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Traditional Chinese Medicine Health Cultivation  

Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of China’s splendid cultural heritages and the science dealing with human physiology, pathology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases. The formal history of Traditional Chinese Medicine starts about 2,500 years ago with the Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic, the first written account of its practice. TCM has its own specific understanding both in the physiological functions and pathological changes of the human body and in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. It views a patient's condition as a reflection of the interaction of five elements of nature: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The goal is to treat each patient holistically, with prescriptions tailored to the individual patient's condition.

The clinical diagnosis and treatment in TCM are mainly based on the yin-yang and five elements theories. These theories apply the phenomena and laws of nature to physiological activities and pathological changes of the human body and its interrelationships. To treat patients, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine use several approaches, Massage, acupuncture, moxibustion, qigong and herbs are all techniques for balancing yin and yang in various ways. Massage, moxibustion and acupuncture are all designed to stimulate the body, release blocked flows of energy, and bring about a sense of relaxation and well being. Qigong is a daily practice which is followed by adherents to keep their energy in balance, while herbs are available by prescription and over the counter to treat a wide range of ailments.

  

Wood

Fire

Earth

Metal

Water

Orientation

East

South

Middle

West

North

Season

Spring

Summer

Late Summer

Autumn

Winter

Climate

Wind

Summer Heat

Dampness

Dryness

Cold

Cultivation

Germinate

Grow

Transform

Reap

Store

Yin Organ

Liver

Heart

Spleen

Lung

Kidney

Yang Organ

Gall Bladder

Small Intestine

Stomach

Large Intestine

Bladder

Orifice

Eye

Tongue

Mouth

Nose

Ear

Tissues

Tendons

Vessels

Muscles

Skin & Hair

Bones

Emotions

Anger

Joy

Pensiveness

Grief

Fear

Color

Blue/Green

Red

Yellow

White

Black

Taste

Sour

Bitter

Sweet

Pungent

Salty

Voice

Shout

Laugh

Sing

Cry

Groan

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

The above table shows: The Five Elements and their relationships with nature and the body

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the world is a harmonious and holistic entity where all living beings are viewed in relation to the surrounding environment. Man is part of the holistic entity and takes his cue from nature. He is influenced directly and indirectly by changes in weather and needs to make corresponding physiological and pathological responses. Man can take active measures to prevent disease and maintain good health. One common method is to consume different foods according to the season. The Chinese widely believe that we are what we eat and most dietary guidelines follow on from nature. According to TCM philosophies, if we imbibe seasonal foods that are similar in nature to the external environment, we remain in harmony with the environment, adapt better to changes in season and stay healthy. The basic applying principle is “nourishing yang in spring and summer time, and nourishing yin in autumn and winter time”. The ancient Chinese realized that in accordance with seasonal changes, Yang qi tends to flow outwards and occupies the body surface in Spring and Summer and therefore, the innards get relatively depleted of yang qi and need replenishing. At the same time, the weather in Autumn and Winter is cold and dry, and it is important to keep warm and prevent dryness. Through the methods of replenishing yin and nourishing dryness, TCM believes it is a way to build up energy and prepare for the coming seasons.

             

What is the dietary advice in each season according to TCM health opinion?

Spring

Spring is the season of new birth and new growth. According to TCM, spring belongs to the wood element and dominates liver functioning. If we don’t adapt to the changing climate in spring, we may susceptible to seasonal health problems such as flu, pneumonia or relapse of chronic disease. It is advisable to reduce the intake of sour flavors and increase sweet and pungent flavors as this facilitates the liver to regulate the qi throughout the body. Examples of recommended foods for the spring include onions, leeks, leaf mustard, Chinese yam, wheat, dates, cilantro, mushrooms, spinach and bamboo shoots. Fresh green and leafy vegetables should also be included in meals, sprouts from seeds are also valuable. In addition, uncooked, frozen and fried foods should only be taken in moderation since these are harmful to the spleen and stomach if consumed in large amounts. As cold winter keeps us indoors and tends to make us eat too much, people may develop a heat balance in the spring, which leads to dry throats, bad breath, constipation, thick tongue coating and yellowish urine. Foods like bananas, pears, water chestnuts, sugar cane, celery and cucumber help to clear the excessive heat.

Summer

In traditional Chinese medicine, summer is a time when "Yang energy" predominates so we should nourish and strengthen Yin to stay balanced. People act energetically and the body’s qi and blood become relatively more vigorous than in other seasons. TCM claims that the physiological changes make the heart over-function and there is too much yang qi flows outward to the exterior part of the body. According to the five elements theory, an over-functioning heart restricts the lung functioning, it is advisable to eat more food with pungent flavors and reduce bitter flavors, this enhances the lung and maintains the normal sweating mechanism in summer. Sweat is the fluid of the heart, excessive sweating scatters heart – qi and weakens the mind causing symptoms like being easily annoyed, low spirit, restless and sleeping difficulties. Foods with sour and salty flavors help to ease these symptoms. Summer is hot and rainy in some regions which disturb the fluid and electrolyte balance of the body and lead to lethargy, weakness, fever, thirst, lack of appetite and possibly loose bowels. Some foods are recommended for keeping the body cool and balanced such as bitter gourd, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, mung beans, cucumber, wax gourd, lotus root, lotus seed, bean sprouts, duck and fish. In general, the daily diet should contain more vegetables and fruit at this time so as to stimulate the appetite and provide adequate fluids. Warm and cooked foods ensure the digestive system work more effectively; too many greasy, raw and frozen foods can damage the digestive system and lead to a poor appetite, diarrhea or stomach upset. It is a Chinese tradition in summer to make soups for clearing summer heat, eliminating dampness and promoting digestion.  

Autumn

Things begin to fall and mature in autumn. TCM believes that autumn correlates with the lung system, which dominates the skin, respiration, body fluids metabolism, blood circulation, immunity and melancholy emotion. Since the vigorous summer has over, TCM holds that everything needs to turn inwards so as to prepare for the harsh winter. Foods are important to ensure that the body adjusts to the changing seasons. The dry weather usually causes an itchy throat, a dry nose, chapped lips, rough skin, hair loss and dry stools. We need to eat to promote the production of body fluids and their lubricating effects throughout the body. Beneficial foods for this season are lily bulb, white fungus, nuts or seeds, pear, lotus root, pumpkin, honey, soy milk and dairy products. It is advisable to eat more food with sour flavors and reduce pungent flavors as such things like onion, ginger and peppers induce perspiration while sour foods like pineapple, apple, grapefruit and lemon have astringent properties and thus prevent the loss of body fluids. The body needs extra fluids to counteract the dry environment and it is a Chinese tradition to eat porridge for breakfast and soup for dinner that is made with the above ingredients. 

Winter

In winter, living things slow down to save energy while some animals hibernate. It is also the season where humans conserve energy and build strength as a prelude to spring. TCM believes our diet should be adapted to focus on enriching yin and subduing yang, which mean we should consume appropriate fats and high protein foods. Mutton, beef, goose, duck, eggs, rabbit meat, Chinese yam, sesame, glutinous rice, dates, longan, black fungus, bamboo shoot, mushrooms, leek and nuts are common ingredients in the Chinese dishes this time. Winter corresponds to the kidney system according to the five elements theory; hyperactive kidney inhibits the heart which leads to palpitations, cardiac pain, limb coldness and fatigue. It is advisable to eat more food with bitter flavors while reducing salty flavors so as to promote a healthy heart and reduce the workload of the kidney. Foods with bitter flavors include apricot, asparagus, celery, coffee, tea, grapefruit, hops, kohlrabi, lettuce, radish leaves, kale, vinegar and wine. Some people may eat too many hotpots or high caloric foods causing excessive heat to accumulate in the lungs and stomach. They may experience problems such as bronchitis, sore throats, peptic ulcers and skin problems, thus it is necessary to balance with certain amounts of cool dishes and water in winter. Winter is also a good time to boost the natural constitution of the body and improve symptoms associated with chronic condition.

  

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