How You Eat and Why You Eat May Be More Important Than What You Eat

In Chinese Medicine, Yin connotes stillness, coolness, and conservation of energy.  You are in a Yin state of being if you feel calm, relaxed, gentle, accepting, patient, slow, intellectually objective and detached, and self-indulgent or self-nurturing.  You breathe slowly and deeply when you are in a Yin state.

In Chinese Medicine, Yang connotes activity, heat and the burning of energy to create motion, transformation and change.  You are in a Yang state of being if you feel time-pressured, excited, challenged, competitive, intensely focused, accurate, goal-oriented, self-controlled, disciplined, tense, exerting, hot or sweating.  You breathe fast, or your breathing becomes more shallow and erratic when you are in a Yang state.

Yin and Yang are both necessary for life growth, and transformation.  However, in today’s world, there exists an imbalance between the Yin and Yang aspects of our lives.

In the July 2013 issue of Acupuncture Today (Vol. 14, Issue 07), Los Angeles acupuncturist Douglas Kihn cites a graph published in 2006 by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention which shows that the rate of obesity began to spike in the US in the late 1970’s, and has continued to grow ever since.  This correlates with decades of falling wages and increased worker productivity.  In other words, Americans fortunate enough to have jobs are working harder and faster.  And, most people are feeling less secure economically.

Many other changes have occurred since the 1970’s.  For example:  1) The undisciplined use of computers and other digital devices keeps us in a constant state of overstimulation and information overload.  2)  The use of digital devices, computers, and other artificial sources of night time light disrupt melatonin production and mess up our sleep quality and quantity.  As a result, people are suffering from sleep deficits, chronic fatigue, and other sleep disorders in record numbers.  3)  Fast food and eating on the run replace sit-down meals.  4)  Climate change:  the actual warming of our planet due to the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities is itself a symptom of excessive Yang.

In order to cope in this world, many people use food to feel calm, safe and tranquilized…in other words, to become more Yin.  Unfortunately, the Yin (fat, phlegm, dampness) you accumulate from being a stressed out and unconscious eater creates stagnation and toxicity in your body. This stagnant Yin winds up being just one more heavy load of stress your body and mind must deal with.

The solution is to learn to worry and hurry less, to make sleep and rest a priority, and to become reacquainted with the subtle stirrings of your body and mind via breathing exercises, meditation, and the like.  These things increase healthy Yin.  Receiving an acupuncture treatment can re-set your body and mind so that you feel calmer and better able to distinguish between hunger and satiety.  I have had many patients lose weight relatively effortlessly with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and small dietary and lifestyle changes.

How To Resolve Your Immune System Imbalance: Start With The Gut

The immune system is called “Wei Qi” (pronounced “Way Chee”) in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Wei Qi protects the body from “Evil Qi”.  Evil Qi can be any invader, external (such as “germs”) or internal (chemicals or signals produced inside your body), which place a stress on the proper functioning of your body.  External forms of Evil Qi include: viruses, bacteria, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, pasteurized dairy products, processed foods,pollution, and overexposure to cold, dampness or wind.  Internally generated Evil Qi can result from trauma, overwork, sleep deprivation, depression, stress and anxiety.  The stronger your Wei Qi, the better you are able to cope with Evil Qi.  If you have a Wei Qi imbalance, it is best to reduce your exposure to Evil Qi as much as possible.

Wei Qi is manufactured by the Spleen.  In TCM, the Spleen has to do with your stomach, pancreas and other digestive organs: how well they are able to absorb and utilize nutrients and beneficial bacteria from the foods you eat.  “Spleen Qi” is “Digestive Qi”.  The Lungs assist the Spleen by circulating the Wei Qi produced by the Spleen.  In TCM, the Lung complex includes the skin, mucus membranes and nasal passages.  This is very similar to our Western understanding of the immune system.  In order to have a healthy immune system, there must be a predominance of healthy bacteria in the gut (intestines).  A healthy gut is a tropical rainforest of bacterial diversity.  There are over 5,600 different strains.  This healthy bacteria forms a natural flora, or protective coating in your large and small intestines, which further disseminates via the mucus membranes in your lungs, mucus membranes (eyes, nose, throat) and skin.  Intestinal flora protects your immune system in several ways.  First, just by taking up space, and being more proficient at obtaining nutrients, it provides a physical barrier to colonization by foreign, deleterious microbes.  Second, healthy flora sends signals to the lymph nodes to help the body differentiate between pathogenic and benign substances, preventing autoimmune attacks. Third, intestinal flora implanted in the gut during breast feeding influences the growth and formation of organs crucial to proper immune function, such as the thymus gland

Now for the interesting part: 90% of cells in the human body are microbial (bacteria), and a mere 10% are “human”.  Think about that!  Western science is only beginning to grasp the implications of this fact.  So many aspects of our modern lifestyle put our internal ecology at risk.  For example:

  1. Overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock.
  2. Overuse of antibacterial soaps and industrial cleansers. 
  3. Lack of contact with soil.  A little dirt left in your garden vegetables might be a good thing!
  4. Formula feeding of infants instead of breast feeding.
  5. Refined sugar: The average person consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year–compared to just 7 ½ pounds consumed on average in the year 1700. That’s 20 times as much!  Sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi in your gut.  
  6. 98% of public drinking water facilities use chlorine or chloramine to disinfect the water.  These are powerful antimicrobial agents.  They combine with organic matter to form compounds called trihalomethanes (THMs), also known as disinfectant byproducts.  One of the most common of these THMs is chloroform, a known carcinogen.  These compounds are toxic when consumed, inhaled or applied to the skin.  Furthermore, they kill beneficial bacteria in the gut, contributing to dysbiosis.
  7. Too much processed food and refined starches.  Not enough fresh food, and not enough variety in our diets.
  8. The birth control pill, steroids, other hormone pills, and immunosuppressant drugs promote dysbiosis of the gut.  If you must take these medications, consider getting regular acupuncture treatments to balance their harmful effects.

How to undo the damage?

  1. Filter your water and clean up your diet.  Avoid toxins, and try to eat organic as much as possible.
  2. Eat a wide variety of whole foods. 
  3. Avoid the overuse of antibiotics!  Many conditions, such as urinary tract infections, sinus infections and acne can be cleared up easily with Chinese herbs.  Herbal remedies strengthen your Wei Qi, and destroy the pathogens while leaving your immune system intact.  Antibiotics are also present in factory farmed meats and dairy products.
  4. Eliminate, or cut way back on refined sugar and alcohol.
  5. Probiotics may help, but only if you follow the other guidelines.
  6. Acupuncture heals inflammation, regulates Qi, and helps the body expel toxins.  There are several wonderful classic Chinese Herbal formulas that strengthen the Spleen Qi, clear pathogens, and fortify immunity. 

Here’s a mind-blowing video about “fecal transplants”.  This icky but effective treatment is gaining in popularity for people with severe intestinal dysbiosis and devasted immune systems. 

So now you know:  If you keep your gut and immune system healthy, you won’t have to “take “sh#t” from anyone!