Food Therapy Based On Chinese Medicine to Address Stress
These are unique and stressful times. The majority of people I encounter are struggling with new levels of stress on a daily basis. While Chinese medical food therapy cannot remove stress from our lives, it can help mitigate the toll it takes on our body and reduce our reactivity to stressors.
Here are the basics of Chinese medicine based food therapy:
- One: each season is associated with a specific organ system
- Two: each organ system naturally responds to certain flavors of food, certain produce, grain, protein, and culinary spices
- Three: each season presents a great opportunity to strengthen the organs associated with it. Each season there are also certain health conditions or emotional imbalances that are likely to occur if the season’s organ system is a little out of ideal health.
- Finally: When more complicated situations arise, we need to look at combining the seasonal based guidelines for eating with a slightly different approach to food.
Combating Stress in Winter
Winter is typically a season to relax, to slow down, and to allow our body time to rebuild the foundation of our health. When stressful events counteract the energy of winter or prevent us from relaxation or slowing down in our daily winter lives, we can still use food therapy to both build our foundation and to combat the effects of stress.
If you know anything about Chinese medicine food therapy, we will look at the basics for both winter and spring for our food guidelines. If you are new to Chinese medicine food therapy, don’t worry, this blog will spell it out for you.
Stress is a frenetic, rising experience that often invokes emotions of anxiousness, frustration, irritability, anger, or depression. Fear can also make an appearance. Overexposure to stress or feeling stuck in the experience of stress will slowly burn up the liquid components of our body; blood, yin, and body fluids. These fluid aspects of our body are the dense, liquid component that will help to anchor the frenetic, rising emotions and make us less reactive to stress. Imagine how quickly a car engine can overheat without coolant and oil.
To combat stress in the Winter:
Make sure to drink beef bone stock or vegetable stock daily. Either drink 1/2 cup a day, or use it to cook whole grains, or to make soup. Consuming broth will help rebuild your anchor.
Eat most of your foods cooked. Winter is an important time to cook your food to avoid causing undue taxation on your digestive system. Cooked food is easier to digest. Winter is the ideal time to give your body a break. For more information on this check out Michael Pollan’s book Cooked. There is an excellent anthropological explanation of our need to cook our food.
Make sure to regulate your blood sugar by eating three meals a day, plus snacks. Aim for whole foods, and avoid overly processed foods.
When feeling easily frustrated or anxious, look for sour flavored foods. The sour flavor anchors, consolidates, and builds yin. Great sour foods for high stress days are: hibiscus tea, teas made with citrus peels, eating any kind of citrus, vinegars, and fermented foods like sauerkraut kombucha, and kimchi. Try to add sour flavors to a couple meals and drink sour beverages throughout the day.
Great ways to sneak in more sour foods: squeeze lemon or lime onto your meals. Squeeze limes on tacos, on thai curry, squeeze lemon on steamed or sauteed vegetables. Add lime or lemon wedges into your water. Drink hibiscus tea 2-3x a day instead of water.
Strong sour flavors like drinking vinegars or a strong hibiscus tea can be very useful in a high stress moment to quickly take the edge off. New to the idea of drinking vinegars? Drinking vinegars explained by Stick Out Your Tongue
Make sure to get protein at each meal. If you find yourself feeling extra anxious and shaky, make sure to eat a snack with either a fruit and protein, or a vegetable and protein. Protein will help normalize your blood sugar, which will in turn avoid feeling overly influenced by external stressors.
Remember to do your basic self care. FIve Tips For Self-Care