Nutrition as a source of Energy (Chi)
“The doctors of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and the causes of disease”. Thomas Edison
In Traditional Chinese Medicine nutrition is seen as a source of life force (Chi). However, this refers to high vibrational food, not non- commercially grown fruits and vegetables, junk sugars / fats/ proteins which are processed foods. Compare an organically grown fruit that has been allowed to naturally ripen on the tree, absorbing the energy from the sun, to a fruit picked green while still on the tree, containing many chemical pollutants, and placed in cold storage and supermarket shelves by the time it is bought and eaten. Which one has more life force? Also, life force doesn’t mean the amount of calories in a food. It is about how rich or poor it is in vital energy to feed our own vital energy. Every function in the body is dependent on this energy, permeating every cell and tissue.
In this article I will be presenting some helpful and enlightening insights from renowned author and trainer in the field of Reflexology, Inge Dougans, and her teachings about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). And further, some guidelines from leading fields in nutrition.
Fire Wood Analogy
Think of the analogy of a fire burning. The “fire” can be compared to the body, and the “wood” compared to the quality of food /diet. A high quality wood will keep the fire burning consistently well, whereas something like petrol being poured over it won’t. The fire explodes suddenly, then almost goes out, and one would have to keep pouring on the fuel in order to keep warm. This is just what one is doing when consuming sugar or processed foods. The system loses control of the blood sugar which goes dramatically up and down, making one feel constantly hungry and unsatisfied, experience difficulty in concentrating and mood swings.
Swimming Pool Analogy: Understanding pH Balance for Healthy Cells
Another way of understanding how to care for the body through diet is by using the swimming pool analogy. Think of a green swimming pool and a blue swimming pool. Which one is more inviting –and to whom? The green swimming pool can be compared to the body when it is very acidic, allowing the right breeding ground for unfavourable life forms such as algae etc. In terms of the body, an acidic state is the prime environment for viruses, yeasts, bacterias, and other pathogens, including cancer cells, to thrive. As a swimming pool would begin to rapidly deteriorate if the green water situation was not addressed, so does the body become more and more vulnerable to disease processes waiting to happen when kept in an acidic state by consuming a daily diet of acid forming foods, such as sugar and this also includes other chemicals like medication.
By treating the swimming pool correctly, and adding the right compounds to address the chemistry, the pool water eventually goes back to being blue again. In terms of the body, consuming an alkaline diet will translate into an alkaline cellular environment, due to the tissue fluids containing better mineral levels for cellular activities and functions. Happier cells mean happier organs and a healthier body. So we have learned about the important role that food actually plays in influencing the health of our cells.
Vital Role of the Stomach
The stomach is the organ that needs a good, strong acidic environment, in contrast to the rest of the body as a whole, which requires an alkaline environment to be healthy and function well. The stomach houses hydrochloric acid, a strong compound that has an extremely important role in killing or cancelling out pathogens entering the body through our food. Its other major function being to properly breakdown the food, especially proteins. Once this is done sufficiently, it allows for other macro nutrients, likes starches and carbohydrates to be broken down further along the digestive tract. The importance of proper digestion, besides being to provide adequate energy, is ultimately to derive the minerals and nutrients required to enter the bloodstream and move into the tissue fluids which bathe all of the cells in the body. This tissue fluid has to create an alkaline environment for optimal health of the cells.
However, when the acid levels in the stomach are not strong enough, poor digestion results creating a load on the immune system, due to pathogens surviving and entering the gut environment on the one hand, and on the other hand, insufficient minerals and nutrients capable of being absorbed into the bloodstream to ultimately feed the cells and create an alkaline environment for their optimal function.
The Buffer System - for pH Balance
When the above scenario happens, when stomach acids are weak, and a person’s diet is largely made up of acidic foods, like sugar for example, the body draws mineral reserves from the skeleton, from the bones and other tissues in order to ensure the alkalinity of the bloodstream and tissue fluids. This is not the ideal situation and weakens the body as a whole over time.
We land up with brittle bones, osteoporosis, arthritic conditions, muscle cramps (muscular-skeletal muscles as in calf cramps, but also of smooth muscles, like the uterus (as in period pain) and heart conditions. What we want to do is ensure that the body doesn’t have to resort to these measures, and that is made possible by eating a nutrient-rich, mineral-rich, alkaline diet, meaning a 70% vegetable based diet.
Your Face can show up Signs of Acidity, Hormonal & Blood Sugar Concerns in your Body
The electromagnetic pathway of the stomach meridian is about the pH balance in the body. It dominates the face, starting just under each eye, showing up eye conditions like a lower eyelid stye, conjunctivitis, exophthalmos (protrusion of the eyeballs. Thyroidism is often related to this latter condition, and incidentally, the partner of the stomach meridian, the spleen/pancreas meridian, passes through the thyroid). Bags and dark circles under the eyes are often linked to poor kidney function. These too point to problems with pH balance as well. The kidneys also play a role in controlling the pH balance of the body in their function of filtering the blood of toxins and waste products, and passing these onto the bladder for elimination. The kidneys are also responsible for controlling the sodium/potassium balance. The pathway of the stomach meridian further down the body actually penetrates the kidneys themselves.
The sinuses are also an area influenced by pH balance and, indirectly, blood sugar levels. The stomach meridian penetrates the sinuses and cheeks. Chronic sinusitis, mucus build-up, fine broken capillaries and redness in the cheeks, snoring, sleep apnea, enlarged adenoids, bronchial spasms, asthma, are all related. Low oxygen levels go hand in hand with high acidity in the system, hence the need to continually yawn or gasp for breath, or even open mouth breathing (instead of breathing through one’s nose). The stomach meridian also passes through the lungs. When the body struggles to utilize the oxygen molecules efficiently, as often happens in a person undergoing chronic stress, it can be seen as high acidity in the respiratory system. Interestingly in reflexology, this is often marked by callus formation in the skin found in the balls of the feet (the area of the lung reflexology points), notifying a trained eye that all in not as well as it should be.
The stomach meridian also passes around the mouth area, and problems show up as sores and ulcers in the mouth, teeth problems (specifically the molars), grinding of teeth during sleep, and salivary disorders like drooling onto the pillow at night, (even teething problems in babies).
If you are suffering with facial acne as a woman, it can be showing up hormonal imbalances. The stomach meridian passes through the ovaries. Think of your menstrual cycle and the delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone, especially at ovulation and menstruation when we get certain craving for sweet things and stimulants like tea and coffee and or cigarettes. High acidity in the diet is often due to one eating too many high glycemic foods, too many refined carbohydrates, and not enough protein, which disturbs blood sugar balance, causing high insulin to be secreted by the pancreas, leading to many other bio-chemical disruptions in the body. High blood sugar and high insulin levels upset the hormonal system overall.
The latter has to be understood as the main cause of the acne, and should be addressed accordingly, not merely by topical applications like acne skin products or strong acid-forming medications that will just upset the pH balance further and place extra bio-chemical burden on other important organs like the liver. Furthermore, as evidence of dysfunction in the ovaries, suppressing the acne by taking the synthetic hormones in the contraceptive Pill, Patch or Injection only adds to more hormonal complications and disturbances.
Looking at the face can thus also tell of possible infertility problems, things like facial hair on the upper lip and a pronounced vertical line between the nose and the upper lip. This section is also where the stomach meridian pathway runs, showing up congestion due to lifestyle problems to do with upsetting pH balance and blood sugar.
The same applies to breast health. The stomach meridian passes through the nipple line and one can see complaints related to the menstrual cycle. So one can have issues like inverted nipples, fibroids and cysts in the exact area of this meridian pathway, which also penetrates the ovaries where there can be imbalances between estrogen and progesterone. This can also be evidenced in the case of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Sydrome) often going hand in hand with acne (as described above) and blood sugar imbalances due to ongoing and unaddressed cravings for sweet substances and stimulants. (Inge Dougans, Reflexology: the 5 elements and their 12 meridians-a unique approach,(2005), P93-95).
STOMACH MERIDIAN PATHWAY THROUGH THE NIPPLE LINE AND OVARIES
The Apple Shape
In our article entitled “Not Overweight? But you could be Over FAT!”, we take from functional medicine and its explanation of why a person can still be unhealthy even if the scale says they don’t weigh too much. In other words, they have a poor body composition caused by muscle loss due to poor lifestyle habits like not having enough exercise, and eating a bad diet and chronically experiencing high stress levels that over-stimulate the pancreas to release insulin. Muscle loss, means that there is a poor muscle-to-fat ratio, and this compromises the body’s health (including one’s immune system), and contributes towards aging.
Often you hear people speak about having a fat belly. Well belly fat, which creates an apple shape body (a person with skinny arms and legs but a big “tummy”), is actually an indicator of having a predisposition towards diabetes and or heart disease. What is interesting here is that blood sugar affects the pH balance in the body, effecting congestion to build up along the stomach meridian pathway, which runs through the abdomen or “belly”. Its partner meridian is indeed the spleen/pancreas meridian. The spleen/pancreas meridian happens to have an internal branch which penetrates the heart. For example, heart palpitations is a symptom plotted along this electromagnetic pathway of the spleen/pancreas meridian, (notice the relationship between insulin resistance / diabetes and heart disease).
Other symptoms of pH imbalance:
Reproductive health conditions
Sinus problems, etc.
The Female System as a Garden
Dougans gives the analogy of the female human body as a garden. In TCM, the various organ pairs make up various elements. There are five elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. Without going into too much detail, the stomach meridian, and the spleen/pancreas meridian make up the Earth element. So now, think of a garden that requires the right compost to allow for the right soil to be balanced and enabling of seeds to thrive. The same is true in the case of a woman’s hormonal system, and fertility health. One requires sound nutrition based on the premise of pH balance and blood sugar control in order for your immune system and reproductive system to be strong.
The Mediterranean Costal Diet (The "Poor Fisher Woman's Diet)
Functional Medicine (FM) offers us the natural solution to blood sugar control. It is found in the Mediterranean costal diet. What I call the “poor fisherman’s diet” It so happens to be rich in alkalising foods such as its major emphasis on low-carbohydrate vegetables, and it is also low GI due to its emphasis on eating small but frequent meals always containing some portion of high quality lean protein, as well as legumes, beans etc which are also low GI. Because it aims to address inflammation through foods rich in omega 3, from fish, seeds and nuts, it is thus beneficial for controlling the immune system.
Eat Small & Frequent
Frequency of meals and snacks is also important. Insulin is stimulated by big meals, so it is important to have smaller meals. It is recommended that a meal plan is based on 3 small meals and 3 nutrient dense snacks, with a portion of low carb vegtables at each meal:
Understand that skipping meals is highly unhealthy, unless one is following a well structured fast for a short period of time for detox purposes. Never skip breakfast as this is another cause of uneven blood sugar for the rest of the day ahead. Some people are under the impression that this will help them lose weight. On the contrary, skipping meals leads to muscle wastage and higher fat mass. See article Not Overweight? ..But OverFAT!
Chlorophyll Superfoods for pH Balance = Less Sugar Cravings
Thinking back to the “garden” analogy and using “good compost” to create a ”rich soil”, let us raise awareness around superfoods and chlorophyll. In the recent years we have become increasingly more aware of Superfoods, nutrient dense natural foods which are jam-packed full of energy, natural life force energy, or Chi. Many of these are rich in chlorophyll, the green pigment in grasses and seaweeds.
Chlorophyll is high in magnesium, a mineral which makes up one of the building blocks of the insulin receptor sites, found on the cell membrane. Having adequate intake will help create better insulin communication whereby the cells are able to receive the glucose to burn as energy and the brain communicates the message of no more hunger, thus curbing sugar cravings.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQAqNF_x-I4#t=3.97941 - Tony and Sage Robbins talk about Hydration and Alkalizing
Infographic - Illustration: http://dressageridertraining.com/blog/magnesium-are-you-as-a-dressage-rider-getting-enough/