Adiós, slow roasted sweet potatoes and beef. Hello,
green onions! Although the calendar says spring doesn't officially
start until March 20th on the Spring Equinox, we all felt the shift
about a week ago. I'm not just talking about the temperature moving
from 35º to 55º in two days, although that was awesome, too. When
the seasons change, everything changes. If you are remotely in tune
with your body, the earth, the energy of the universe, etc., then
you felt it, too.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the concept of the Five
Elements or Phases shows that each season is connected to one of
the functional organ systems of the body. Winter is the kidney and
spring is the liver. Easy enough, right? Well, there's more. The
body needs to be prepared gently and thoroughly for the transition
to a new season, and while acupuncture and herbal medicine
certainly play their role, dietary therapy is really where it's
The winter was a time of hunkering down, tonifying the kidney
and urinary bladder with salt and animal fats, thickening the
blood, and conserving energy through the cold long season. Now that
spring is upon us, it's time to lighten up -- literally. The
Inner Classic teaches that we should reawaken the body and
prepare for new beginnings by rising with the sun and taking brisk
walks. Spring is the time to gather up stored energy and push
upward, like a sprouting plant in the garden.
Spring is also a time for cleansing, and TCM focuses that
cleansing on the organs that need it most this time of year -- the
liver and gall bladder. After gorging on fatty steaks in the
winter, the springtime requires a diet of small amounts of light
food with yang qualities. Think sprouts, greens, young plants, and
shoots. Heavy foods can clog the liver and gall bladder, leading to
fevers and other springtime maladies.
Want specifics? Lay off the salt -- including soy sauce and miso
-- and heavy meats. Instead, cook with something lighter, bringing
in the pungent flavors of basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary,
caraway, dill, and bay leaf. Throw in some young garden pickings
like small beets, carrots, and peas. Use more simple, raw foods
instead of slow roasting or stewing. Both the Ayurvedic tradition
and the ancient Chinese encouraged people to choose wind-like, airy
foods during the springtime, to promote cleansing and new
While the Chinese do not recommend eating raw foods in abundance
or all year round, they do encourage more raw foods in the
springtime. If a person is weak, frail, or deficient, then they
might not do well with raw foods, even during the spring. If a
person is hot and full of excesses, then bring on the plates full
of raw celery and cucumbers. As with everything, dietary
recommendations are guided by general principles, but are always
customized to the individual.
In the United States, our climate is mostly temperate. Thus, we
can apply most of the dietary suggestions from TCM, including the
use of light, raw foods in the springtime. You can still cook some
things -- just make it quick. A short, high-temperature sauté is
appropriate, as is a brief steaming.
Why should you care to adjust your springtime diet? You don't
have to. You can go on shoving your face full of rib eye and baked
potatoes slathered in sour cream and butter (Ohh, I miss the winter
diet already!), but tell me how you feel in about a month or
What's the risk? The liver-gall bladder duo can be quite a
beast. The first sign of an imbalanced liver is angry outbursts,
accompanied by frustration, dissatisfaction, and impulsiveness.
Once the gall bladder gets bogged down, too, then add in
indecisiveness and unclear thinking. You might experience eye or
vision trouble or tendon stiffness and joint pain, or pain or
discomfort anywhere along the Liver or Gall Bladder meridians of
I know it's hard to change. I love salt, steak, and butter more
than anyone I've ever met, but I've also learned my lesson. I've
clogged my liver and gall bladder one too many times. I've had the
blurry vision, sticky feeling in the eyes, bitter taste in the
mouth, angry outbursts, and all of the other things the Chinese
warned me about.
This week, I'm doing this -- the TCM Gallbladder cleanse!
I'm not going to say you should drink milk, and I'm not going to
say you shouldn't drink milk, but I am going to say some things
about drinking milk. In my house, we have to specify "cow's milk"
for a discussion like this one, because we also stock a decent
rotation of rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and even soy milk
on occasion. I really don't like any of that stuff, but somewhere
along the way my kids and husband took a shining to them. So, now I
buy like five milks, most of which aren't milk at all, but "drinks"
of sorts. OK.
Today let's focus on the
gold standard of milk -- cow's milk. You know, the good ole white
jug. It's the perfect food...for calves. Is it also the perfect
food, or even an acceptable food, for humans? Do we have a
biological need for the nutritional profile that turns a newborn
calf into a full-grown bull? Kind of sounds ridiculous when you
think about it, doesn't it? When your cat has a baby, do you pump
some extra human breast milk and give it to the kitten just for
good measure? Oh, so now it sounds preposterous?
Drinking milk seems to be one of those things that people just
do out of habit. Your mom gave you a glass of milk with dinner. (I
know grown men who still want a glass of milk with Thanksgiving
dinner.) Your elementary school plopped that cute little missing
persons carton on your lunch tray every day. You pour it on your
cereal, and you probably grew up to do the same when you had your
own children. We're propagating a vicious cycle of humans drinking
cow's milk here, people. If you're not part of the solution, you're
part of the problem.
Have you ever asked yourself why? Why do we go from drinking
human breast milk after a year or few to drinking a cow's breast
milk? Do cows do it better? What is happening? Let's let the
ancient Chinese take the wheel for a minute. What properties does
milk have according to TCM?
Hmmmm. The conclusion is, like almost every naturally occurring
food, milk is good for some of the people some of the time. Chinese
medicine doesn't usually make blanket statements like "X food is
always good for you" or "Y food is always bad for everyone."
Instead, TCM shows us that each food has a set of properties,
making each food the right choice or the wrong choice for a given
person at a given time, depending on that individual's condition. A
dry, hot, thin person with a red tongue and rapid pulse might be
well nourished and moistened by a cool glass of milk. On the other
hand, a damp-retaining person with too much phlegm already might
want to stay away from milk most of the time.
What do I think? Again, I'm not here to tell anyone they should
or should not drink cow's milk. I will go ahead and share some of
the concerns that I find most important to consider when deciding
whether or not to reach for the white jug.
First, why are you drinking milk? Are you looking for protein,
calcium, Vitamin D or Vitamin A? Then I hope you're
drinkingwholemilk. Skim or reduced-fat milk might show high daily
values of these nutrients on the label, but without the naturally
occurring fat still present, your body cannot effectively absorb
and utilize the protein, calcium, Vitamin A or Vitamin D. You're
drinking it in, and you're peeing it out. Congratulations on that
very expensive urine.
Milk is certainly not the only place to obtain these nutrients,
but if these are the reasons you're drinking the milk, and you're
drinking skim milk, then do yourself a favor and don't bother! If
you simply love the texture of white water, I mean skim milk, then
go ahead and gulp it down. Just remember that you aren't netting
those nutrients listed on the label. In case your mind isn't blown
yet, go ahead and apply the same rules to all dairy. Low fat
cheese? Fat free yogurt? I hope you're eating it because you love
the taste, not because you're looking to effectively digest,
absorb, and utilize those nutrients.
Do I drink cow's milk? Not
really. Door to Door Organics delivers a white jug of organic whole
fat milk to my house every other week, and it gets used. My kids
drink a glass every other day or so, and my husband pours it on his
cereal -- not that we eat much cereal. Did anyone else see the
cover of Bloomberg Business last week? Yum, my cereal is
55% GMO sugar! I always wanted to start my day with a piece of cake
as a kid...little did I know, I was!
Sorry--my daughter took her red pen and told Tony what she
thinks of his cereal. Drink cow's milk if you like it, but know
what you're dealing with. Your choices matter in building the
health and wellness that you see for your life.
Hot olive oil is carcinogenic. I'm trying to cut to the chase in
my writing -- can you tell?
When extra virgin olive
oil is heated to its smoke point of around 300º Fahrenheit, bad
things happen. Its protective anti-oxidants become cancer-causing
free radicals. I know, I know...bring on the cop-out onslaught of
"Everything causes cancer, there's no point in worrying about it."
Wrong. That's the answer given by two groups of people, and
(spoiler alert) you don't want to be in either group.
First, and more acceptable, is the group
of people who really haven't looked into health and nutrition at
all. OK, hey, this is a diversified society. Not everyone has to be
an expert in every subject. Some people can grow the food, others
can study chemistry, and some can sell the apples at the market.
It's 2015, as Tricia would say. You're a productive member of
society, but you're busy. I know. You see a commercial saying "I
Can't Believe It's Not Butter is a healthy choice," you run out and
buy it, and you figure you're doing a decent job in life. Well,
you're wrong. At minimum, really though, shouldn't every adult
eater in America take a few minutes out of the upcoming "dancing
with famous people" show and perhaps start to learn a bit about
what you're putting into your body?
Secondly, and less acceptable, is the group of people who simply
don't care about what they've learned. These are the people who
read the same books about olive oil that I did, saw the
explanations about why it's a bad idea to heat olive oil in your
wok on stir-fry night, but keep doing it anyways. "Everything
causes cancer, so why should I bother switching to a healthier
option?" Gee, I don't know, maybe because you don't want to be on
the wrong side of "1 in 2 American men will get cancer in his
lifetime." Ladies, you're 1 in 3. Want specifics? Here's the full
wheel of fun: Lifetime Probability of Developing or Dying from
Here's a thought that not many people seem to care about.
Not everything causes cancer. There are actually lots of
things that don't seem to cause cancer. What about trying some
pesticide-free vine-ripened fruits and vegetables? Maybe refrain
from spraying yourself down in poison perfume every day? I'm not
saying you can simply walk through life making all the right
choices and be guaranteed cancer free. I am saying that there's
this whole thing called "epi-genetics" that effectively blows out
of the water the old lazy assumption that your genes have
predetermined whether or not you will get cancer or be obese, etc.
Not true. Your genes throw you into the world with a certain set of
probabilities, such as a 30% risk that your breast cancer switch
will be flipped on. Sure, that sucks, but it's not a death
What can you do about it? Something! Epi-genetics reminds us
that our lifestyle matters just as much, or more, than our genetic
predeterminations. "Only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be
attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have
their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors
include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol,
sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress,
obesity, and physical inactivity." Nobody hates that alcohol part
more than I do, believe me, but the overall point is still
This was supposed to be about olive oil, wasn't it? Well, now
you know why I don't cook with olive oil. I cook with organic,
grass-fed butter, and my husband prefers coconut oil, both of which
have higher smoke points than olive oil does, meaning that we can
cook at higher temperatures more safely. Some of you will google
this "hearsay" and find websites that say not to worry about it,
because all cooking of all food breaks down nutrients and produces
some free radicals, and your body is programmed to deal with that
small amount of carcinogens. You'll be fine...probably. Really?
How's that working out for you? Which group of the "1 in 2
Americans" do you think you're in? Clearly, friends, we are
bombarding our bodies with way too many carcinogens these
YOUR CHOICES MATTER. Make some.
Anand, P., Kunnumakara, A. B., Sundaram, C., Harikumar, K. B.,
Tharakan, S. T., Lai, O. S., ... Aggarwal, B. B. (2008). Cancer is
a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes.
Pharmaceutical Research, 25(9), 2097-2116.
Ever heard of "bedpan
bullets?" If you take a multivitamin from the grocery store shelf,
odds are high that your body is not absorbing the vitamins and
minerals listed on the side of the bottle. Nurses have been finding
mostly-intact tablets in the bedpans of patients for years,
sometimes so undissolved that the popular brand name is still
How could this be true? How could my beloved multivitamin, that
I've watched TV commercials for thousands of times, be a total
waste of money? I checked the side of the bottle! It says it's
giving me 100% of my daily need for Niacin. What could go
Well, yes, you are popping
a one-a-day that shows 100%s for most of your vitamins and
minerals...but that does not mean that those nutrients are
bioavailable. Your body is not absorbing nearly 100%, but instead,
just shooting the tablet out your other end.
"Studies have shown individual vitamin isolates in supplements
are about 10% absorbed. Compare this to vitamins directly from a
fresh plant source, which are 77% to 93% absorbed. Minerals in a
supplement are even worse -- 1% to 5%. But, from a plant source
like raw broccoli, the minerals are 63% to 78% absorbable." Read
more at HealthGuidance.org.
The jig is up. In December
2013, the Annals of Internal Medicine published three
papers on the health outcomes of regularly taking multivitamin
supplements. Each concluded that it's essentially worthless -- and
potentially dangerous -- to pop that multivitamin. The studies
specifically looked at improvements in memory and cognition and
reduction in rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The
editorial explanation put out with these papers argued against
taking them, stating, "Most supplements do not prevent chronic
disease or death, their use is not justiﬁed, and they should be
avoided." Check out this article from ScienceBasedMedicine.org, which links to all 3
referenced papers and the associated editorial:
So what should a
well-meaning, crappy American diet-eating individual do to fill in
the obvious gaps in whole-food nutrition?
Most of us have a diet comprised of eating out or eating
prepackaged factory foods. If you do step up and buy (conventional)
produce and chow down on that, you're inundating your body with
pesticides. Plus, your apple has probably irradiated to improve
shelf life by destroying its vital energy. Unless you are eating an
entirely organic, local, vine- or tree-ripened and immediately
consumed diet of all fresh foods, your body almost certainly is not
bringing in the vitamins and minerals that it needs (nor the
digestive enzymes needed to use them). Even with my
backyard garden, attempts to eat organic and local, and cooking
from scratch almost daily, I'm sure I'm still all nutritionally
holey as the ole slice of Swiss cheese.
The next best thing to the
above mentioned beautiful diet is to look for a supplement that is
whole-food based and bioavailable. I'll give you a clue--you
probably won't find it on the sale aisle at the Jewel. Talk to your
knowledgeable healthcare professional today about what type of
supplementation is appropriate for your body and lifestyle. Dietary
therapy and associated nutritional counseling is part of the Acupuncture and
Oriental Medicine program, as "food therapy" is one of the
long-standing branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Who else
can help? Your chiropractor and your naturopathic doctor also go
through extensive education on supplements--ask one of us!
Curious ladies are dying
to know. Could the articles be true? Is drinking a glass of wine
the health equivalent of working out at the gym? This. Is.
Here's the article: Resveratrol may be natural exercise performance
enchancer - Science Daily. If you have a Facebook account, I'm
sure you've at least seen the headline "Glass of Wine Equal to Hour
at the Gym!" and the equally delighted personalized status updates
by every woman and half the men you are "friends" with.
So, does the study actually prove this?
Kind of. A team of researchers on the University of Alberta Faculty
of Medicine and Dentistry found that resveratrol, a natural
compound found in some fruits, nuts, and wine, mimics the effects
of hard physical exercise on the human body. Although their
conclusions leaned more towards creating a resveratrol supplement
that could be given to patients that were unable to exercise --
such as a car accident victim with four broken limbs, I guess.
Naturally, the people did not stop there. Our lushy society has
taken it upon ourselves to extrapolate the potential ways this
could impact the average person. Can't make it to the gym tonight
after all? No problem -- have a glass of wine! Don't feel like
going for that run in the rain? Don't worry about it -- go back
inside and drink wine!
What's the catch? There
are a couple of details here. Again, their research was geared
towards creating a performance-enhancing supplement, not a
substitute for performance entirely. They said resveratrolmimicsthe
results of endurance training...it's not quite as perfect in every
way. Also, we are only talking about red wine here. "Why?" wonders
the lady who only likes sweet dessert wines. The answer is that
resveratrol -- the important part of the wine for this discussion
-- is found primarily in the skin ofredgrapes. White wine just
doesn't have the resveratrol levels that would make an impact in
your big sea of body.
Western medicine always
thinks it's discovering something new. Well...not this time,
fellas! Chinese medicine has listed red wine as a therapeutic
dietary choice for thousands of years. In TCM, red wine is dry and
hot, so it expels dampness and warms the interior, expelling cold.
Is that why I always crave a glass of Pinot Noir on a cold winter
The Chinese also use wine as a guiding element, directing other
herbs or foods where the body needs those influences. They see wine
as capable of moving blood and qi, which can help dispel not only
cold but also stasis and stagnation of many types and
manifestations. Both East and West recognize that red wine can
I'm not going to say that TCM wins again, but yes I basically am
saying that TCM wins again. Let's compromise over a glass of red
• So What Is Chinese Medicine?
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
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