What do you mean I shouldn’t eat raw?

What do you mean, I shouldn’t eat raw?

One of the biggest surprises for patients new to TCM is the idea that raw foods can have a negative impact on digestion.  

After all, what’s healthier than a good salad?   

While some patients may consistently eat raw food and see little impact on their digestion, this is all dependant on your personal constitution, and most patients find that eating a majority of their meals warm can have a positive overall impact on their digestive system.  

The logic in this isn’t terribly difficult to understand.  As we discussed in the previous post about hydration, cold temperature foods have a slowing effect on your overall digestion.  Quite literally, your body has to work harder to digest them, and in TCM we say that this has a taxing effect on the “spleen.”  

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the “spleen” function is related largely to your pancreatic functions and your digestion.  Signs of spleen deficiency due to cold raw diets can include loose stools (with or without undigested food in them), fatigue, and cold abdomen.  Patients may also experience symptoms such as gas or bloating after meals.  

TCM strongly recommends consuming the majority of your meals warm, with vegetables lightly cooked.  

For patients with weak digestion, homemade soups are an optimal way to improve absorption of nutrients.  They are easy on digestion, and making soup at home can allow you better control over the level of sodium in your food (which is often very high in canned foods).  Many patients find that making soup in their crock pot is an easy place to begin, and there are a lot of great recipes out there that include the use of fresh, whole ingredients.  You can find recipes for all kinds of meal plans, including vegan and vegetarian.  I encourage you to search the web for new ideas if you don’t know where to start.   

Many health and fitness types push dietary plans that include things like cold-pressed juice or smoothies, but from a TCM perspective, these cold drinks may actually be damaging your digestive system over time.  

As a recovering juice and salad lover, I empathize.  I can tell you from experience, that when I started consuming more of my meals warm I saw a drastic improvement in my overall digestion and well-being.  

If you must have your green drinks or your salads, here are a few things to think about:

    • Salads, smoothies, and beverages should be consumed as close to room temperature as possible (if not consumed warm).
    • A small amount of ginger can be added to energetically warm these foods and help the stimulation of digestion (or you can drink ginger tea with them).  Be careful not to go overboard, though– ginger can be very warm if consumed in excess.
    • Try not to add ice to your smoothies or consume fruits and vegetables out of the freezer or refrigerator.  If you use frozen fruit, try to thaw it the night before.  
  • Moderation is key– maybe you’re like me, and it doesn’t feel like summertime without a salad here and there– it’s ok to have one once in awhile, but eating cold raw foods everyday might be causing you unnecessary discomfort.  

***Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is provided for educational purposes only. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you feel you have a medical emergency, please contact emergency services by dialing 911.