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Healthy food


Food has therapeutic actions, often it is less direct and far-reaching as herbs but it is the foundation of well-being.  It can be prolonged to take effect but profoundly affects all systems of the body.  It can help bring your body into balance.


In CM thousands of years ago the master healers recognised a way to classify food and disease simply; for overheated conditions eat cooling foods,  if you are too cold eat warming foods, if you have too much toxins eat detoxifying foods, and if you are deficient eat tonifying foods.  Seems simple doesn’t it.


Of course this does not mean that other treatments are not required, often people need herbs, homeopathy, body work, acupuncture, and modern medicine, but these are all way more effective when you are balancing or negating rather than aggrevating your condition with the foods you are consuming daily.

There is not one perfect universal diet.  A balanced diet is different in each environmental location and each constitutional body type.  Not only do you recognise the energetics of the food, the signs and symptoms of how certain foods react with you, but also techniques of preparation and exercising the skill of not overeating.


With a good attitude, suitable amount of exercise, and a good balanced diet there is not limit to our health.


A simple diagnostic approach to CM which has been used broadly throughout the centuries is the 8 Principles of Yin Yang, called the 6 divisions these are;



The most important quality of dietary advice is heat and cold.  This is most plainly seen in seasonal produce, when the weather is very hot the planet provides foods that are cooling.  This is the simplest version of how we should live in balance (daoist – the way) with our environment.



When cooling foods are eaten the energy and fluid of the body moves inwards and lowers so the upper areas of the body cool first.  Where warming foods push the deep energy of the body and blood up and out to the surface to warm.  And extremely hot foods such as cayenne peppers cause an extreme reaction where you feel temporarily warmer and it pushes the energy out the surface, opening the pores and sweating and then you are cooler.  This is an example of yang transforming into yin, and is not appropriate form of heat for someone who is chronically cold.  Warming rather than hot foods provide a more lasting warmth.



Excessive heat in the body can be caused by too much warming foods, or not enough cooling foods, too much activity or work, exposure to environmental heat, or obstruction of the qi in the body.  The entire body or just individual areas can have heat.


Have you got heat in the body? Do you feel hot? Heat rises so can have red face, headaches, red tongue with yellow coating, nosebleeds, canker sores, bad breath. Can have high blood pressure, bleeding, convulsions, delierium, red skin erruptions.  It affects elimination of foods, so you can have constipation or dry smelly stool, dark urine with not a lot of volume, and you desire cold liquids.


Deficiency of Yin and heat – this is more common in today’s world.  There are heat signs in the body but this is due to not enough yin or fluids and coolant, or poorly acting fluids in the body.  This can be caused by overwork, having too many nutrient lacking warming things such as alcohol, cigarettes, coffee.


Signs and symptoms are; the appearance of minor heat signs, maybe drinking small amount of fluid often, having to take water to bed, dryness of the mouth, tongue and maybe a slight cough, sometimes vertigo, spasms or cramps or pains that move, insomnia, irritablity, uneasiness, low intermittent fever, palms and soles can be hot and sweaty, or night sweating.



Cold arises from lack of physical activity, eating too much cooling foods, overexposure to cold environment, or deficiency of yang (heat) from not enough warming food in the diet or a constitutional weakness from birth.


Signs you have cold – you feel cold in an area or the whole body, dislike the cold and attracted to warmth, often overdressed compared to the people around you, prefer warm food and drinks, your complexion can be whiteish, you can have copious clear urination, watery stools or thin watery mucous.  Cold can cause contraction and pain, and difficulty moving.  Typically older people tend to be cold and stiff.


If you don’t show hot or cold signs then a balanced diet eating for the seasons is best.


Interior and exterior talks about the depth of the disease.  They are categorised into exterior Yang and interior Yin.  Exterior is more active, acute condition of short duration and affects the more exterior aspects of the body, hair, skin, muscles, tendons, and orifices. Because exterior is more on the outside of the body the best cure is sweating (diaphoresis).


Interior is slower, longer duration, more deficiency signs, they affect deeper in the body, the internal organs, bones, deeper nerves and blood vessels.  Generally if the disease is long standing internal and affects things such as your immunity and digestion following a protocol for eating for depletion is recommended.


Excess and deficiency, this simply measures the relative strength of the person to the disease pattern.  Often in modern medicine the same treatment is given to both the strong and weak alike, and this contributes to mixed results.  Everyone needs to be treated individually depending on their needs.  Excess is caused by too much heat, fluid, or other substances in the body, deficiency is due to lack of warmth, fluids or other substances that nourish the body.


In wealthy countries most of the excess patterns is either too much heat or dampness accumulation of fluids or fat.  This is caused by overeating rich, greasy, highly seasoned, denatured foods.  Too much red meat, fried salty food, extremely sweet food, refined flour, drugs and alcoholic drinks.  If the body can’t hand any more excess it starts to malfunction and lead to a deficiency, in this way an excess and deficiency can co-exist.  In excess there is often hyper-function, a blockage in the arteries, acupuncture meridians or other systems often caused by extreme lifestyle, stress and diet.  When there is a blockage the body generates heat trying to move it (high blood pressure) and this can dry up fluids (constipation).  A person with excess condition can handle stronger treatment than someone who is deficient alone.


A deficient person shows signs of weakness, frail, withdrawn, soft voice, pale or sickly yellow looking, weak pulse, shallow breathing, and pressure or touch is welcomed.  The practice for building you up is slow, you don’t want to overstrain your digestive system, eating smaller meals high in nutrition, chewing your food 30x so your digestive enzymes do the work for your stomach, slow cooked foods rather than raw, bone broths, “full sweet” foods these are rices, legumes, oats, black beans, parsnips, but they must be chewed very well.

One of the key concept of Chinese medicine is the patterns of yin and yang.  Are you warm because you have excess heat or deficient yin coolant, both show as heat in the body, but the principle to balance is different.  Excess heat decrease heating foods and eat cooling foods, heat due to deficiency of yin  coolant, increase yin building foods which moisten.  The same in regards to cold.

If there is excess cold decrease your cooling foods, if the imbalance causing the cold is from not enough warmth the key is to increase heat producing foods.

Chat to your friendly acupuncturist for some more advice on what diet with what food energetics will be best for you.

Yin                               Yang

Cold                             Heat

Interior                        Exterior

Deficiency                   Excess

How cooling and warming foods work in the body energetically.

Heat patterns and their causes.

Cold patterns and their causes.

Interior and Exterior.

Excess and Deficiency.


Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition (3rd Edition) (3rd ed.). North Atlantic Books.

MacLean, W. (2021). Clinical Handbook of Internal Medicine: The Treatment of Disease with Traditional Chinese Medicine: Vol 2: Spleen and Stomach (1st ed.). University of Western Sydney.

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