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So Just How Important is Food?

So just how important is Food? What we eat, how we cook it and how we eat it. I'm sure most of you will say 'very important' but there are so many conflicting messages out there that it's hard to know what to do for the best.

My training certainly covered diet from a Chinese Medicine perspective but I wanted more, to help my own well being and that of my patients. So today I took a trip to the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading (my original training college) for CPD Training and what a fantastic day it has been!

We looked at the importance of how and when we eat our food and the effect it can have on our bodies. For example chewing more helps digestion and hence our ability to gain nourishment - common sense really. However I bet not many of you know that carbohydrates are digested in the mouth and Small Intestine NOT in our stomachs, we certainly didn't. And because of this, not chewing sufficiently puts too much sugar into the Small Intestine leading to an insulin surge and high blood sugar levels in the body. We also looked at the effect of eating under stress, a common cause of IBS, bloating etc. Stress sends us into 'fight or flight' mode which switches off our digestive system, hence food just sits there in our stomachs creating heat, unable to properly nourish us, until we are in a better state of mind.

This was an interactive day and part of the experience was tasting different foods covering the 5 flavour groups of; sweet - don't we all like that!, bitter, sour, pungent(spicey) and salty and we quickly realised that often a food sits in more than one flavour group (eg coriander is bitter and sweet, cheese can be salty and sweet or pungent). As we concentrated on taste, we found these differences as each item made contact with different areas of our tongue, and hence our different taste buds - another great positive reason for eating more slowly and chewing more. Perhaps chewing for longer may re-ignite the pleasure of eating food, since for too many of us eating can end up feeling like a chore.

We also looked at food "energetics" - for example fruits are generally considered to be cooling, with some fruits cooler than others (eg melon, great for those experiencing hot flushes) and some warmer (eg berries, easier to digest and more nourishing).

Part of our day was spent looking at when to include or reduce the different food types in our diet, how to cook them and how to balance them to get the desired health effect: For example using red lentils in our food to increase our energy, adding turmeric early in the cooking process to help with endometriosis, drinking homemade (to avoid addition of sweetener or sugar) lemon barley for someone suffering with chronic bladder infections.

Even our lunch was a treat as we tried 3 different soups with 3 different health supporting properties. Even better we were given the recipes for making them! And I look forward to sharing these with you.

Some of you will already have received a copy of Chinese Dietary Wisdom from me, with stars against the sections to look at in more detail. For those of you I treat who haven't seen this but would like to consider their diet in more detail, then please ask me next time I see you. And for anyone reading this who I've not yet met, then please book in for a full health consultation and we can discuss your current diet and look at simple changes for improvement with or without the inclusion of acupuncture needles. What ever your circumstances I'm really looking forward to sharing this experience with you all.

Good health, Sue