Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc
Audio Broadcast of the article is available below:
Eating cold raw foods can cause weight gain!!
I know you’re probably confused right now and this may sound surprising to you. Western medicine may even disagree with this or may call this a myth. But Chinese medicine has had an interesting view on our bodies digestive systems for thousands of years….and it’s still ringing true today!
How Chinese medicine views weight gain & obesity
First let’s find out how chinese medicine views weight gain.
Chinese medicine identifies weight (or fat) to the result of excess amounts of Dampness & phlegm in the body.
What is dampness and phlegm? Dampness is water fluids that have become stagnant, heavy and congested because it hasn’t been transformed properly. Phlegm is nothing other than dampness that is congealed. This usually happens over time.
The Process of Digestion in Chinese Medicine & the Stomach & Spleen Organ Systems
The stomach is referred to as the “cooking pot” in Chinese medicine and transforms the food we eat into a warm soup which then fuels our bodies with nutrients and energy.
In order to do this, there needs to be enough warmth (or fire). We call this our digestive fire.
The Spleen organ system is the centre of our digestion and most important organ involved in digestion. The spleen is in charge of the transformation and transportation of water fluids & food. This means that the food & liquids that enter our bodies are tranformed and transported so that it can move to other areas of the body, nourish us and provide us with energy. The spleen provides the stomach with enough digestive fire.
As you can see, of all organ systems in Chinese medicine, the functions of the spleen and stomach are the most important.
The spleen and stomach control digestion and are connected and interdependent.
When it comes to weight, there is always always always some element of spleen weakness.
When the spleen is weak and can’t transform water fluids in the body, this water fluids stagnates, becomes sluggish, heavy and weighs the body down. This is called dampness.
Over time, dampness can congeal into phlegm. Dampness and phlegm cause weight gain. Period.
What can cause the spleen to be weak?
Insufficient exercise, too much worrying and overthinking, overexercise, aging, chronic disease, irregular eating and drinking like eating too many sweets, too much fatty and fried foods and too many cold raw foods, overeating and eating too many difficult to digest foods.
2 Ways Cold Raw Foods Cause Weight Gain
- Cold foods put out our digestive fire and that means our bodies have to work even harder to break down our foods. More heat is generated as a result. Too much stomach heat makes us more hungry and difficult to get full. We then overeat which causes food stagnation. Food stagnation damages the spleen. When the spleen is not working optimally, dampness is created as a result. Dampness causes weight gain.
- Cold foods are difficult to digest and damage the spleen (essentially this means cold foods weaken our digestion). Spleen deficiency leads to dampness accumulation in the body because a weak spleen can’t transform the food & drink in our bodies properly which becomes dampness. This causes sluggishness, heaviness and weight gain.
Kidney’s Warming Energy (Yang)
The kidney system is also closely involved when it comes to weight.
The kidneys are in charge of creating and discharging urine and the urine is seen as a turbid (damp) fluid.
The kidneys and spleen mutually support and promote each other. More specifically, the spleen yang (warming energy) is rooted in the kidney yang so if the spleen becomes weak for any reason, eventually the kidneys will also become weak and vice versa.
This is typically involved for someone a bit older who is struggling with weight like in the late 40’s and 50’s.
We need enough warming energy (called yang in chinese medicine) to be able to transform phlegm – this is essentially like melting the phlegm. We need enough yang of the spleen and kidneys to melt the phlegm that causes weight gain.
Cold raw foods harm the yang warming energy of the spleen and kidneys causing fatigue, weight gain, cold body and sluggish or loose stools.
The unfortunate thing about getting older is that our spleen and kidney systems become weaker – so our digestion becomes weaker…but our stomach energy is still going strong. This means that we have a good appetite and continue to eat and maybe even overeat…but our digestive systems’ can’t handle it. This can lead to even greater spleen deficiency and damp accumulation.
Tips for Weight Management
- Avoid raw uncooked foods and incorporate more cooked foods in your diet
- Have a diet of 75% warm cooked foods to 25% cold raw foods
- Sip on hot water, ginger tea or cinnamon bark in hot water throughout the day
- Begin your day with a cup of hot water and lemon
- Avoid snacking, overeating & eating late at night; eat at regular times; Stop eating at 8pm.
- Avoid reading & other mental stimuli while eating; Don’t eat on-the-go; Sit down, relax and focus on eating during meals
- Eat a diet full of plenty of leafy & slightly cooked cruciferous veggies
- Avoid overconsumption of fruits; Eat fruits at room temperature (not straight out of the fridge); Eat whole fruits instead of juicing in order to benefit from the fiber and avoid high sugar content
- Limit dairy products as they are damp
- Eat a balanced diet complete with carbohydrates, protein and good fats
- Use small bowls/plates for your meals
- Don’t eat in front of the tv because you may end up overeating
- Go for a short walk after meals
- Chew your food well
- Don’t drink liquids with your meals
- Reduce fatty foods, deep fried foods, sugars and alcohol
- Get regular moderate exercise to encourage better circulation of energy and blood and to move the dampness out of the body
- See a qualified Chinese medicine practitioner for acupuncture
- Take a customized Chinese herbal formula prescribed by a qualified chinese medicine practitioner to support the spleen function and eliminate dampness and phlegm
Best of luck to you on your path to better health!
With Love & Support,
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