Why is Chinese dietetics relevant to your diabetes?

Lunar-New-Year-2015-Year-of-the-GoatXin Nian Kuai Le! Gong Hei Fard Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

This week, February 19th, is the start of the year of the goat/sheep. So I think this is an appropriate time to celebrate why I devote a whole chapter to Chinese dietetics in my book ‘the 6 diet’.

I was amused to see a review of ‘the 6 diet’ on Amazon recently:

When most of the information provided is scientifically supported I see no need to rely on some ancient Chinese gobbledy goog to validate the content. For me this destroys the author’s authority on the matter and goes some way to putting a hole in her credibility too.

Does this mean that Chinese dietetics is “gobbledy goog“? No, of course not. Here’s why:

Whenever you pick up a book about Chinese medicine, dietetics, feng shui, etc. it’s important to understand why the language will seem strange. That’s because it generally dates to a time, many centuries ago, before the world had any modern scientific understanding of physiology or the language to go with it. That’s not to say when you dig below the language the theories are not relevant – they are. Chinese medicine is essentially a paradigm developed by close observation of the minutiae of cause and effect: if I do this, that will occur, if I eat this, the effect will be that…etc.

Whilst our scientific knowledge has evolved significantly in the past 2 or 3 millennia, our biology hasn’t. If we expose ourselves to a given stimulus, the effect it has on us will very likely be the same effect it would have had on our ancestors. For example, if we eat wheat, or dairy, or raw food, or any food item actually, it will probably still affect us in the same ways that it affected the Chinese ancients who developed the wisdom that we can still draw upon today. If you have the mind to see through the linguistics!

Let’s take wheat as our example here.

DSC_2583In Chinese dietetics wheat is mysteriously classified as a “damp food” – i.e. it contributes to the accumulation of “internal dampness“. The key is understanding what internal dampness might correlate with in terms of physiology and pathology. Internal dampness is seen as a property in which a person might feel clogged up, sluggish, stodgy, heavy. Internal dampness is simultaneously associated with fatigue, lethargy, flabbiness, bloatedness, weight gain: hmm! not untypical of some aspects of insulin resistance or diabetes?

Today, in modern clinical practice, we increasingly associate wheat with these symptoms. Just as the Chinese ancients wrote! We know that wheat – typically in bread – so often causes us to feel bloated. People with actual allergies experience this more severely, but increasing numbers of people report some level of dietary “intolerance”. Scientifically we know that gluten, a protein in wheat, is a major culprit of digestive discomfort. In fact it’s such a common – and modern – phenomenon that the NHS website dedicates an area to wheat intolerance. Today we can add into the mix “lectins”, compounds recently identified in wheat as a causal factor of internal inflammation – and a possible factor in the development of insulin-dependent diabetes according to some research.
bananaSlicesFor many centuries, the Chinese have associated an excessive consumption of fruits with obesity. Modern science nods in the same direction: today we know that fructose, the sugar naturally occurring in fruit, is linked with the accumulation of visceral fat. The fat belly most commonly associated with visceral fat is seen as a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Bananas are another food item classified as “damp” in Chinese dietetics. Today we know they’re the most starchy of all the fruits and few weight loss diets would recommend bananas!

With just these 2 simple examples we can see that Chinese dietetics may sound like “gobbledy goog“, but it’s increasingly “scientifically supported“. That makes it as relevant now as in 3000 BC!

One prediction for this Year of the Goat is that it will be good for health. Here’s to YOUR health!

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