Anxiety can trigger a variety of responses in the human body, from physical responses such as sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, cold hands and body aches, to emotional responses such as disturbed sleep, irritability, fear and poor concentration, as well as behavioural and cognitive responses. The mental strain of a fast-paced modern life can easily lead to this myriad of unpleasant symptoms.
Conventional treatment for anxiety disorders include psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and applied relaxation, and medication such as some antidepressants and benzodiazepines (NICE, 2007). All drug treatments have side effects, and many may cause withdrawal symptoms.
Acupuncture can be used to effectively treat anxiety. Research has shown that acupuncture helps to ease anxiety by acting on areas of the brain in charge with reducing sensitivity to pain and stress, hence promoting the relaxation response.
Acupuncture regulates hormones and neurotransmitters that are known to affect our mood and well-being, such as endorphins, serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. Acupuncture can be also used safely and effectively in conjunction with conventional drug treatment, minimising the unwanted side effects.
Treatment is always based on a full case history before deciding on a treatment plan that may consist of acupuncture, herbal medicine, lifestyle and dietary advice. We have seen great results in addressing anxiety disorders and it is really rewarding to see positive effects in our patient’s lives.
It is helpful to examine how dampness is formed. Have you ever thought about how food is processed inside your body? For over 2,000 years, the Chinese have observed the digestive process and declared proper digestion the cornerstone of the Chinese Medicine system and the foundation of good health. The digestive system is where the accumulation of dampness begins. When food enters your mouth, it travels through your stomach and intestines. Here, energy is extracted from the food and the waste products are expelled at the other end. The food energy that was extracted becomes your essential life force, providing the fuel you need to live every day. Digestion should be an unnoticeable event. Your digestive system should be quiet and clean burning to extract the most nutrition and energy from your food.
‘Clean burning’ is likened to metabolism. If you properly metabolize the foods that you ingest, the food is efficiently used and there is no leftover residue after the waste is excreted. If the system becomes clogged, however, the energy does not get adequately separated from the foodstuffs and although you excrete wastes, there is leftover residue that sticks to various places within the body.
This residue is considered ‘dampness’ and affects your body’s functions in various ways. Accumulated dampness clogs organs such as the lungs, causing allergies or asthma. When it clogs the digestive tract, indigestion or bowel problems can develop. Damp can also be ‘hidden’ and block meridians (the channels we use in acupuncture treatment that carry life force) leading to pain and stiffness or even swollen joints. Over time, dampness can become warm and create the diseases of inflammation such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Understanding and addressing dampness is one of the keys to treating disease in Chinese Medicine. Because it is so difficult to remove once it has accumulated, you can see the importance of not letting this dampness develop in the first place. How do we choose foods that prevent dampness, facilitate good digestion, and allow free flowing energy? Here’s where the wisdom of selecting foods based on their energetic properties comes in. This is simpler than you may imagine.
One food you won’t find on the Chinese Medicine diet is raw, cold food. This includes salads and chilled food, iced drinks, and frozen foods. Cold, raw foods are culprits in the formation of damp because it is difficult for your body to process them. In order for your digestive system to extract the essence of food, it must ensure the food is approximately body temperature before it can begin breaking it down. Heating the food inside your body strains your energetic resources, weakening your energy system over time. Lightly cooked vegetables and well-cooked grains allow your digestive system to immediately begin extracting energy without first having to heat the food to body temperature. Even though raw foods such as those found in salads contain slightly more enzymes and nutrients, the net gain is less than that of cooked vegetables as you lose energy to the internal heating/cooking process while trying to assimilate these foods.
Have you ever noticed the quantity of vegetables on a typical plate of Chinese food? You are usually served a heaping plate of lightly cooked vegetables when you order a dish that includes vegetables in a Chinese restaurant. Vegetables play a major role in draining dampness and are packed with life giving nutrition. A variety of colour and textures create a combination that is both pleasing to the eye and to the palate. Taste and texture plays an important role in regulating appetite. A wide variety ensures satiety, so you feel full. Varied colours provide a broad array of nutrients and antioxidants to promote health and longevity. Your plate should begin with a large quantity of lightly cooked vegetables. A good guideline is to fill half your plate with vegetables. You will want to include lots of leafy greens as these are one of the most balancing and nutrient dense foods you can eat.
Small quantities of animal protein or beans are included in the Chinese diet. The animal proteins are ‘building’ foods and can be difficult to digest hence the emphasis on ‘small’. A serving size of animal protein is typically 2-4 ounces 3-4 times per week. Beans can be eaten more often as they absorb dampness and provide fibre and protein. Your protein choice should fill the other quarter of your plate.
Notice that there is no cheese, butter, or milk on the Chinese menu. One of the reasons is the tendency of these foods to create dampness. Even if heated, dairy energetic nature is cold and hinders digestion. Chinese Medicine considers dairy to be a building food, and only suitable for undernourished people. This makes dairy very stagnating if you are already well fed.
Rice is a balanced food which is easily digested. In my allergic patients, rice is the number one hypo-allergenic food I recommend to help them with their symptoms while undergoing allergy treatments because it is so gentle to the digestive system. White or brown rice are interchangeable depending on which one digests most easily for you. White rice tends to be more cleansing while brown rice is considered more nourishing. Rice is a ‘clean burning’ food in Chinese Medicine which also gently drains dampness from the body. Rice should fill one quarter of your plate.
Different seasons of the year require modified cooking methods and different food choices. People naturally eat more warming, heavier foods in the winter, like soups, stews and baked foods. Conversely, in summer we are drawn to lighter, cooler types of foods that are more quickly cooked, like steamed vegetables. Varying your food choices according to seasons is a way to keep your body in sync with the natural environment. Eating warmer foods when the weather is cold and cooler foods during the warmer months keeps you healthy in all seasons.
In a culture concerned about calcium, we have been led to believe that dairy is the only source of this bone building mineral. This is far from the truth. Foods such as almonds, salmon, leafy greens, and broccoli are high in calcium and other minerals that are equally important in the formation of strong bones. Your calcium needs will be easily met by eating several servings of vegetables per day and adding small servings of salmon and almonds to your diet each week.
Concentrated sweets – like soda, candy, sweetened yogurt, and energy bars – quickly create damp and are greatly over eaten in the modern diet. The flavour of ‘sweet’ is considered nourishing in Chinese dietary therapy. The majority of foods on the Chinese diet are primarily sweet. By sweet, the Chinese mean rice, animal protein, and vegetables, not concentrated sugars. If vegetables are considered sweet, you can imagine the intense sweetness of a piece of chocolate cake. The sweet flavour of rice, meat, and vegetables benefits the digestive organs. Concentrated sweets such as sugar impair the body’s ability to transform food into energy and to transport the wastes for elimination. Incompletely transformed food becomes dampness, accumulating over time to produce blockage and disease. [Foods are considered to be made of 5 different flavours – sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, and salty. Balancing these flavours in accordance with your individual body type, disease pattern, and season are all part of Chinese dietary therapy. This is a complex subject that can be explored in the book The Tao of Healthy Eating: Dietary Wisdom According to Traditional Chinese by Bob Flaws]
Can you help me plan and implement a suitable Chinese diet specific to my requirements?
Yes. Bliss Acupuncture help clients identify and treat underlying patterns of imbalance that are driving your symptoms. Chinese medicine dietary therapy will create a foundation for healthy living by choosing more balancing foods based on common energetic principles.
Am I suitable for a Chinese diet if I suffer from common food allergies?
Absolutely. Bliss Acupuncture will help you adopt a Chinese diet that incorporates eating patterns and food types that best serve your goals to achieving a well balanced and healthy body.