Obesity in Chinese Medical Theory
In contrast to most modern medical theories behind weight gain, Chinese Medicine has a slightly different view to why people become obese.
The central premise is that It's rarely how much you eat but rather these two factors that cause obesity:
- What you eat
- How efficient your body is at metabolizing the food you take in
Yes, the third factor is poor eating, but we believe that both eating too much or too little in this case has the same effect, ie, of damaging the body's ability to properly digest food, resulting in the accumulation of untransformed food in the form of "dampness" which accumulates "in the space between the muscles and the skin". Before I discuss what types of food will "make you fat", it is more important to discuss the second reason for weight gain, ie, the efficiency with which your body metabolises or as we say "transforms" that food into beneficial substances in the body instead of fat.
How your digestion works in Chinese Medicine
In TCM we say that digestion is a process of warm transformation. This means that your body requires heat in order to digest the food that is taken in. Remember that if the food is not properly digested this accumulates as phlegm and or dampness in the body which is what we call the actual fat that accumulates. This heat is in turn provided by the general heat of the body which we say is stored in the kidneys. Chinese Medical schools liken this to the fire that has to burn under a pot in order for the food in the pot to get cooked. Butthats not all, the digestion itself has to be strong, this is similar to the ability of the pancreas to secure the pancreatic enzymes responsible for digestion in sufficient quantities to enable this. So that far we have identified a weak digestion as well as not enough heat from the kidneys as contributors to obesity. There are two more less common "patterns" involving apredispisition to "dampness" in the body which is often hereditary and also a condition called "Liver qi stagnation" where the accumulation of fat in the body is secondary to a poor circulation problem, in the future parts of this article I will expound on the characteristics of each "pattern" of obesity but for now I will soothe your conscience in telling you that it's not entirely your fault, yes that ice-cream is not the best thing for you and neither is that chocolate bar but it's how you digest or whether you can that will really determine whether it will make you fat or not. The Chinese Medical books say that if your your collection is strong you can go many days without eating, and you can eat a lot without having a problem. After digesting the food it has to be transported properly to the various parts of the body, in fact even before digesting the food it has to be transported or moved properly through the digestive system, as I mentioned a couple of sentences ago, one type of obesity is due to improper movement and hence stagnation of food.
What foods make you fat
For each person depending on what their underlying pattern is, the list of foods to avoid will be different and I will discuss those in more detail in the ensuing articles, however there are some general tips that I will mention below:
- As I mentioned above, digestion is a process of warm transformation, any food or practice that will, so to say, "douse the fire", will make digestion difficult and hence also make it easier to put on weight, examples of this include drinking cold water or drinks while or soon after eating and also having too much ice-cream. These are examples of food whose temperature is cold, but they are also foods which nature is cold that should be avoided, examples of these include raw salads, now I know this is going to stir some controversies but facts are facts and I do not care how much nutrients are in those raw salads, if you can not digest it, it does not matter. Keep in mind that some cases of obesity present with what we call stomach heat at the same time as there is a weak digestion and such patients will have a craving for all of the above.
- Grains, yes grains. Ancient Chinese Medical Literature mentions that excessive eating of grains (which would correspond to all carbs in our age) will make a person overweight. In this respect the Chinese theory would correspond with a low or reduced carb diet for weight loss but as stated before it really does depend on the individual pattern.
- Too much sweet. Sounds familiar? Here is the theory, Chinese Medicine states that the sweet flavor will actually benefit the digestion, in moderation. When taken in excess however it starts to have the opposite effect. This is also true with synthetic and refined sugars which are overly sweet and damage the digestive ability. Sugars also cause another problem though, they create heat in the stomach at the same time that they weakened the digestion and any Chinese Medicine practitioner would tell you that this is a characteristic of diabetes.
In conclusion of Part 1 in this series of articles, I summarize the main points below and give some advice on what you can implement now:
- Do not blame yourself for your weight problem, it's often more related to your digestive ability than how much you eat
- Do not douse the fire, hold off on the ice-cream and cold drinks especially during or after a meal
- Cut down on carbohydrates (do not go Atkins on me now, fruits are no problem, just limit the bread and rice)
- Avoid sweets, chocolates and sweetened drinks
If you do the above for a good length time you might not need to read the next article !, do not forget to subscribe to my mailing list for the next in this series of articles on obesity and Chinese Medicine.
Source by Dr Feroz Osman-Latib