When I first saw Nora* several years ago, she was about 80 pounds overweight and was suffering from severe sinus problems. While she came for acupuncture to relieve her sinus problems, it was clear to me that her diet was making her sick. Nora’s eating was out of control; she ate lots of junk food, sweets, and rich, greasy meats.
Nora’s eating habits were obviously responsible for her obesity, but according to Chinese medicine, the damage went even deeper. The poor nutritional quality of the food she was eating and the excess weight was damaging Nora’s health, including her sinuses.
According to Chinese medical theory, food is like medicine that you eat three times a day—and for some of us, even more. Illness can occur if you don’t eat the right foods, if you eat too much or too little; of if your foods are not cooked properly.
Dietary therapy is often the first line of defense in Chinese medicine, and can treat a variety of conditions. In theory, practitioners should treat their patients first through food therapy and lifestyle changes. If a patient does not get better, then they should be treated with herbs and acupuncture. In reality, however, dietary therapy is frequently combined with acupuncture and herbal medicine for the best results.
According to the Chinese, foods have inherent properties. They can have an action or an effect on a particular organ. For example, ginger is a food that can calm an upset stomach, and celery is helpful in draining edema. Foods also have inherent temperatures, which can exert an effect on the temperature of your body. For example, cold or cooling foods include cucumbers, tomatoes, or watermelon, and warming foods include scallions, onions, lamb, and trout.
I worked with Nora for several months, combining acupuncture with dietary therapy. While she made some progress, Nora was unable to make the dietary changes necessary to resolve her chronic sinus problems. Ultimately, Nora went to Overeaters Anonymous, and through their program lost about 75 pounds. After changing her diet and losing weight, Nora’s sinuses cleared up completely without medication of any kind.
For more information on healing with Chinese food therapy, check out Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health.
*Names and identifying details have been changed.