From the point of view of Oriental Medicine, diet and lifestyle are considered the cornerstone of good health and well-being. A balanced diet, consisting of a variety of fresh, seasonal, unprocessed foods eaten calmly and mindfully, and at regular intervals throughout the day and a lifestyle embracing the right balance of physical and mental activity, relaxation and rest, are crucial to maintaining vitality and preventing illness from taking root. When these guidelines are disregarded, our diet and lifestyle can become contributing factors to or even culprits of various health problems.
Our daily life with high levels of stress and hectic schedules, often resulting in lacking the time or energy to prepare fresh meals and eating on the run or front of a computer, consuming a balanced and healthy diet can become a real challenge. The situation is often further exacerbated by the use of stimulants like caffeine to push through our energy lows and then resorting to alcohol or sleeping aids to wind down in the evenings. Combined with lack of balance between the physical or mental activity and relaxation, along with irregular sleep patterns, our diet and lifestyle can result in us feeling run down, fatigued, depressed, and vulnerable to environmental stresses, seasonal allergies and viruses, and making it more difficult to fight off and recover from run of the mill health problems. Food is one of the oldest known forms of medical therapy. In Chinese medicine food is recognized for its powerful energetic impact on the body and its ability to therapeutically support the healthy functioning, of the body or add to its dysfunction. A balanced diet is crucial for sustaining not only physical health but also mental and spiritual well-being.
Similar to ingredients (components) of the Chinese herbal medicine, all foods are classified according to their energetic characteristics into salty, bitter, sweet, spicy, and sour flavor categories associated with a different organ system, and temperature qualities based on the food’s inherent nature ranging from cold to very hot, and the cooking method involved in its preparation. Warm foods are believed to stimulate and heat up the body, while cold foods cool and slow down physiological processes. Each unique combination of food flavor and temperature is considered to possess specific energetic therapeutic properties that help support and regulate different physiological and mental functions in the body.
In general, Chinese medicine maintains that the best approach to supporting health and vitality is to avoid excessive consumption of foods of one particular flavor or temperature, as it is likely to cause systemic imbalances, and opt for a diet consisting of a wide range of seasonal, fresh, unprocessed foods combined to achieve a correct balance of flavors and temperatures. That being said, from a Chinese medical perspective, every person is different, and no one diet fits all. Not everyone should subsist on a diet low in carbohydrates, or be a vegetarian, and one man’s meat can literally be another man’s poison. Consequently, like custom herbal prescriptions, nutritional recommendations should reflect individual needs and predispositions, with the balance of energetic qualities and temperature of foods manipulated in a way that promotes health and sustained energy based on presentation, and the environmental and seasonal context within which that person is living.
Another key aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s approach to treatment and prevention of disease, as well as fostering health and wellness is lifestyle, involving striking the right balance in regards to mental and physical activity, relaxation and exercise, relationships, work, and other aspects of daily living, positive emotional state, and mental attitude.
An important aspect of the Chinese medicine’s therapeutic process, lifestyle counselling is focused on considering all aspects of a person's life, identifying current and potential stressors and their impact on one's health. Since many illnesses can be linked to or are exacerbated by stress, it is crucial to identify areas that can be modified to bring greater ease, joy and vibrancy into your life. Through dialogue, active listening and mindfulness practices the answers usually present themselves quite naturally, opening the door for making necessary changes. Relevant nutritional and lifestyle changes holistically enhance and support the acupuncture treatments and herbal regimen and go a long way towards providing continued, lasting relief, and eventually allowing a person to maintain health and vitality and stay in balance without constant external therapeutic interventions.
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