Updated: Apr 15, 2018
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the world is a harmonious and holistic entity where all living beings are viewed in relation to the surrounding environment. Since ancient times, the Chinese have tried to explain different complicated phenomena by creating yin yang or the five elements theories. Man is part of the holistic entity, and takes his cue from nature. He is influenced directly and indirectly by changes in weather and needs to make corresponding physiological and pathological responses.
For example, a change of season causes the rate, rhythm, volume and tension of the pulse to vary. The pulse tends to be taut in spring, full in summer, floating in autumn and sunken in winter. TCM physicians will take this into account when distinguishing the abnormal pulse from the normal. The occurrence, development and change in the pattern of many diseases are seasonal such as wenbing occurring in spring, sun strokes in summer, dryness-related symptoms in autumn, and cold stroke syndromes in winter.
Published in 1330AD, illustration of Yinshan Zhengyao (Important Principles of Food and Drink) states that spring is appropriate to eat wheat. However, we can take active measures to prevent disease and maintain good health. One common method is to consume different foods according to the season. The Chinese widely believe that we are what we eat, and most dietary guidelines follow on from nature. According to TCM philosophies, if we imbibe seasonal foods that are similar in nature to the external environment, we remain in harmony with the environment, adapt better to changes in season and stay healthy.
The basic principle being applied is "nourishing yang in spring and summer time, and nourishing yin in autumn and winter time." The ancient Chinese realized that in accordance with seasonal changes, yang qi tends to flow outwards and occupies the body surface in spring and summer and therefore, the innards get relatively depleted of yang qi and need replenishing.
At the same time, the weather in autumn and winter is cold and dry, and it is important to keep warm and prevent dryness. Through the methods of replenishing yin and nourishing dryness, TCM believes it is a way to build up energy and prepare for the coming seasons.
Spring foods: Chinese yam, bamboo shoot and mushrooms.
Spring is the season of new birth and new growth. According to TCM, spring belongs to the wood element and dominates liver functioning. If we don’t adapt to the changing climate in spring, we may susceptible to seasonal health problems, such as flu, pneumonia, or a relapse of chronic diseases. It is advisable to reduce the intake of sour flavours and increase sweet and pungent flavors as this facilitates the liver to regulate the qi (vital energy) throughout the body. Examples of recommended foods for the spring include onions, leeks, leaf mustard, Chinese yam, wheat, dates, cilantro, mushrooms, spinach and bamboo shoots.
Fresh green and leafy vegetables should also be included in meals; sprouts from seeds are also valuable. In addition, uncooked, frozen and fried foods should only be taken in moderation since these are harmful to the spleen and stomach if consumed in large amounts. As cold winter keeps us indoors and tends to make us eat too much, people may develop a heat balance in the spring, which leads to dry throats, bad breath, constipation, thick tongue coating and yellowish urine. Foods like bananas, pears, water chestnuts, sugar cane, celery and cucumber help to clear the excessive heat.
Working with you to understand which Spring foods can be best for you, is just one of the many ways Traditional Chinese Medicine is different but complimentary to Western Medicine.
Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an acupuncture treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here
Excerpts from the original article by Shennong.