Health Intuitive

Chinese Nutritional Therapy’s Answer To Weak Digestion

There is heated debate as to what’s healthier to eat: cooked foods or raw foods. In Chinese nutritional therapy, it is essential that foods must be cooked. This is directly the opposite of the view of the West which claims that cooking destroys raw enzymes and ‘denatures’ food. However, there are people who cannot tolerate raw foods. In people with weak digestive systems, eating raw foods can result in too much flatulence and/or stomach aches.

Other topics of debate are about fasting and vegetarianism. Despite the nearness of China to India and the exchange of ideas that have been going on between these two countries for centuries, there still remain certain fundamental differences between diet and eating habits. In ancient Indian healing system, abstaining from food for a short while (fasting) is encouraged in order to detoxify the body and rest the digestive system. In Chinese nutritional therapy, however, fasting is not promoted because it is suspected to weaken the digestive system. What are recommended for illness are the consumption of herbal teas as well as plain, simple, and easily digestible foods. In India, practicing vegetarianism is commonplace but it is seldom practiced in mainland China.

In general, the Chinese are not vegetarians except for the monks and Taoists. Meat tonifies both the yin and yang of the body and is considered an important part of a healthy diet. Mealtimes, in Chinese culture, usually involve a combination of noodles or rice, fish, meats, and vegetables.

This doesn’t mean that the Chinese are right and the Indians wrong and vice versa. Both ways of eating bring about disadvantages and benefits to these people. What this implies is that when it comes to eating habits and food there are no fast and hard rules.

Another more critical factor to consider is that good digestion is based not merely on the quality of food consumed, but also on the body’s ability to digest it. If a person suffers from weak digestion, he may not be able to fully absorb the nutrients from the foods. In Chinese medicine, the Stomach and Spleen energy channels govern digestion. So if these channels are weak, then the person may experience symptoms of tiredness or bloating after eating, food intolerances, stomach aches, diarrhea, or rumblings in the intestines and may suffer from low energy. The improper absorption of food may result in a thin body and low energy. Conversely, food absorbed extremely well but is inefficiently converted into energy will lead to tiredness (again) and weight gain.

We can eat the world’s best food and it will go to waste in this manner. People with strong digestion can consume an order of large fries and big mac and benefit from it. But if they suffer from a weak digestion they can consume a Jamie Oliver meal and derive minimal benefits from it.

Sometimes your digestion can be weakened from an illness. When this occurs, Chinese nutritional therapy would recommend eating easily digestible and very simple foods. Each culture has some form of this. The Japanese and Chinese have rice porridge or congee – a very simple meal that is served in Chinese restaurants. The recipe for congee is as follows:

Ingredients:

 One teaspoonful salt
 Nine cups of water
 Three quarters long grain rice

How to Prepare Congee:

Put rice and water in a large pot and boil.

When the rice starts to boil, reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot with a lid and tilt it to let steam escape.

With the heat set to low, stir the pot periodically until the rice has a porridge-like texture – creamy and thick. Cook for about one to two hours then serve. For taste, add a little soya, garnishes, seasonings, and/or salt.

For a more nutritious congee, instead of white rice you can use wholegrain brown rice although this may increase cooking time for about three to four hours. You can also opt to cook your congee using a pressure cooker. This will only take about an hour to cook.

Dr. Marco Dibonaventura – Board Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist in King of Prussia, PA

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