Dear Acupuncture in the Park-
I’ve been to an acupuncturist, and they are telling me that the source of my health problems are related to my diet. If that’s the case, why would I visit my acupuncturist for diet advice instead of a nutritionist?
The Chinese have a saying that first a patient should be treated with dietary therapy, and if that fails, only then should they turn to acupuncture and Chinese herbs. That’s because in Chinese medicine, foods are considered to have different properties than in Western medicine. Chinese dietary therapy goes far beyond counting calories, vitamins, or the carbohydrate/fat/protein make-up of a food. Instead, foods are evaluated for their inherent temperature, actions, cooking method, and the internal organs that are affected.
The temperature of a food is related to it’s warming or cooling effect on your body. For example, ginger and chiles are considered to be hot foods. In contrast, mint, yogurt, and cucumbers are cooling. Foods also act in a certain way on your body. For example, some foods are better than others for building up your energy, and there are foods that are used to alleviate phlegm or drain dampness if you’re retaining water. Finally, how your foods are cooked also affect how they affect your body. Raw foods, especially fruits and vegetables, tend to be harder to digest, and foods that are roasted are considered to be warming in nature.
In addition, your acupuncturist needs to assess the health of your digestion. Simply put, eating the best and healthiest foods in the world won’t do much for you if you’re unable to digest them well and convert them into nutrients. Digestibility can be tweaked either through the choice of foods or cooking method, and digestion itself can be enhanced through acupuncture treatments.
There are a number of variables to consider in Chinese food therapy, which makes it important to recommend the right foods for each patient. Your acupuncturist will be taking into account your diagnosis, overall health, energy levels, temperature, digestion, as well as the properties of individual foods when making recommendations. We think of food therapy is a way to enhance the healing process at home. The Chinese think of food as medicine you get to eat three times a day.