What a complicated world this is becoming! Used to be, ”back in the old days”, that everyone ate whatever they could grow themselves, or find at their local market or store – and were thankful for it! Now, with the advent of supermarkets, artisan and farmers’ markets, and upscale grocery stores, it seems we are spoiled for choice. And, as a result, we are becoming very picky eaters! For many reasons, whether caused by our religious beliefs, health problems, or a desire to conserve our planet, the kinds of nutritional diets now catered to have spread like mushrooms. Let’s take a brief look at some of them.
The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, estimates that at least 10 million people in the US are gluten-sensitive. Gluten is the protein part of many grains which are difficult for some people to digest, causing damage to the small intestine (celiac disease). In TCM even some traditional herbs contain gluten. If you suffer from celiac disease and you wish to take herbal remedies, make sure you check with your doctor first.
The macrobiotic diet has been prescribed by many doctors as a preventative and cure for cancer. It is a very strict diet, comparable with vegan (see below) plus the occasional use of fish or seafood. Japanese macrobiotics advises eating locally grown products combined according to the principles of yin and yang. However, a strict macrobiotic diet is very limiting in its food choices and has been shown to lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Lactose intolerance is caused by the lack of the enzyme, lactase, which is necessary to digest milk and dairy products. TCM practitioners see this condition as an imbalance in spleen-pancreas and a stagnation of qi. (See my next post for acupressure to alleviate this condition.)
This diet excludes all dairy, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and any products containing them. Most of the foods are eaten raw. From a TCM perspective a diet of raw food can be cleansing short-term but is generally not advised for those with a yin (cooling) constitution or with health problems needing more warming and nourishing foods.
Lacto-vegetarian ( excludes fish, meat, poultry and eggs. Dairy products are allowed)
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (excludes fish, meat and poultry. Dairy products and eggs are allowed)
In general, any diet that weighs heavily on the side of one particular food group to the exclusion of others is seen in TCM as violating the cardinal principle of balance. Most fruits and vegetables are seen as yin, while animal products are yang, both therefore are needed to maintain balance and to provide complete nutrition.
Also called semi-vegetarian, this diet is primarily plant based but includes a little fish, meat, poultry, dairy and eggs on occasion or in small quantities. But wait a minute, isn’t that the TCM diet? Everything in moderation?
“Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs, and other mammals].” Chinese Proverb
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