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    Chinese nutrition is a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Even though records date this modality back to 500 BC, it althas been said that it actually dates back to 2000 BC.  The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Guide of Internal Medicine, which was written around 300 BC, was the most important reference of Chinese nutrition/food therapy.

     This theory states there are 4 food groups and 5 tastes and they are categorized by their natures and characteristics.  The five tastes were noted as spicy, sour, bitter, sweet and salty.  Spicy, sour and salty all tend to be “hot” or “warming” foods while bitter and sweet are “cold” or “cooling foods.

     The Chinese diet is one based on the balance of all 5 tastes but the amount of each also depends on different factors which include the specific season of the year and even the way the food is prepared, whether served raw or fried.  It is also thought that some foods are so intense in their hot or cold properties, eating an excess amount could cause illness.  Eating too much watermelon or “cold” foods could cause someone to have stomach pains or diarrhea just as some eating too many chili’s or “hot” food, could cause a rash.

     Chinese nutrition is based on balancing the Yin and Yang.  Yang foods are believed to increase the body’s heat and Yin tends to decrease the bodies heat.  The five tastes also have effects on different organs.  Salty tastes are related to the kidneys and bladder.  Sour tastes tend to correlate to the liver and gallbladder.  Bitter tastes relate to the lungs and large intestine while sweet tastes relate to the spleen and stomach.  These food relations and conditions are general and can differ depending on diagnosis.

     The general belief of this nutritional system is that certain foods have a “hot” or “warming” quality to them while others have a “cold” or “cooling” effect on your body’s organs.  The theory is that the imbalance of the natural heat and cold in the body can cause disease or lead to sickness.  This does not mean that your internal imbalance of hot or cold is directly related to weather conditions and outside temperatures.  What it relates to is if you were sick with a cold illness, such as a common cold, you would not desire such “cold” foods as melons or cucumbers.  These foods would lower your body’s internal temperature making you feel worse.  Another example would be if you had a disease caused by internal heat like Psoriasis, you would not want to eat foods like onions or garlic which would cause your internal heat to increase and your symptoms of the disease would become more intense.

      As stated, Chinese nutrition is all about Yin and Yang, balance, and can be very complex due to the many factors involved.  A Doctor of Oriental Medicine can do an intake with you and guide you on the proper diet to improve your overall health.