Nutritional Guidance

Nutritional Guidance: Functional/Holistic & Eastern Approaches

 

                       1) Functional/Holistic Nutrition Approach:

Nutritional Guidance

What does a healthy plate of food look like???

As an acupuncturist, for my first several years in practice I focused my nutritional advice solely on what Chinese Medicine prescribes (see below). But I was increasingly frustrated by not getting the results we all hoped for. After much research and study, I came to realize that unfortunately, our modern world just doesn’t support us eating all the same food groups that the Chinese and traditional cultures have been enjoying for thousands of years.

I now start with a look at your current diet to see if you’re eating those foods, and address potential allergies or sensitivities. If necessary, I’ll refer out for bloodwork or stool tests to see what foods are potentially triggering reactions. We discuss how these foods are affecting your body and specific symptoms. We’ll come up with action steps to take with your diet.

If we don’t start there, unfortunately the subtle changes discussed below (from a Chinese Medicine approach) just aren’t going to be enough to counteract the major damage occurring from these foods.

But why can’t we eat foods our ancestors have always eaten?!?

After much pondering on what’s different today than historically, and why we can’t eat the foods that thousands of years of Chinese medical evidence tells us are not only OK, but even nourishing and healthful, I came up with these realizations:

  • Damaged Guts: We have “different guts” than the Chinese did. Meaning, they weren’t exposed to so many of the things that damage our guts today, such as: OTC pain meds, antibiotics, daily levels of chronic stress, fake foods with artificial colors and preservatives, etc.
  • Flora: Our gut flora is damaged, with many — if not most of us — having dysbiosis. This happens for many reasons, including the above bullet point; but also people in the past didn’t live in the “hyper sterile” culture we live in today where we use anti-bacterial everything. Also, most people lived “closer to the earth” where the soil microbiome made its way into their gut flora, nourishing and building it.  We also don’t eat anywhere near the amounts of fermented foods that traditional cultures did, which builds the gut flora; nor do most people eat enough vegetables which are “prebiotics”, or food, for the healthy flora.
  • Stress: Our chronic levels of stress increase cortisol levels, which has been shown to damage our gut.
  • Changes in biology of foods: Many of our foods are so different from what was on the planet just a short time ago, that some botanists say we shouldn’t even call them by the same name.  Wheat is best example of this: there are totally new gluten proteins in it that did not exist in the past, as well as much higher levels of all the gluten proteins.

For these reasons and more, there are some food categories which, even if our ancestor’s stronger, more healthy guts were able to handle them, are damaging now. We must address this FIRST, and then we can move onto the more subtle changes discussed below.

 

2) Chinese Medicine Nutrition Approach:

An acupuncturist’s way of viewing food and nutrition is very different than in the west.  Since Chinese medicine was derived before the days of advanced technology, (which can tell us the exact nutritional make up of a food) the Chinese had to come up with some other way of prescribing foods as medicine.  Instead of breaking a food down into its basic components — for instance, proteins, sugars, fats, etc, or vitamins and minerals — they looked at the food as a whole and examined what overall effect it had on the body.

acupuncture theory says food is medicine

Winter Squash is perfect for harvest season and winter nourishing

Since everything in Chinese Medicine is about “balance”, they discovered how the balance of the body would be either maintained or disrupted by eating certain foods.  For instance, they noted that people who suffer from too much heat in the body — such as a woman going through menopause — would become even more hot if eating things like peppers, onions, etc.  Conversely, someone who is cold all the time needs to add just these foods in.  Depending on the seasons we’re in, certain foods are beneficial, or detrimental, to eat as well. While these are just basic examples, an actual study of the principles reveals how comprehensive they are in providing thorough, effective, yet very easy to follow guidelines for choosing foods.

Each food is also looked at as a whole for which organ or organs it will have an effect on.  If a person has weakness in their digestive system, for example, they would need to add in foods that have shown to have a strengthening effect on those organs.  Some examples would be sweet potatoes, winter squash, and many of the root vegetables.   Foods also need to be eliminated based on these theories.  For example, cold foods are very damaging for the digestion, so a person with weakness there needs to stay away from iced drinks and chilled fruit.

You can see that unlike mainstream Western nutrition — where there is a standard protocol which it is believed everyone should follow — in Chinese nutrition, based on a person’s diagnosis, each person is seen as an individual, and there is never any one specific way that everyone needs to eat.  Furthermore, what one person may need during one stage of their life — while they are leading tours up the volcanoes in Hawaii for a summer job, for example — is going to be very different from what they need just a few months later when they’re sitting down all day studying for exams in the middle of a winter snow.  As the balance in the weather shifts outside, so does the balance point in our body, and we need to change our foods accordingly.

After your Chinese Medicine diagnosis:

Kale, Liver Balancing

Kale! The magic food for a happy liver! :-)

Once you have had your initial consultation and I have diagnosed your condition, interested patients can then set up a nutrition consultation where we can discuss changes that you can make in your diet that can dramatically improve your health; from both the holistic western as well as Chinese medical approaches discussed above.  These changes will help you to recover from symptoms and in some cases might be necessary for your healing.