There is truth to the old saying: “food is the medicine you take every day.” This belief in the healing power of food is one central to Chinese Medicine, where food therapy is often utilized alone or (more often) in conjunction with other modalities to treat disease patterns. Food therapy is one of the four major branches of TCVM, alongside acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Tui-na. It is the art and science of tailoring diet plans to individual patients based on their unique inborn tendencies, age, species, geographical location, personality and current disharmony or disease process. Food ingredients are chosen based on their energetic properties, which include both their thermal energetic property or “temperature” and their taste. Chinese food therapy recipes are developed according to TCVM theory (Yin-Yang, Five Elements, Eight Principles and Zang-Fu Physiology and Pathology) and are specific to particular patient types and health conditions. These recipes can typically be classified into one of the following categories:
- Health Promotion and Prevention - to improve health on a regular basis and to prevent seasonal- and climate-related problems
- Disease Treatment - to directly treat clinical conditions, including skin problems, autoimmune diseases, and immunodeficiency
- Adjunct Therapy - to complement primary treatments (acupuncture, herbs, or Western Medicine) of diseases such as otitis, urinary crystals and stones, UTI, IBD, CHF, cancer, renal failure, and liver failure
Like other TCVM modalities, the ultimate goal of food therapy is to restore and maintain balance in the body. However, given its very nature, the effects of food therapy are slower-acting than modalities like acupuncture and herbal medicine. On the other hand, there are virtually no side effects when food ingredients are chosen correctly, and food therapy is a mode of treatment that can be used safely throughout a patient’s lifetime.