Post-Holiday Food Tips: Spleen & Kidney Recharge

Winter is associated with Water Element and represented by Kidneys. The temperature of the Element is Cold and the taste is bitter. Kidney network is closely related to bones and Spleen network controls muscles. Spleen is weakened by damp and sweet foods. It controls digestion, fluid metabolism and energy production just to name a few. The warmth or Yang energy, that is essential for proper digestive and musculoskeletal function, is affected by most ‘holiday’ foods, which in turn leads to poor food metabolism, cold sensation in the body and often physical pain.

To “recharge” your spleen & kidney after the holidays try to implement these changes into your diet:

  • Eat smaller meals, more frequently
  • Eat cooked meals, like vegetable soups and stews, instead of raw salads. Lightly cooked vegetable are easily absorbed
  • Take time to enjoy meals by sitting down without being distracted by phone or work
  • Chew thoroughly to savor flavors
  • Enjoy small amounts of naturally sweet flavors like molasses, dates and rice syrup as well as more pungent tastes such as  onion, garlic, turnip, ginger, fennel, cinnamon and nutmeg, which are also beneficial in restoring Spleen function.

Limit the intake of:

  • Overly rich, oily or heavy foods
  • Cold foods such as raw vegetables/salads (fruits are ok), tofu, and ice cream
  • Sugary treats, yeast and flour products (breads, beer)

Winter 2014 Newsletter

Happy Winter!!!

In this month’ Newsletter:

  • Cooked vs Raw Foods
  • Tips from India
  • Stamford Location is open

A TCM Perspective on Cooked vs Raw Foods

Most of my patients are surprised to hear the recommendation to skip salads and cold foods during winter months. Ever wondered why Chinese prefer to eat cooked food, drink warm water, and never include salad on either restaurant or home menu?

The answer lies with better understanding how digestion works from a Chinese medicine perspective. Chinese Medicine sees life as a series of warm transformations—the underlying philosophy of Taoism where change and transformation are natural processes which, given the proper environment, will happen on their own. The process of digestion is viewed in the same light. Give the body proper food and liquid, a proper environment, and there will be abundance of energy and balanced metabolism. The stomach is viewed as a pot that needs to ‘cook’ the food in order to extract the nutrients (separate the clear from the turbid). The ability to transform food into usable nutrients for the cells is dependent on the ‘digestive fire’ to ‘cook’ the foods and ensure this transformation is completed. Using cold/raw food will lower or in some cases simply put out that ‘digestive fire’ resulting in symptoms like bloating, gas or upset stomach.

Importance of Cooking Foods

  • Cooking increases the warming properties of food
  • Helps break down food structure
  • Nutrients are more available and better assimilated
  • Relatively few nutrients are lost in simple cooking
  • The energy of the body is less focused on digestion and can be used in other ways.
  • Moderately cooked food is recommended to help support mental clarity and energy metabolism.

Remedies to beat the Cold:

  • Use ginger, cinnamon, clove, basil, rosemary in teas and foods regularly.
  • Warming seeds and grains: Oats, spelt, quinoa, sunflower seed, sesame seed, walnut, pinenut, chestnut, fennel, dill, anise, caraway, carob pod, cumin, sweet brown rice
  • OK to use Neutral grains rice, corn, buckwheat and rye. Other grains are too cooling.
  • Veg/Fruit: parsnip, parsley, mustard greens, winter squash, sweet potato, kale, onion, leek, chive, garlic, scallion; cherry, citrus peel and date.
  • Small amounts hot peppers/spices
  • If needed, butter is only warming dairy product. Milk/cheese are neutral.
  • Meats: anchovy, mussel, trout, chicken, beef and lamb.

India trip feedback

I recently returned from the trip to India where after just over a week i’ve learned simple yet profound steps to stay connected with the environment, the food and to avoid getting ill.

  1. Food. Food is an essential part of any culture but in India it is short of religion. The cafeteria of the resort where we stayed had white walls, not a single picture on a wall and no music.. Bottom line – NO DISTRACTION. Of course i managed to smuggle my phone since it was one of the only wifi enable spots but the point remains.. From TCM stand point Spleen is the energy circuit responsible for digestion and mental function. Once combined whichever side you focus more on wins..
  2. India-128Color.. Have you had Thali?
    Thali a cornerstone of the southern menu. It is served in a stainless steel platter with little bowls (vati) consisting of a wide variety of dal, roti, papad, curd (yoghurt), small amounts of chutney and a sweet dish to top it off. It is typically eaten with hands (this time I used a spoon) to engage all 5 senses. The combination of colors and tastes was very close to 5 elect theory: there was a yellow dish – Earth, white rice and yogurt – Metal, a few greens – Wood, red dish – Fire and for the Water element – a Jackfruit pudding..
  3. Mindefullness.
    Every day from 4am before going to work every person in Kerala goes to temple. A form of meditation is performed and intention is set for the upcoming day. Try it for 10 minuites every day for a week and see what happens.. If you can’t meditate by yourself there is a donation based class at Dew Yoga that takes place every Friday at 6.45pm.

Amma update..

We will be resuming lectures, talks and workshops with Amma upon her arrival to US. I’ll send another letter upon having the dates.. Please stay tuned.

Have a warm, safe and healthy winter.