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Monday, March 12, 2018

Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: Book Review


The topic of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) comes up a lot with my counselling clients because many folks dealing with infertility are drawn to it as a way to try to boost their fertility naturally. A few of the fertility doctors I work with even support clients in their decision to incorporate it into their treatment.

For this reason, I was eager to check out Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine to learn more about TCM and how nutrition can be used therapeutically.

What is TCM? It is an ancient holistic healing approach. The basic principles are balance, connectedness and wholeness. The focus is on yin and yang, qi (energy/vital force), blood and other body fluids, and jing and shen (internal interactions with external environmental influences).

Dietary therapy is an integral part of TCM, and is based on the thermal nature or qi of foods. Foods are categorized as hot, warming, neutral, cooling or cold. It is believed that different flavours (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, etc.) have different thermal properties. TCM food groups include:

Whole grains/legumes/nuts/seeds
Animal foods
Vegetables
Fruits
Condiments

Parts 1 and 2 of Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine gives detailed information about TCM and nutritional therapy. Though the information is extensive, it is provided in a very accessible way so even if you have no background, it will give you a fairly solid understanding of the basics.

There is even a chapter in part 2 that provides food recommendations for various common health concerns from coughs, to diabetes, to insomnia. Perusing through this section my impression is that the advice is all pretty sound, though I think you need to avoid looking at these things as 'cures'. Like for stress and tension you are advised to avoid late night eating, overeating, spicy foods, excess alcohol and coffee. It is recommended that you focus on eating leafy greens, nuts and seeds, bitter greens and seaweed. Of course, that all makes sense, but if you work a super high stress job, have major personal problems contributing to your anxiety, and a sedentary lifestyle, then just making these dietary changes will not completely eliminate the stress in your life.

Part 3 of the book contains instructions for stocking your kitchen for TCM nutritional therapy and a chart classifying foods by their nature, flavor, and therapeutic value in TCM.

And then there are the recipes, which are divided by seasons, along with blood tonic and condiment recipe sections.

Now nutritionally, I have no issue with these recipes. They are generally very nutritious. Diabetics may have to alter them, however, because the sweetener used most often is honey.

If you have stocked your kitchen ahead of time with the necessary spices, herbs and condiments, you will find most of them very simple and straightforward. There are meat and seafood recipes, but also a lot of vegan recipes. Each recipe has a tip section and health information about the ingredients. There are no photos, however, so you have to use your imagination about what the final product will look like.

Though many of the recipes are infused with Asian flavours like fresh ginger and tamari, many others are not at all, so there is a lot of variety. They mostly sound very tasty too, so this is not about gagging down various substances in order to cure what ails you.

There are lots of yummy sounding and nourishing soup recipes which would be perfect for anyone suffering from a cold or flu and even some fruit based desserts that sound delicious.

So do I recommend this book? I certainly do for anyone looking for some sort of framework to improving the quality of their diet, or experimenting with different ways of eating to see how it makes you feel. Following the TCM nutritional philosopy could just help you feel less bloated, get rid of your stubborn cough, or make your PMS less severe. Just don't think that you can cure cancer by preparing these recipes. We have chemotherapy for that!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions are my own.