Digestion: A Chinese Medical Perspective
By: Nena Watkins, Licensed Acupuncturist & Owner of Oak Cliff Acupuncture
The ancient people of China characterized the world according to the five elements they observed in nature. The five elements are fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Each element has good and bad qualities. These elements exist in nature to balance each other and these qualities.
The balancing of the five elements is a common theme throughout the culture, even today. A great example is the popular Five-spice herb mixture. Five-spice powder is a spice mixture of five or more spices used predominantly in almost all branches of Chinese cuisines and used less commonly in other Asian cuisines.
Another common use of balancing the five elements is less obvious to most people. That is because it used by the Chinese medical Doctors, known as Acupuncturists. They use the law of the five elements to resolve illness in one’s body. Illness is described by factors associated with the element as found in nature. Fire produces heat, water freezes from cold, and wood/trees are blown by wind.
The Earth Element is the time of late summer and is associated with the harvest. Out of balance it can be damp. It is related to our digestion; and thereby related to the food we eat. Sweetness is the flavor of the Earth Element. Sugar cravings are considered a symptom of an Earth imbalance. Too much sugar can cause tummy aches. However, in balance, a little sweet can help give the earth energy the push it needs to properly digest. This is the idea behind a sweet dessert after a meal.
Food is carried through the digestive process to give us energy. In Chinese medical theory, we say food is transformed into Qi (chi) and Blood. Proper digestion allows food to provide us nourishment. This is a healthy Earth Element. Nourishment is an important aspect of a healthy body. You are what you eat! Chinese medicine believes this one hundred percent.
The best diet to honor one’s digestion is basic. No spicy, no raw, and no dairy! Too much spicy can make digestion difficult and cause heartburn discomfort. Too much raw can cause discomfort with bloating and diarrhea. And too much dairy can cause unwanted mucous. Of course, a healthy person can indulge occasionally with minimum consequences.
Chinese medicine uses herbs, as well as acupuncture, to correct and balance illness. The herbs are ingested and assimilated through our digestion. Herbs for digestion are put in most formulas and are added if needed because someone has poor digestion. It’s like taking digestive enzymes and probiotics with your medicine, and they often have a pleasant taste.
If you have problems with your digestion, Don’t Worry! There is help. Chinese medicine sympathizes with your plight. We are here to help you. We want you to feel better! You can contact your local acupuncturist for a consultation. In Texas, Acupuncturists are licensed by the Texas Medical Board to prescribe Chinese herbs. Most Acupuncturists have the herbs you need on hand at your appointment. So get balanced and enjoy this Earth season. Eat, Drink, and Be Happy!
About the Author:
Nena Watkins is a Licensed Acupuncturist and owner of Oak Cliff Acupuncture in Dallas’ Bishop Arts District. You can find out more about Nena on her website: www.oakcliffacu.com