Healthy Eating Habits: How to Eat According to TCM
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), food is heavily relied upon as medicine. What, when, the temperature of the food and how you eat it affects the function of your digestive organs (your spleen and stomach in Chinese medicine) which in turn influences the qi (energy) and function of all the other organs.
The four key rules for eating habits according to Chinese medicine principles are:
- Timing – best to eat at the same time every day. In TCM, the spleen and stomach are the organs most involved in digestion and they work best at certain times of the day. The stomach time is from 7-9 a.m., which is the best time of day to consume a good hearty breakfast. The spleen time follows the stomach, from 9-11 a.m., here you are digesting that hearty breakfast and turning it into energy for your body to use. These organs are weakest 12 hours later, so you want to avoid eating from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. to avoid damaging them.
- Weather temperature – External cold temperatures dictate the consumption of warmer foods like soups and stews, external heat calls for
colder foods like salads. Excessive consumption of cold, raw foods can damage the spleen, so ease up on the salads in winter, switch to lightly stir-fried or steamed foods.
- Be mindful of what you are doing while eating – You should be focused on eating, not watching TV, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, driving, walking etc. Being attentive to the task of eating, helps improve digestion, increases awareness of how much you are eating and helps you recognize when you are full. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for digestion, being overstimulated or stressed while eating decreases parasympathetic nervous system activity and increases sympatheic nervous system which directs resources away from your digestive tract.
- Quantity – You should eat to the point of 2/3 satiety, to allow some reserves in the digestive tract for the process of digestion