Chinese medicine practitioners believe in preventing disease and regulating the body through eating certain foods.
Since I was a child, when I got sick, my parents always consulted Western doctors. I did the same as an adult and didn’t think about seeing a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner.
However, an experience I had made me realize that the TCM principles of the medicinal properties of food are true. At the same time, I was amazed. The “homology of medicine and food” I found, also made me feel that the concepts behind TCM are broad and profound.
Chicken Wine Soup Helps Avoid Curettage After Miscarriage
During my first pregnancy, I miscarried at 10 weeks gestation. I was living in Canada at the time, and at the clinic, the doctor told me that my cervix had dilated and I had definitely miscarried—but she did not approve of the usual practice of immediately undergoing dilatation and curettage (D&C). She suggested that I pay attention to the bleeding situation. As long as it wasn’t abnormally heavy, I could wait a day or two before deciding what to do.
The next day I went shopping and had dinner at my mother’s house. “Didn’t you have a miscarriage?” she asked, ”How can you still go shopping as if nothing happened?” She then cooked me some “chicken wine soup.”
Chicken wine soup is consumed by postpartum women in Guangdong, China. The major ingredients are black fungus, enoki mushrooms, chicken, ginger, and rice wine. The addition of peanuts is optional.
The soup is delectable. I ate it and continued to do my regular work. After about two hours, I felt something happening in my abdomen, so I went to a hospital accident and emergency department—but when I was near the door, I could no longer walk (I later learned that when one is about to give birth, you feel weak at the knees). I knelt on the ground, felt something being expelled, and then felt normal as if nothing had happened. What came out was something like an egg-shaped piece of tissue.
After that, my mother told me to make the chicken wine soup and drink it for the next few days until my body had no more reactions. Indeed, in the first few days, every time I had the soup, I felt more blood being discharged. I had no further symptoms after a few days of drinking the soup.
The ingredients in the soup are used in daily Asian cooking—yet, eating soup made from these ingredients combined solved the health problem after a miscarriage.
In TCM, qi (vital energy), blood, essence, and body fluids are the essential substances for life activities, all originating from the internal organs and flowing constantly inside the body. Ensuring these essential substances are sufficient and circulating throughout the body is very important for health and well-being.
According to TCM theory, many diseases are believed to be caused by forces in our environment. These forces are referred to as the six external pathogenic influences, categorized as wind, cold, heat, dryness, dampness, and summer heat.
From the perspective of TCM, the black fungus has the effect of activating and nourishing blood; chicken, has the effect of nourishing qi and blood; enoki mushrooms can eliminate pathogenic heat from the blood; various components such as lecithin, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin E in orange daylily can postpone senility; and ginger has the effect of dispelling pathogenic wind and cold, which can stimulate uterine contractions and help the discharge of postpartum lochia (the vaginal discharge after giving birth).
This is my personal experience of “medicine and food homology.”
Medicine and Food Share the Same Role
TCM teaches that medicine and food share the same role, but there are differences in “dosage.” In comparison to medication, which uses a low dosage but produces more adverse effects, we take in more food that has less noticeable effects.
According to TCM, food, like medication, has a different “nature and taste,”—that is, it is divided into four different attributes of “hot, warm, cool, and cold,” and five kinds of flavors, namely “sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty.”
For example, meat and spices are warm foods, which will promote circulation in the human body and make people feel energetic, while summer fruits, seafood, green vegetables, and so on are cold foods, which will make people feel refreshed.
This also involves the concept of “harmonization” in TCM. Different constitutions, different foods, and different medicines have different effects on the human body. Through adjustment and achieving balance, the body can be healthy, and also we can find peace in our spirit.
TCM has a history of thousands of years and is full of the wisdom of ancient Chinese people. Sun Si Miao (581AD-682AD), a great doctor in the Tang Dynasty, mentioned in the dietary treatment chapter of “Invaluable Prescriptions for Ready Reference,” that dietary therapy goes before medicine, which means that doctors must first use diet to cure patients. If not cured, then use medicine to treat the ailment. He also quoted the words of Zhang Zhong Jing (A.D.150-A.D.219), a famous doctor of the Eastern Han Dynasty: “The human body is balanced, and the only thing needed is taking good care of it, and not taking medicine rashly.”
Sun Si Miao believes that drug treatment should not be taken lightly, because the medicinal properties are very strong. Medicine is similar to an army in our body. When it is too strong, it will cause a lot of damage, so curing and preventing diseases must initially be achieved through diet.
In ancient Greece 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine,” said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” His concept is the same as “medicine and food homology.”
Curry Lower the Cancer Rate In India
Dr. Michael Greger, a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition in the U.S., wrote in his book “How Not to Die” that the proportion of colorectal cancer in Indian women is only one-tenth of that of U.S. women, and endometrial cancer and melanoma are only one-ninth of those in the U.S. Men in the U.S. get 11 times more colorectal cancer, 23 times more prostate cancer, and 7 times more lung cancer and bladder cancer than men in India.
Turmeric, the main ingredient in the curry contained in Indians’ daily consumption, is considered to be one of the key factors in lowering the cancer rate in India.
Studies have also shown that after polyps become cancerous, even in patients with advanced colorectal cancer, turmeric helps a third of them slow down their deterioration over two to four months.
Greger explained that all cells have a suicide mechanism, and the body uses the components in the food to rebuild itself every once in a while, but cancer cells turn off their suicide mechanism and eventually divide to form tumors. The curcumin in turmeric seems to have the ability to reprogram the suicide mechanism in cancer cells to destroy themselves by activating the caspases (protease enzymes) and cutting off proteins inside cancer cells.
Disease Comes From Eating Habits
Before becoming an internationally renowned nutritionist, Greger witnessed his grandmother switch to a whole-food, plant-based (unprocessed food) diet after a critical heart attack, which extended her life by 31 years. Hence, his belief is that “disease comes from eating habits.”
Hiromi Shinya, 72, an endoscopist in Japan and the U.S., has been practicing for 45 years and has diagnosed and treated more than 300,000 cancer cases—but, has never issued a death certificate. After surgery, under his care and guidance, his patients have recovered without recurrence or metastases by strictly correcting their diet and routines, and giving up their dependence on drugs. Shinya says that since he studied medicine, has not taken any drugs and has never been sick.
In his book “How to Live Long and Never be Sick,” Shinya wrote that he found the real cause of the difficult diseases of modern times, including many cancers, diabetes, myocardial infarction, cerebral infarction, hay fever, allergic dermatitis, and ulcerative gastroenteritis, is the long-term dietary habits and ill-informed dependence on drugs.
Shinya also mentioned that in direct observation of patients through gastrointestinal endoscopy, he found that those with common cancers such as breast and lung cancer are often diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer at the same time. He pointed out in his book that an unhealthy stomach and intestines are the sources of all diseases, and that the deterioration of the gastrointestinal tract is the root cause of many cancers and many other diseases.
Problems of the gastrointestinal tract and digestive system belong to the category of “spleen and stomach” in TCM, and believes that the spleen and stomach are the “acquired foundation” and the “source of production of qi and blood.” If the digestion and absorption of the spleen and stomach are good, the daily diet can be effectively converted into qi and blood, and qi and blood can be replenished naturally.
In addition, if the spleen and stomach are strong, they are not easily invaded by external pathogens. Body fluids will then be able to circulate in the body efficiently with no blockage. Therefore, to maintain good health and not be susceptible to diseases, it is important to regulate the spleen and stomach.
Treat the Human Body As An “Entire System”
Shinya believes that the vast majority of modern diseases are caused by unhealthy diets and habits, and even mental factors.
He said in his book that, most treatments only use symptomatic drugs nowadays, that is, they are not aimed at the cause, but only relieve and paralyze the symptoms and temporarily relieve the pain. They can reduce blood pressure, antipyretic (fever), and analgesic (pain). The medicine itself cannot fundamentally treat the cause, and consuming more of it can be harmful. Anticancer agents are very toxic and can severely damage the immune system.
Shinya said that most doctors treat diseases only when the body is seriously ill and the problem affects work and normal life. They then apply medicine or surgical treatment to the visible lesions without paying attention to what caused the disease before it developed to this point. They don’t consider people’s life experiences, dietary habits, interpersonal relationships, mental state, or living environment.
As the Chinese idiom goes, “Three feet of ice does not form in a single day.” Diseases do not appear suddenly—there must be a process of development. Before a disease develops into unbearable pain and obvious lesions appear, is the state of “diseases before they surface.” In ancient TCM, doctors who can treat “diseases before they surface” are called “Shang Yi” (brilliant doctors).
Shinya said that in the future if we do not treat the human body as an “entire system,” respect life, nature, and the human body; pay attention to the fundamental factors that cause diseases, such as diet, environment, and spirit; take the path of preventive medicine; and start with a healthy diet, it will be boxed in. It will eventually result in the strange phenomenon that the more advanced the technology, the more difficult the diseases that appear, and the more difficult they are to treat.