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THE DIET WITHIN THE DIET: Excess Cold

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Dietary subtleties to be considered from the perspective of Chinese Medicine and Western Science


"If you're not your own doctor, you're a fool." ~ Hippocrates


The series of articles called “Diet Within the Diet” refer to the micro-adjustments that we can make within any type of diet . Despite calling these settings “micro", they can really make a huge difference in health and diet success. How many times do we hear people saying that they are vegan, or vegetarian, or even that they have a “balanced” diet? What always comes to my mind is: How many possibilities of vegan, vegetarian and “balanced” diets are there? Sure as many as there are people in the world. The perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is extremely interesting, because it provides very interesting comments on eating habits beyond the food itself. Even though I fully adhere to a vegetarian diet, the following concepts can be applied to any type of diet. It should be noted that the diet proposed by the TCM is not strictly free of animal products, although it (traditionally) encourages a really small consumption of such foods and all other foods appear in their whole form, being processed foods totally inexistent.


Excess Cold (nature and temperature):

This is sincerely an exciting point many times forgotten, and a powerful tool that the Chinese have known for several millennia.

With the excess of Cold* foods we mean not only the temperature, but also the nature of the food according to the categories of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Therefore an abuse of raw fruits and vegetables (for example), means an abuse of Cold foods. (Which also usually get out of the refrigerator a second before being eaten, increasing its "coldness").


Let’s think about the Stomach* as a pot, which task is to make a soup at (around) 38 centigrades. Everything that facilitates the creation of such a soup will benefit digestion, and what goes against it will clearly complicate the digestive process. Therefore, the TCM suggests for most people to use cooked food. Cooking is mainly a pre-digestion that facilitates the stomach's function of decomposition within the body, which in turn will demand much less energy. That is why Chinese Medicine does not recommend either the intake of cold or frozen drinks with or without meals. (It does not even recommend, along with conventional medicine, the intake of large amounts of liquid together with food, since these dilute gastric juices and reduce their effectiveness). The liquids we drink should be at least at room temperature, and even preferably warm, since the ambient temperature is usually much lower than that of our body. Making this slight modification not only tones our digestive system (Chinese Spleen-Stomach) but can also eliminate certain allergic aspects such as sneezing or rhinorrhea that are related (most of the time) to a Deficiency in our digestive system. Cold foods drain our digestive energy, they put out our ‘digestive fire’.

Other cooling foods from TCM perspective are: dairy products like cheese and yogurt, green tea, beer, sour fruits and ‘watery’ vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, and so on.

On the other hand, when the Cold is abused for a long time, the Stomach begins to be hyperactive, in an attempt to combat that “coldness”. As the excesses are transformed into its opposite, this excess of Cold ends up generating an internal Heat which is usually seen mainly in adolescence (with the abuse of soda, ice cream ...) and which is characterized by acne, halitosis, voracious appetite, mouth sores and even insomnia or bruxism; all symptoms of Stomach Heat from the point of view of TCM. Therefore, maybe a glass of warm water early in the morning, no longer leaving the water in the refrigerator, or taking the fruit out of the refrigerator several hours before before eating (or even cooking it!), or eliminating ice cubes, may create a big difference in your health (especially if there is mucus and phlegm)


Finally, it should be noted that Chinese medicine NEVER prohibits the consumption of Cold or frozen foods, since it does not speak in such universal and absolute terms. Everything always depends on the constitution of each person and their environment; some may be fine overdoing Cold foods, and others will have cramps or diarrhea after having a small ice cream…

There’s a convention about capitalizing Chinese Medicine terms to be able to differentiate them from regular everyday terms. For example, Cold can be more extensive in its Chinese meaning that the regular word ‘cold’… The same is true when talking about the Chinese concepts of Stomach and the Western, anatomical stomach.

SOURCES:


Flaws, Bob. “The TAO of Healthy Eating" Blue Poppy Press. Bloulder, CO, 1998.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 3rd ed., rev., updated, and expanded. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 2002.

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