How to Take Care of Yourself, Part Two: Physical Health
By Dr. Shiaoting Jing, L.Ac., O.M.D.
Live in harmony with nature
To understand the importance of living in harmony with nature and the natural cycles of life, we have to briefly go back to understand where life begins. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) teachings believe that human beings are advanced organisms of nature. At the end of the nineteenth century, the German philosopher, Friedrich Engels, discussed in his book Dialectics of Nature the interconnectedness of all processes and of the intimate relationship that humans have with nature.
TCM originates from Yin and Yang theory, which is essentially a kind of universal law. One of the ancient TCM writings known as the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor states that “life originates from Yin and Yang energies.” For thousands of years, by looking up at the stars, studying the geography of the land, and observing all aspects of human behavior and physiology, the ancients were able to clearly understand that human beings are small creatures of the cosmos.
Current scientists believe that the universe (sky and earth) is composed of three main elements – material substance, capability/energy, and information. As humans, we are a part of nature. Therefore, we have inherited all of nature’s genetics. Research shows that the earth’s crust is made up of various elements that are strikingly similar to the human body. The various electrolytes found within our blood are the same as those found within our oceans. The capability/energy aspect is related to the continual transformation and flow of energy between Yin and Yang; it is also related to the metabolism and transformation of the food we eat and the air we breathe into energy and sustenance for the body. When scientists refer to the “information” aspect that exists within the universe, what they mean is that everything interacts with nature and has particular rhythms that are tied with nature. For instance, one’s heart rhythm, blood pressure, respiration rate, and endocrine system all have natural cycles. In TCM theory, one’s pulse is tied with the four seasons. During the Spring, the pulse is more wiry; during the Summer, the pulse is stronger and overflowing; the Autumn pulse is very fine, like a thin strand of hair; in the winter, the pulse sinks more deeply. A woman's ovarian function also goes through regular monthly as well as yearly rhythms. Thus, our bodily rhythms are tied with the natural world. Therefore, our physical health is optimized when we live in harmony with nature and the natural cycles of Yin and Yang. This is the fundamental principle of TCM.
Several ways that we can live in harmony with the rhythms of nature include the following:
1. Sleep early, rise early.
According to TCM theory, one should sleep between 10 and 11 p.m. and get up around 6 to 7 a.m.This way, we give our liver and large intestine their best chances at detoxing. Research shows that ample rest and quality sleep are the most important foundation for good health.
2. Eat regularly and slowly.
For optimal health, one should eat on a regular schedule – preferably three times a day - and eat slowly. The most important meal of the day is breakfast because the gallbladder secrets bile after a night of sleep; when one eats, bile is released into the stomach in order to aid digestion, and an excess of bile is prevented, thereby avoiding the formation of gallstones. We must give ourselves time to eat for at least 20 minutes, making sure to chew food thoroughly so that our salivary glands can secrete amylase to sufficiently digest the food properly and completely. Research also shows that a majority of people who experience weight issues tend to eat very fast. It usually takes about 20 minutes of eating before our brain registers that our tummies are full! That is why eating slowly and chewing thoroughly are one of the best methods to lose weight in a healthy way.
3. Move gently or go for a walk after a meal.
There is an old Chinese saying that goes, “A hundred steps after a meal can help you live until 99 years old.” This means that after we eat, it is good to engage in some sort of gentle movement. We can also practice Ping Shuai Qi Gong after a meal, especially during this quarantine time, which can encourage more movement in the large intestine channel. Please check out Dr. Jing’s Qi Gong video on our TCM Healing Center YouTube channel to learn more about this simple practice.
4. Eat a variety of healthy foods according to your individual constitution.
What kind of food is considered healthy food?In Chinese medicine, we believe that all foods that come from nature can be considered good food.We must also consider, however, a person’s dietary needs based on his or her personal constitution.For example, people who get cold easily or have Yang Qi deficiency need to eat more warming types of foods, whereas Yin deficient people who get hot easily need to eat more cooling types of foods.People who are prone to Damp and Spleen deficient constitutions need to avoid yeast-promoting foods and greasy and oily, raw, and cold foods.Those who have Damp Heat Toxin constitutions need to stick with an anti-inflammatory diet. If you have more questions regarding what type of diet you should adhere to based on your Chinese medicine constitution, feel free to schedule a nutrition consultation with our doctors at TCM Healing Center!
For those who like to eat meat, papaya or pineapple should be eaten after a meal to aid in the proper digestion of protein. These two fruits contain proteolytic enzymes which have natural antibacterial properties and aid in the process of protein hydrolysis. Green tea is another superfood which should be drunken regularly. It contains EGCG, which has anti-cancerous properties.
5. Soak feet in warm/hot water before sleep.
Doing this can help drain all excessive thoughts down to the feet, clear the brain, and assist in good quality sleep. For women, soaking feet in warm/hot water while massaging the medial aspect of the legs along the Spleen, Liver, and Kidney channels can improve the body’s micro-circulation and balance hormonal function.
In Part 3, we will discuss the preventative treatment of disease in Traditional Chinese Medicine.