The Role of Food in Traditional Chinese Medicine

I have repeatedly found myself exhausted from tracking my food. Whether it is counting calories and carbs, or measuring macros and other nutrient levels, I always find myself at some point feeling completely overwhelmed. What would happen if I were to shift my perspective to an ancient way of thinking about food? Can it have the ability to change how I feel about nourishing this body of mine? Maybe you have these questions too…

The basis of Chinese medicine is broken down into different methods of care. The first method of care is simply the things that we would do every day at home. Generally it is passed down through family knowledge. An example of this can be seen by making chicken noodle soup when you don’t feel well. It is a practice that was done for us while growing up which we continue into adulthood, and eventually pass down to our children. At the root of this ancient medicine is using food to nourish and heal our bodies. It’s the first line of defense. If our bodies are not well nourished, we do not have the internal resources to carry out daily functions. This can show up as digestive issues, troubles sleeping, fatigue, weakened immune system, and changes in mood.

One of our biggest allies in using food as our medicine is eating in relationship to the seasons. As one season changes to the next, so do the foods that we have access to. We have lost touch with this due to the ability to ship produce to different climates. Bring to mind the lush variety laid out on a table at the farmers market in the middle of the summer. Everything is vibrant and fresh. That isn’t a spread you would see in the CashWise parking lot mid December! Ideally this would be a time when we would go into our root cellars and make hearty soups, stews, and of course hotdishes. Foods like these tend to take less energy for our body to break down, because they are already cooked through. Having a salad in the middle of the winter goes against nature, and the work of “cooking” it is left to your stomach! So the food that we consider “health food” might not actually be the best choice for that time of year.

I find it extremely fascinating that adjusting our food intake is the first recommendation for any ailment. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, only after making those changes is it appropriate to move to the second method of healing: herbal remedies. Then lastly would be seeing a provider such as an Acupuncturist for treatment of our illness. I find this to be very different from the path that many take. Often when we experience illness we either ignore them or “push through” until it becomes severe and necessitates the immediate care of an outside provider. What if we were to take ownership of our health at the beginning, and become the healers that we seek?

If we follow the path that Traditional Chinese Medicine lays before us, eating foods for the purpose of nourishing our bodies is the perfect place to start. It takes time. However, if we don’t make time for our health, we will be forced to make time for our illness.

Kayla Bartlett is an acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medical provider at The Well. If you would like to dig deeper, she would be honored to support you at any stage of your healing journey: (507) 200-2210