Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We Are What We Eat . . . What Does That Make You?

An introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutrition therapy from guestblogger Jessica Martens:

Jessica Martens is an Acupuncturist in Olympia, Washington.  As part of her treatment strategy, she focuses on nutrition, believing that it is the foundation of health and wellness.
Part I

Diet.  It’s a buzzword, a noun, a verb; a common part of speech and an integral part of our lives. Some of us think about it often, some of us think about it as a lead-in to swim suit season, and some of us only think about it when the doctor brings it up.  All of us have one of course, which we’ll be exploring in this series of posts about diet from an East Asian Medicine perspective and from a western-minded perspective. 

We’ll start this exploration with the basics.  So, what is your diet?  Basically put, it’s what you eat.  Take a moment here to pause and really think about that.  What do you eat?  What do you put into your mouth every day?  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks… food, right?  OK.  And what is the purpose of that food?  You might say ‘to feed us, of course!’  And you would be right.  We eat because our bodies need nourishment. 

Let’s think about diet a little more deeply now.  Our bodies are literally made out of the food that we eat. Our cells –everything: muscles and bone, skin, hair and nails, eyes, brain cells, blood vessels, blood cells, organs… all of it-- are created and repaired from the nutrients in our foods.  Our physiology functions because of the energy we create from food.  The saying “you are what you eat” can be taken very literally.  So, with that in mind, let us re-examine that question – what do you eat? – from another perspective.  What are you?  Are you really feeding yourself all that you need to repair and function?  Or are you short-changing yourself, living off of Starbucks and Subway?

Humans are omnivores, meaning that we can eat a wide variety of food.  Our digestive systems are equipped to handle variety, and indeed, to obtain all the nourishment we need we must eat a variety of foods.  Unlike cattle, we cannot live off of a single variety of food and maintain our structure and function.  You’ve probably heard the term ‘essential’ in regard to things like ‘essential fatty acids.’ Those things termed ‘essential’ are just that—they are essential to life (our life!).  We cannot make them on our own, or in cases where we can make them, we might not be able to make them in sufficient quantities, so it is also ‘essential’ that we eat them.  Some essential nutrients are amino acids, which can be obtained from protein, vitamins and minerals, and the aforementioned fatty acids. For more information about essential nutrients, you can review the Wikipedia entry:   Some essential vitamins can be synthesized by our gut microbes and absorbed through our intestines, which we’ll explore further in the next post on this subject.

So, bringing this back around, what are you?  Are you nourishing your body so that it can repair itself?  Or are you short-changing your body, setting up a situation for chronic injuries, pain, weakness, and sub-par functions?  What foods are you eating that support your body?  What parts of your body are showing wear and tear?  In East Asian Medicine, we have one simple way to support those areas: eat that same thing!  Joints bugging you? Skin problems?  Make soup/stock/broth from a whole chicken/turkey or leftover chicken/turkey frame.  Cooking the bones in the broth for about 2-24+ hours (you can use a crock-pot) will pull those components out of the bones, skin, and joint tissue, and all you have to do is drink the broth (or make soup out of it, use it to cook rice, stir fry, etc!).  For more information on broth and why it is good for you (including recipes to get you started!) check out this page:
beefy bone stock and oxtail stock in jar.  note high content of gelatin.  thicker when cool.  this jar just came out of the fridge.  just scoop some stock into cup and warm (or add small amount of hot water).  Drink plain as a supplement or be creative (see "nourished kitchen" links).  --photo caption credit--Megan Kingsley Gale

Scooping cooled broth into cup.  It is liquid at room temperature.  I warm it up or add hot water before drinking it.   --photo caption credit--Megan Kingsley Gale


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