Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chinese Medicine, Life, and Wellness

Most people in any form of medical field get into the field to promote wellness. Wellness is about more than aches and pains, indigestion, or other symptoms.  Wellness is a balance of mind, body, and spirit.  Even if your health cannot be "perfect," you can be "well."  Here are some of the things I've learned about  wellness from Chinese medicine and my own experience:

  1. If your mind isn't well, you aren't well. I'm something of a worrywort, although I've gotten better over the years.  When I worry, I can't sleep, my muscles ache, it's hard to digest food (and I crave sugary, unhealthy things), and I'm cranky to everyone around me.  Once I tackled my worry and started taking steps to  have more peace of mind, these symptoms diminished dramatically. At first, learning not to worry was hard, but with practice it has become easier.  I still worry, but I catch myself sooner, and use the worry to find areas that need change.  Here is an article on dealing with worry and anxiety. If you are dealing with worry, unresolved anger, stress, or depression, find the help you need to resolve these issues.  Once your mind is at peace, your health will improve!
  2. What you eat affects everything. When I was working on  my mental health, I sometimes found myself melting down over problems I thought I had dealt with emotionally.  It took a few months to make the connection, but I finally realized that the food I eat affects my emotions.  In my case, sugar, especially corn sugar affects my mood and makes me more easily affected by emotion.  On the other hand, the more vegetables I have, the better I feel.  I am more upbeat, have less pain, and have more energy.  I have treated people where food affected skin conditions, asthma, pain, anxiety, and, of course, digestion.  If you have a recurring health problem, keep a food log and a symptom log.  A food log is just a list of everything you eat.  There are several online and as mobile apps, some of them free.  Do a search for "food log" to find one that is right for you. A symptom log can be as simple as putting a "good/fair/bad" marking on each calendar for how you feel to a detailed list of symptoms. Be sure to list "good" symptoms (great energy, lots of ideas, good digestion) as well--focusing on the positive is an important key to well-being. After keeping your logs for a few weeks, look them over.  Notice if feeling particularly good or bad corresponds to eating a particular food.  I find my food reactions tend to take place within 3 days or so of eating, so use that as a guide in making decisions about what may be causing your symptoms. 
  3. Eat things your body recognizes as food. Our bodies digest food by breaking down the chemicals in food to usable substances.  Foods that are natural have been around for thousands of years, and we are biologically better able to digest these foods.  Foods tend to be better sources of nutrients than supplements for this reason.  The chemistry of nutrition can be very complex (see this article on absorbing calcium for a quick example), but for most people eating natural, minimally processed food, getting plenty of water, some sun and exercise will make sure you get what you need to absorb nutrients.  Taking a lot of  supplements sometimes throws off this balance, so unless you are very deficient or really will not eat well, food is a better option to get your nutrients.  Also, avoid artificial ingredients, including GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Your body is not equipped to deal with the odd chemical components of artificial and artificially-modified foods.  Problems vary, but inflammation, food allergies, and poor absorption are some of the issues natural food advocates fear are caused by artificial ingredients.
  4. Warm food and drink. This concept is fairly unique to Chinese medicine, and for some reason is hard  for most people to accept.  In Chinese medicine, we say the digestive energy is like a giant soup pot, and all the different functions of the body are like people coming up to get a cup of soup so they have the energy to do their jobs.  Ideally, the "soup pot" should be constantly simmering, always ready when a meal is needed.  As anyone who cooks knows, when you have a simmering pot of soup and you add raw or frozen vegetables to it, the cooking stops as all the food is brought back up to temperature.  In digestion, food that is cold or raw is harder to breakdown, and so takes a while to be usable.  Eating warm, cooked food and warm beverages allows your body to use the extra energy it would need to break down food for fixing problems and better health.  I have had patients with severe pain, poor sleep, and painful digestion see immediate improvement just by eating warm foods.
  5. Be positive! Positive people are happier, healthier, and tend to have better things happen to them . Even if you don't consider yourself an optimist, you can develop a more optimistic outlook.  Here is a good article to start with to become more optimistic.
In Chinese medicine, we say that if your digestion and emotions are in good shape, and you have pretty good genes, you will be healthy (barring being hit by a truck or something).  I hope you use this article as a springboard to wellness!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear your comments!