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Eating according to the Seasons


Balance your energy by eating in harmony with the Yin Yang of the season and this will have a massive effect on your health.

The ancient theory of Yin and Yang, tells us that your Qi, known as the essence of life flows through the body and that half of certain organs and meridians are considered Yin, while the other half are Yang. When Yin and Yang are balanced there is optimum health and vitality however when they are out of balance, disharmony caused he body to experience illness, sometimes vague symptoms, that allow you into work (but only just!) but you also may experience more serious disharmony or disease. We believe that nutritional or dietary choices play a hug part in achieving optimum health.

Each new season is a time of growth, rebirth and new beginnings, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) says that eating in accordance with the season will help you gain massive reap health benefits.

Lets look at how TCM advises us to eat according to the seasons.

Spring

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Traditional Chinese Medicine says that Spring is a time of renewal, growth and rebirth. The organs most influenced during this season are the Liver and the Gallbladder, meaning that you should eat a diet that supports these two organs during springtime.

The rational here, is that when the Liver functions effortlessly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly, which lend itself to optimum health. The liver also is responsible for detoxification within the body, so incorporating foods that support this process is ideal.

Nutritional Advice for Spring (Liver and Gallbladder):

  • Leafy green vegetables like kale and chard
  • Bitter greens like dandelion, endives and parsley
  • Milk thistle tea for its cleansing properties
  • Sour foods like lemon, lime and grapefruit supports the liver’s naturally sour flavour
  • Radishes as they help to move Qi around the body
  • Sprouts like alfalfa, mung bean and sunflower make delicious, nutritious additions to every meal

Summer

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Traditional Chinese Medicine says that the summer, where we experience most heat during the year is the season of upmost Yang, and this can quickly lead to imbalances if not treated sensibly. Because of the hot, drying weather, the best foods for summer are cooling, sweet, hydrating and neutral.

Nutritional Advice for Summer (Heart and Small Intestine):

  • Neutral foods can help to counterbalance the heat, so things like rice, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and salmon can make healthy choices during summer
  • Hydrating foods like cucumber, strawberries, lettuce, celery, and pears really help to temper excess yang in the body and are especially good in dry heat
  • Sweet foods like sweet corn, carrots, sweet potatoes and cooked grains
  • Light broths and soups to keep portions smaller than during other seasons
  • Cooling foods like coconut, apples, tomatoes and chilli are great in hot, humid environments

Autumn

Traditional Chinese Medicine says that Autumn is a season of distinct transition from the hot Yang summer to Yin influenced winter. Warming, pungent foods are the best picks and methods like slow-cooking or braising make for delicious meals that will support your emotional and physical health and focus on the Lungs and Large Intestine which are associated with Autumn.

Nutritional Advice for Autumn (Lungs and Large Intestine):

  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables like pears, figs, pumpkin, apples and brussel sprouts
  • Onions, peppers and cabbage are great to incorporate during autumn or prepare and preserve for oncoming winter
  • Ginger, leeks, cinnamon, coriander, turnips, mushrooms, garlic and radishes will all help to nourish the lungs
  • Quinoa, rice and oats are the perfect grains for this transitional season

Winter

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Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes that winter is associated with increased levels of Yin where rain, cold, snow and ice energy influence the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. The TCM Kidneys are the root of our deepest constitution, when damaged can be very difficult to bring back into harmony.

So foods that have a warming nature, cooked foods are advised to nourish your Kidneys in Winter.

Nutritional Advice for Winter (Kidneys and Urinary Bladder):

  • Spices, spices, spices! Warming ones like cardamom, cinnamon and ginger will help to stimulate digestion
  • Black beans and lentils reinforce kidney energy
  • Ginger tea will nourish body and soul
  • Potatoes, pumpkin, Brussel sprouts, beets, parsnips and turnips are great for roasting or including in slow-cooked soups and stews
  • Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and other collard greens

 

Have a look at these suggestions and remember to eat according to the seasons, according to local produce and don’t forget to always smile and enjoy the food that nature provides.



James O’Sullivan from Galway is a credible and engaging speaker, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving his patients, his students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is a respected author and has appeared on many public media.


Disclaimer

This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.


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Chinese Medicine and New Mums


Childbirth is a beautiful process that is probably one of the most empowering things a woman can ever do. From the first positive test, both baby and mum are introduced to a library full of well intentioned healthcare advice about drinking, smoking, eating, resting, exercise and stress management. Most mums engage with this major lifestyle change with passion and enthusiasm.

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What happens after childbirth is a similar but with slightly different zeal. Mum is exhausted and baby becomes a full time job. Even reading the plethora of magazines and books on the subject can sometimes become a chore for mum. New mums can be out of the maternity ward after only a few hours. This can leave the impression that childbirth is easy and now that baby is “out” the main activities of childbirth are finished. Mum should “take it easy” and look after her child. There is a distinct difference between this perception and Chinese culture.

Yue Zi (月子) – A Month of Postnatal Stillness

Chinese culture also takes childbirth very seriously but the emphasis is not only on baby but particularly on mum. They even have a term for it called “Yue Zi (月子)”. The translation is simply “The Month”, with a capital T and M. The Chinese particularly recognise that a pregnant mum has expended an abundance of “essential energy” called (Yuan Qi) ancestral energy, a deep foundational energy that is difficult to replenish.

Yue zi in China, is a month long period of confinement for mothers after a childbirth. Of course it makes sense to “take it easy” Right! but to “Zuo Yue Zi ” (Sitting The Month) is so much more than just taking it easy. Mothers will stay at home for the full month and not leave the house. Relatives will “live” in the house providing emotional and physical support and help out with cooking, cleaning, washing and even taking care of baby. One of my patients asked if this actually encouraged post natal depression.

Postnatal Depression

Zuo Yue Zi  is the preventative treatment to prevent post natal depression. In the ancient texts it is said that ” Zuo Yue Zi reduces back pain and poor spirit”. New mums are also prescribed specific Tuina (Chinese medical acupressure) or acupuncture protocols, as well as nutritional healing herbs and foods. One of the weird foods being “bird’s nest soup”. An excellent dish that’s recommended for new mums is Ginger Chicken. New mums are encouraged to eat temperature warm/hot foods to replenish essential energy to assist their body to recover after childbirth and they are discouraged from eating cold foods, which require extra energy to digest and absorb. Drinking herbal teas, such as fennel, which is traditionally used to improve lactation.

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A fundamental concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that Yin (阴) and Yang (阳) are the complementary forces of the universe and life that create an energy called Qi. When they are imbalanced, there is disharmony leading to a physical disorder or illness. Yin represents cooling, while Yang represents heating. An example of a well balanced Yin and Yang would be a regulated body temperature, neither too hot (as in hot flashes) nor too cold (as in cold hands and feet).

To restore balance, an excess of Yang (hot) Qi is balanced with cooling foods and herbs, while an excess of Yin (cool) Qi is balanced with warm food and herbs. Pregnancy is considered a warm condition and delivery causes a great loss of warmth due to bleeding. Consequently, during the Zuo Yue Zi period, Chinese women eat hot food and spices in order to restore balance to their inner energies. See below for a list of warming and cooling foods.

They are encouraged not to read for long periods, to preserve their eyesight. If they do read, it should be in a correct position with sufficient light. The most important is nothing will affect their rest. The temperature of their house should be balanced, neither too hot nor too cold.

In addition to this, these new mums are encouraged not to shower for the whole month. After childbirth, new mums are especially susceptible to colds, flu and diseases during this time. Some mums are discouraged from brushing their teeth, in case water contains unhealthy elements.

Young Chinese today are moving away from the tradition  “Zuo Yue Zi “, as they believe that they can be protected and “cured” with modern medicines and hospital treatments. Perhaps forgetting the first cardinal rule of health, wellbeing and fighting any disease, “Prevention” in other words “practicing behaviours that prevent us from getting sick in the first place”.


Some warming food and spices (Yang)

  • Asparagus
  • Black vinegar
  • Cardamom
  • Carp
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Chicken
  • Chinese dates
  • Cinnamon
  • Dates
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Grapes
  • Guavas
  • Herbal teas
  • Longans
  • Mandarin orange peels, dried
  • Oats, yin/yang
  • Olive oil, yin/yang
  • Onions
  • Pepper
  • Raspberries
  • Rice alcohol (for cooking)
  • Rosemary
  • Scallions
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Shrimps
  • Turkey
  • Warm water

Cooling food and drinks (Yin) to be avoided during lactation according to TCM

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Beansprouts from mung beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cold water
  • Cucumber
  • Fig
  • Green tea
  • Hops
  • Ice creams
  • Kangkong
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuce
  • Mulberry
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Pears
  • Persimmon
  • Pineapple
  • Pomelo
  • Spinach
  • Star fruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon
  • Yogurt

Eating cool food (both in nature – Yin – and in temperature – cold) is supposed to cause colic and diarrhoea in breastfed newborns.

The cooking methods allowed are basically only two and that is steaming or lightly stir-frying foods, with minimal use of oil, salt, or soya sauce.



James O’Sullivan from Galway is a credible and engaging speaker, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving his patients, his students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is a respected author and has appeared on many public media.


Disclaimer

This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.


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Ginger Chicken to Strengthen the Body


This dish is traditionally prepared to strengthen the body and improve lactation, especially for new mums during the Chinese tradition “Zuo Yue Zi”  indicating the first month after giving birth. During this period, Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends eating warming food (Yang) because the body has lost a lot of Yang energy and blood during delivery. We would also recommend that mothers take a gentle yet powerful tonic remedy called Womans Precious which is based on a famous Chinese herbal formula.

This warming dish is also perfect in Autumn/Fall/Winter when we are susceptible to cold.

What you need:

  • vegetable oil
  • ginger cut into thin strips
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • chicken breast cut into small pieces
  • soy sauce to taste
  • pepper to taste

How to make it:

  • Heat oil in a frying pan (wok).
  • When the oil is hot, add the garlic cloves and ginger strips. Cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly with a pair of chopsticks.
  • When the garlic and ginger become golden brown, add the chicken previously cut into thin pieces.
  • Cook stirring constantly until the chicken is golden.
  • Season with soy sauce to taste.
  • Serve with a bowl of jasmine rice per person.

Vegetarian Choice:

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You can also add carrot cut into strips and cook it together with the ginger stripes. The taste will result sweeter. Furthermore by stir-frying the carrots beta carotene will be preserved.

Caution:

Due to its anti-platelet properties, the use of ginger should be controlled in case of risk of haemorrhage, if you are taking anticoagulant drugs or if you experience blood coagulation disorders. Ask your doctor for more information.



James O’Sullivan from Galway is a credible and engaging speaker, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving his patients, his students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is a respected author and has appeared on many public media.


Disclaimer

This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.


Please share! Help the word get out. Pin the graphic too.
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Anti Inflammatory Foods


Inflammation today has become a distinct attack on your smiling body. Considered by many medical experts as the silent epidemic in our modern health and wellbeing and yet this seemingly fiery chemical reaction is part of our immune response, without inflammation, we can’t heal. Normal inflammation is positive is helping us deal with certain assaults of the body, however one of the main health issues today is inflammation out of balance, where it can damage the body, with conditions such as both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, appendicitis, bursitis, in fact anything ending in “itis”.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina inform us that  even the illnesses without an “itis” at the end, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, certain cancers, even Alzheimer’s disease, may be triggered in part by inflammation. Today we know that it’s very apparent that inflammation plays a role much more than we thought with respect to certain maladies. We are hearing more of autoimmune diseases where the body seems to turn on itself.

Foods that are sugar rich and high in saturated fat can elevate inflammation leading to an hyperactive immune system, possible leading to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels.

I have listed here some foods that have anti-inflammatory functions, balancing the immune system. These foods can reduce heart disease risk, keep existing cardiac problems in check, reduce blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothe tender and stiff arthritic joints.

Add these items to your plate today.

Oily fish

Fish such as mackerel, tuna and sardines, salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to reduce inflammation. However, to get maximum benefits, you need to eat fish regularly, more than once a week, and it should be cooked in healthy ways. Researchers from the University of Hawaii, found that men who ate baked or boiled fish (as opposed to fried, dried, or salted) cut their risk of heart disease by 23% compared to those who ate the least.  If some of your gang don’t like fish, then consider fish-oil supplements. They can cut inflammation, although a 2013 study found that if a diet is too high in omega-6 fatty acids (found in processed foods and vegetable oil), fish-oil supplements may reduce hyperactive inflammation.

Whole grains

Whole grains are rich in fibre which can reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood and they usually have less added sugar. People who consume a diet consisting mostly of grains as whole grains, as opposed to refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta can help keep harmful inflammation at bay.  When choosing wholegrain products, be aware that not all products labelled “whole grain” are as healthy as their refined equivalent. Be sure to look at the label and make sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain as the first ingredient with no added sugars.

Dark leafy greens

According to some studies, Vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines and one of the best sources of vitamin E is dark leafy greens, such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and collard greens. Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables also tend to have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and disease fighting phyto-chemicals, than their lighter-coloured veggies.

Nuts

Nuts are another source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats, particularly almonds, which are high in fibre, calcium, and vitamin E. Walnuts have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts are loaded with antioxidants which can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation. Nuts (along with fish, leafy greens, and whole grains) are a big part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in as little as six weeks.

Soy

Soy products are rich in isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds and according to several studies these may help lower CRP and inflammation levels in women and a 2007 animal study published in the Journal of Inflammation found that isoflavones also helped reduce Avoid heavily-processed soy whenever possible, which may not include the same benefits and the negative effects of inflammation on bone and heart health in mice.

is usually paired with additives and preservatives. Instead, aim to get more soy milk, tofu, and edamame (boiled soybeans) into your regular diet.

Low-fat dairy

Milk products are sometimes considered a trigger food for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, because some people have allergies or intolerances to casein, the protein found in dairy. But for people who can tolerate it, low-fat and non-fat milk are an important source of nutrients. Yogurt can also contain probiotics, which can reduce gut inflammation.

“Foods with calcium and vitamin D, such as yogurt and skim milk, are good for everyone,” says Karen H. Costenbader, MD, associate professor of medicine and rheumatoid arthritis doctor at Harvard Medical School. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, she says, “it is important to get enough calcium and vitamin D for bone strength, and possibly reduction of cancer and other health risks.”

Peppers

“Colourful vegetables are part of a healthier diet in general,” says Dr. Costenbader. “As opposed to white potatoes or corn, colourful peppers, tomatoes, squash, and leafy vegetables have high quantities of antioxidant vitamins and lower levels of starch.” Bell peppers are available in a variety of colours, while hot peppers (like chilli and cayenne) are rich in capsaicin, a chemical that’s used in topical creams that reduce pain and inflammation.

Be aware that peppers are nightshade vegetables which some doctors and patients believe can exacerbate inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. “What helps one person may be harmful to another,” says Dr. Zashin. “You just need to pay attention to your diet and your symptoms, and stick with what works for you.”

Tomatoes

Tomatoes another nightshade vegetable may also help reduce inflammation in some people. (Of course, Dr. Zashin’s advice about what works for you, individually, applies here, as well.)  Juicy red tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the lungs and throughout the body. Cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw ones, so tomato sauce works, too and a 2012 Iranian study found that tomato juice consumption was also beneficial.

Beets or Beetroot

The brilliantly red coloured beetroot is a tell tale of its concentration of antioxidants. Beets (and beetroot juice) have been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their hearty helping of fibre, vitamin C and plant pigments called betalains.

Ginger

Ginger is a common Asian and Indian cooking spice, in many studies have demonstrated their anti inflammatory properties. Dr. Costenbader says, “While the evidence in terms of RA inflammation is not very strong, they are vegetables and part of a healthy, vegetable rich diet,”

Turmeric

Turmeric is another common used spice and the ingredient that gives curry its yellow colour, works in the body by helping to turn off a NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation, researchers say. Its relative ginger, meanwhile, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines when taken in supplement form.

Garlic

These immunity-boosting foods have not only a traditional history of properties but modern scientific research has also shown them to have anti inflammatory benefits. In studies, garlic has been revealed to act similarly to NSAID pain medications (like ibuprofen), shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation.

Onions

Onions contain similar anti inflammatory chemicals to garlic, including the phytonutrient quercetin and the compound allicin, which breaks down to produce free radical-fighting sulfenic acid.

Olive oil

“Anything that fits into a heart-healthy diet is probably also good for inflammation—and that includes healthy, plant-based fats like olive oil,” says Dr. Zashin, author of Natural Arthritis. A Spanish study in 2010, found that the Mediterranean diet’s myriad health benefits may be largely due to its liberal use of olive oil, especially the extra-virgin kind. The compound oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, has been shown to have a similar effect as NSAID painkillers in the body.

Berries

All fruits can help fight inflammation, because they’re low in fat and calories and high in antioxidants. But berries, especially, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties—possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich colour. Studies have shown, for example, that red raspberry extract helped prevent animals from developing arthritis; that blueberries can help protect against intestinal inflammation and ulcerative colitis; and that women who eat more strawberries have lower levels of CRP in their blood.

Cherries

Oregon Health & Science University researchers in a 2012 presentation, suggested that cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.” Researchers have found that cherry juice can reduce the inflammation in lab experiments by up to 50%; in humans, meanwhile, it’s been shown to help athletes improve their performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain meds. Experts recommend eating 1.5 cups of cherries, or drinking 1 cup of tart cherry juice, a day to see similar benefits. And yep, they’ve got to be tart—sweet cherries just don’t seem to have the same effects.


Food is Medicine Too!



Disclaimer

This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.


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