits which benefit the Spleen, benefit the person overall regardless of their condition.

In general terms, the Spleen benefits from eating a balanced diet with ample amounts of grains, fruits and vegetables, not eating too much raw food including salads, limiting damp producing foods such as dairy, greasy foods and alcohol, as well as having regular meals which are eaten in as peaceful of an environment as possible.


Supportive Foods

Qi Deficiency
» symptoms - fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, pale face, weak spirit
» tongue - pale w/thin coat
» pulse - empty
Indicates an imbalance of the Spleen.

Foods which are easy to digest, warming and nourishing should be used. Those from the Earth element above are helpful choices.

Millet, Garbanzo Beans
Pine Nuts
Figs, Dates
Squash, Carrots, Cabbage
Small portions of Meat, if desired
Qi Stagnation
» symptoms - similar signs as qi deficiency but also pain that is not fixed in the chest a/or hypochondriac areas
» tongue - white coat
» pulse - wiry or tight
Also an imbalance of the Spleen.

Food choices similar to those for Qi Deficiency are good choices. Preparing them in ways which are even easier to digest such as soups may also be helpful as well as adding small amounts of strongly moving substances such as black pepper.
» symptoms - poor appetite, chest/epigastric oppression, loose stools
» tongue - thick white or yellow coat
» pulse - slippery and slow or rapid
Dampness is also a Spleen related imbalance.

Generally it is the result of long-term qi deficiency but may also arise quickly from a diet that contains too many cold, raw foods, excessive dairy products or excessive amounts of greasy foods, animal products a/or alcohol.

Food choices similar to those above are helpful, adding foods which dry dampness such as rye, scallions and turnips and limiting the foods listed above which contribute to dampness.
Blood Deficiency
» symptoms - fatigue, palpitations, dizziness, numbness, blurred vision
» tongue - pale w/thin coat
» pulse - thin
Blood deficiency is usually seen as a result of long-term qi deficiency. The Chinese term, Blood is used in a much broader way than the western idea of blood. However, blood deficiencies may still arise from traumas, child birth and menstrual issues such as heavy bleeding.

Generally foods which supplement the Spleen, as above, are considered good choices. Dark leafy greens, spinach, grapes, lotus root, cayenne pepper, and small amounts of meat products, especially liver, are beneficial additions to help the production and circulation of Blood.
Blood Stagnation
» symptoms - dull complexion, petechiae, pain that is fixed in location
» tongue - purple a/or purple spots
» pulse - deep, choppy, maybe wiry
Often a deeper manifestation of qi stagnation but may also arise from trauma.

The foods mentioned above for Blood deficiency are useful in addition to those which strongly move the Blood in the body such as turmeric, garlic, scallions, chives, egg plant and aduki beans.
Heat Condition
» symptoms - sweating, sore throat, thirst, red face, headache, skin outbreaks, anxiety
» tongue - red, dry, yellow coat
» pulse - rapid, maybe floating a/or wiry
Heat may show up in a variety of ways depending on the underlying condition. From a nutritional perspective it is most important to understand whether it is a "full-heat" syndrome or a "false-heat" syndrome. "Full-heat" is a pure excess condition which can be helped by consuming cool foods. "False-heat", however, indicates heat from an underlying deficiency which could be worsened by an excessive consumption of cool foods.

Fruits and raw vegetables, including salads, are generally cooling and beneficial for a heat condition. Limiting foods which create heat in the body such as dairy, meats and alcohol is also important.
Cold Condition
» symptoms - fatigue, poor appetite, pain that improves with heat
» tongue - white coat, possibly blue body
» pulse - slow, maybe floating a/or tight
As with heat, cold may show up in a variety of conditions and appear as "full-cold" or a "false-cold" condition where a person has a heat condition but is experiencing a sensation of cold (chills with a fever, for example).

Warming and moving foods such as cayenne, cinnamon, ginger and onions are important for this condition. Limiting cooling foods especially raw foods and fruit juices is also important.

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