According to Chinese Medicine, one very important way to stay healthy is to adapt the body to the changing temperatures, paying close attention to one’s diet. This time of year it is recommended to eat food that are easy to digest and that protect internal warmth and strengthen the digestive organs. Traditionally, foods that help in this regard for example, include: rice, glutinous rice (in moderation), yams, peanuts, clear soups like chicken soup, and cooked vegetables. In general, I recommend avoiding raw vegetables and fruits, cold foods and beverages, very greasy meats, and very sweet deserts. This is because so much energy is required for digesting raw, cold and greasy foods that the energy needed to perform other functions gets drawn to the digestive organs and away from the systems that help keep us warm and our immune system strong. We are like a high performance car and we want our high performance engine running at its optimal level and keeping our digestive system strong accomplishes this goal!
Another great tip is to massage the bottom of the feet and warm soaks in the evening. The Kidney organ is associated with winter, and the Kidney channel starts on the bottom of the feet. It is recommended, in Chinese medicine, to massage the bottom of the feet regularly. Also, wear socks that are comfortable and warm. Cold feet mean a cold Kidney! You also might enjoy a warm Epsom salt soak in the evening before bed. It’ll soothe the feet as well as warm the kidney channel.
One cup rice and 6 cups water in crock pot, let cook 4-6 hrs. until the water becomes milky and the rice becomes ‘poufy’. You may need to add a little water if the level drops.
This will store nicely in the refrigerator for a week. Take out desired portion (maybe sauté onions, garlic mushroom? as a flavor base) bring to a boil and add any desired vegetable and/or
beans. You might like to drop an egg and some kale in as a breakfast food.
Options: add in one bone-in breast of chicken (w/out skin) and an inch of fresh ginger root (optional) peeled and shredded. When fully cooked, de-bone chicken, shred meat and add it back in.
Adding the chicken will give it a nice chicken soup flavor. You can also cook the rice in bone broth for enhanced nutritional value.
Traditionally known as hsi-fan or “rice water,” Congee has a myriad of healing properties. It is both easily digested and absorbed and consists of an uncomplicated rice soup. Congee tonifies the qi (pronounced “chee” which we consider to be our”life force” or “life energy”) and the blood (blood is thought of a bit differently and may be considered as solidified qi or the transport vessel of qi). Congee harmonizes digestion, and also acts as a moderating agent when there is heat and inflammation in the body. With the aid of a nursing mother supply of milk may be increased. Although rice is the most common grain for congee, a variety of additional vegetables, grains, and herbs can be added to enhance the therapeutic properties.
Brown rice: diuretic, thirst-quenching, nourishing: Used for constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting bloating and indigestion +++
Ginger: warming and antiseptic to the organs, used for cold digestive weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and indigestion.
Today, December 21st, is the Winter Solstice. The Chinese term for Winter Solstice literally means the “extreme of yin” since Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Symbolically this node is represented by Hexagram 24, which is comprised of one Yang line at the bottom of 5 Yin lines. Hexagram 24’s name is Return – Fu (復). What is returning? The Yang and the light are returning. One of the basic laws of Yin-Yang theory is that of mutual transformation. When something reaches an extreme, then it naturally reverts to the opposite. Now is when Yin has reached its extreme thereby giving birth to Yang. This is why Winter Solstice is the time of many important holidays about lights, about birth and about renewal.
The turning points of Yin and Yang during the year (the Winter and Summer solstices) are important times for protecting our health and wellbeing. What can we do then to stay healthy during this time period? One basic recommendation is go to bed early and sleep a little longer. Winter, and particularly the Solstice, is the time of year that is most yin, a time when we should be getting more rest and experiencing more periods of silence, both physically and mentally. Finding more time for rest and reflection puts us into harmony with the Yin of Winter. That being said, too much sleep is also not great. Sleep (which is Yin) when excessive damages the Yang, which is why some of the early teachings says excessive sleep injures the Qi. The typical recommendation is that 8-9 hours of sleep is plenty for the average healthy person.
Even though Winter is the time of Yin stillness, as mentioned above the Winter Solstice marks the birth of Yang. Because movement is Yang it is important for us to “persist in moving” during this time of year. Appropriate exercises include gentle movement such as Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga. “Yoga for Health” located in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons offers a wonderful variety of all of these!
1 cup Coconut or Almond milk.
1 1/2 teaspoon Coconut Oil
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ginger
Pinch of Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Honey, Maple Syrup
Sweetened with a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to taste with a pinch of Black pepper which increases the absorption of the Turmeric.
Heat the oil in the sauce pan add the spices then whisk in the milk and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until hot. Do not boil. Drink and enjoy while hot.
Turmeric contains tons of nutrients, especially antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds plus it tastes just delicious! This warm golden milk highlights Turmeric’s bold earthy flavors perfectly mixed with a bit of sweetness. Enjoy this gluten & dairy-free beverage during the day as instead of caffeine or tea. Try a cup before bedtime as an alternative to a snack. Drinking this warm, soothing beverage will make drifting off to sleep easy on your mind and belly.
I have not been sick in more than nine years. My body told me to stay in bed. I was so surprised at how agreeable I was to this suggestion. I slept more than not for a day or two. I had little energy to read or engage in much moving about. Every part of my body wanted rest. Even eating was fatiguing. Just a small amount of soup and I was ready to go back to bed. WOW! This is a clear example of how much energy is required for digestion. That in itself is what inspired me to write this in hopes of instilling the importance of the strength and integrity of our digestive system as it relates to our whole being.
I’m sure many of you already know about the importance of eating “clean and healthy foods” for Heart health, minimizing sugar and carbohydrates in monitoring blood sugar etc. But did you know that anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia (to name a few) can also be related to digestion? Not to mention chronic pain, inflammation, immune deficiencies and premature aging.
Digestion is a corner stone of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In fact, in ancient China treatment began with dietary therapy because food was not viewed differently than medicine. Whole schools of thought were developed in the 12th century stressing “the importance of Preserving Stomach-Qi” as the most important treatment method. Zhang Jie Bin, one of the most important doctors in the history of TCM wrote, “The doctor who wants to nourish life has to tonify stomach and spleen.”
Current research has now begun to validated this ancient knowledge, verifying that diet does play a major role in our health. We now hear more often from many nutritionists and doctors that eating whole, organic, unprocessed food is the single most important thing we can do to improve our overall health. I will not dispute this. However, this is only half of the equation, digestion is the other less focused on issue.
Western science is “discovering,” what we have known for thousands of years and this science is giving us tools in the form of information to educate our patients of the critical importance of digestive health.
The condition and strength of our digestive system dictates the absorbability of nutrients from the food we eat. The source of indigestion lies in the disruption of our digestive network system. This network system is responsible for processing the food and nutrients that form the basis of the body’s constituents and is also responsible for distributing these constituents. When this basic and essential activity is impeded or weakened by over-consumption of food, eating irregularly, eating poor quality de-natured foods, eating under stress, over use of antibiotics etc., we are left with an inefficient transformation mechanism, diminished absorption, the formation of gas, and the retention of undigested material. Without a healthy, well-functioning digestive tract, even eating the best foods and taking the best supplements will do you little good because your body, in this weakened state, struggles to process the vital nutrients locked away in your food. The fact is, that you cannot fully assimilate what you eat.
Thankfully within the body of Traditional Chinese Medicine there are very clear understandings of various digestive imbalances and health issue as well as a full range of treatment modalities including: healing cuisine, herbs, acupuncture to name a few.
There is so much more to say on this subject so I will leave it at this, and give you time to “Digest.”
Until it’s time for another course, please feel free to write or call with any questions.