We are 8 weeks into the New Year, and many of us have made New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight and improve our health, as we have made in many of the past years. Research tells us that even if we lose the weight we want, in a year or two, it will be back and often times with some added pounds.

The question we need to ask is why? As Gary Tuabes asks in a recent article, “Is it a failure of will power or of technique?” Was our chosen dietary intervention- whether from the latest best selling diet book or merely our own attempt to eat less and exercise more doomed for failure?

I believe it is imperative to find the correct answer, because obesity, poor nutrition and their related diseases- most notably Type II diabetes- now cost the health care system more than $1 billion per day. According to the CDC, we spend one thousand times MORE to treat diseases related to poor or improper nutrition than to prevent them. {$1,390 vs. $1.21 per person per year}

In the United Sates we have on average 11 years from disability to death, as opposed to a country like Taiwan which looks at 3 ½ weeks.

We know that the importance of healthy food and nutrition in human development is widely recognized in both high income and middle to low income countries. It can be said that malnutrition, in ALL its forms, brings an unmanageable burden not only to our country’s health care system, but to our entire social, cultural and economic foundations.

Many of us believe that we know what it means to eat a “healthy diet…..” But do we? Really know? The state of our health tells me that we may not know what we think we know.

I believe that it is time to view nutrition as the foundation of our health and wellbeing, which our health depends on the food that we eat. One of the first steps in doing this is to understand what a healthy diet looks like for us…..and to also know that it looks different for everyone. When we start to understand what our individual body needs, we can invest our efforts into optimizing a nutrition plan that is right for us.

As an Acupuncturist, I have always looked at food as medicine, of course it can be delicious and scrumptious, but ultimately it is either hurting us or healing us. At Integrative Acupuncture we bring both the ancient theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the research based Functional approach to Clinical Nutrition. We believe that this gives us the knowledge and understanding to help our patients create most optimal nutrition plans to attain their health goals.

Background

The history of food and nutrition in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) goes far back throughout the dynasties and classic Chinese physicians. For example, one of the first specialized herbal books of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220AD) contains tremendous detail on foods that practitioners at that time thought were important for maintaining health. Some foods were thought to have the ability to strengthen the system, improve health or prevent aging.

The Eastern view of nutrition works in the same way that the eastern view of medicine works. That is to provide a global framework that is flexible enough to be uniquely suited to an individual based on their state of health and also allowing room, in the case of nutrition, for an individual’s preference.

One of the things that I like most about TCM is the recognition of individuality. This also extends to dietary considerations. There are no “one size fits all” herbal regiments or diets in TCM. Everything is tailored to the individual’s needs, and it’s recognized that individual needs can differ widely.

The Chinese viewpoint of a balanced diet is one which includes all 5 tastes-spicy, sour, bitter, sweet and salty. Foods and herbs that have a particular taste tend to have particular healing properties. For example, bitter foods tend to be drying and cold. This makes them good for treating Damp Heat conditions. Many of these herbs and food have anti-biotic properties. On the other hand, the food and herbs with a salty taste tend to be warming and moistening. This makes them great to use for people who suffer from cold and dryness. In addition, certain tastes have an affinity for certain Organ systems in the body. For example, the salty taste has an affinity for the Kidneys. Sometimes dishes are salted in order to get the properties of a certain food to the Kidneys. Sour tends to have a relationship with the Liver and Gallbladder. Bitter has an affinity for the Heart and spicy for the Lungs and Large Intestine. Sweet has a connection to the Spleen/Stomach/Pancreas organ system.

People are often confused by nutrition. What are the right foods for you? Through a comprehensive medical history, questionnaire and tongue and pulse diagnosis, a TCM practitioner will strive to set you in the right direction.

It is important to seek out a practitioner trained in TCM nutrition because a thorough intake will reveal the best tastes and flavors that will help you in your journey for optimal health.

Selecting proper foods is not only important for sustaining basic body functions, but also essential for the prevention of degenerative disease. In both western nutrition and TCM nutritional therapy, food is not just a source of nutrients to sustain life in general; it is also a natural medicine. Food should be the first to be considered before taking a drug or herbs.

Food is considered to be the best “medicine” for prevention and treatment of diseases, as well as an essential way to boost disease recovery and maintain wellbeing. Knowledge and understanding of which foods to eat or avoid will without doubt help to alleviate or prevent the onset of a variety of diseases such as arthritis, headaches, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, cataract, infertility, menstrual problems, and cardiovascular disease.

Functional Nutrition

We also look at Nutrition through the Functional Medicine Model. Functional Nutrition is nutrition-based care that is focused on building health by restoring proper physiological functioning of the body. When you have multiple symptoms, these are clues to the ways in which your body is not functioning the way that it should be. Rather than suppress those symptoms with natural or pharmaceutical agents, we want to “read” those symptoms to understand which systems in your body need support to get back on track so that you can have optimal health. By looking at your whole picture—diet, symptoms, illness history, medications, lifestyle, toxic exposure, history of anti-biotic use, stress, lab work, etc. we are able to put together an overall plan. That plan serves as an overall map of the nutrition your body needs to regain health and prevent illness.

The Functional approach assumes that food contains molecules that are necessary, purposeful and designed to support life, promote well being and optimal health. Clinical nutrition from a functional perspective means understanding the roles of these molecules in human beings, and then using them in specific ways to treat patient’s illnesses.

We work with patients and clients, who have not found the solutions to their chronic health issues, as well as those interested in preventive health, and who are willing to commit to making dietary changes. We have systems in place to help each patient find the right nutritional plan for their individual needs.

We can help you to achieve the optimal health status via our holistic nutritional advice. We will not only equip you with the knowledge of how to achieve the right nutritional balance, but also how to avoid toxic exposure, reduce stress and have more control over your own health.

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