What do you mean I shouldn’t eat raw?

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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.

Begin with Water

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It starts with water.  

While water consumption is not strictly a TCM concern, it is a necessary part of our health and wellness.

When I want to work on my personal wellness, I always start with water.  We are privileged to live in a place where clean water is a norm, yet, many people are probably not consuming enough water daily.  

Dehydration can lead to headaches, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, irritability, indigestion, cramping, and difficulty with memory and concentration problems (among other symptoms).   Dehydration can also contribute to difficulty with weight loss.  While some people say that the first sign of dehydration is thirst, patients can experience other signs first, particularly mental confusion and fatigue.  

A good indicator of your recommended hydration level is to divide your body weight in half to get the number of ounces you should be consuming daily.  This amount should also be increased in certain circumstances.  Nursing mothers, illness (especially if you are running a fever or have a UTI), if you are an athlete, or if you are a warm person you should be drinking additional water.  While athletes who train at a high level can benefit from sports drinks with added electrolytes, salts, and sugars– for most of us, just plain water is what we need to flush our system and maintain good function of circulation and organs.  


To get the optimal benefit of the water you consume, it is best to drink in sips throughout the day.  Drinking too much water at once can decrease your body’s absorption, and even be taxing on your kidneys.  

I suggest picking up a water filter, as our tap water can contain a high volume of chemicals and heavy minerals.  There are literally boatloads of filters out there in a range of prices.  You can put a filter on your tap, or have a container that filters your water such as a water bottle or pitcher.  My partner and I use a brita pitcher and our replacement filters usually last a little over a month.  

Given the potential for harmful chemicals to leech into water, I prefer a glass or metal water bottle or jar to a plastic one.  If you do drink from a water bottle, they should be washed daily, and any rubber or mobile pieces should be cleaned or changed regularly to help prevent build up of germs.  If you are going to purchase a water bottle, I suggest a BPA free bottle.  I personally try to avoid bottled water as much as possible to decrease my own environmental footprint.  

Traditional Chinese Medicine also recommends taking in fluids warm or at room temperature.  While some western sources encourage individuals to drink cold water to stimulate the amount of calories you burn, it should be noted that this has an impact on the whole system.  Drinking warm or room temperature fluids helps to keep your body’s functions moving, where cold fluids can slow down digestion, and for some patients, even cause pain and abdominal cramping.  

Proper hydration helps your body to flush out toxins and maintain body mass, after all, the human body is made of mostly water.  

When going from a state of dehydration to hydration, patients may notice a decrease in symptoms such as headaches, improved bowel movements, improved mental function, and healthier looking skin.  

When you are looking for a place to start with your overall well-being, ask yourself: “Am I drinking my water?”  

***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.