In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the “rules” to promote and protect your health are not complicated, but they are not necessarily easy either. Especially with our busy Western lifestyle and this American diet we have come to consider normal, we can find it tricky to incorporate the suggestions given to us by health practitioners. Some are more critical than others and I would put this “rule” up at the top of the list as critical. This is the 2nd rule of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Do not consume cold foods and drinks, especially ice water!
From a TCM point of view, it damages our Spleen Qi. The TCM organ, Spleen, is the Western idea of the digestion. It can be considered the function of the stomach, duodenum, small intestine, and pancreas. The Spleen is in charge of transformation and transportation. It takes the food we eat, breaks it down, absorbs it, creates Qi and Blood from that food, and gets the nutrients and Qi to where it needs to be in our body at a cellular level. This is extremely important! The quality of the Qi, blood, and cells in our body are dependent upon the quality of food we are eating, the air we are breathing, and the emotions we are feeling. However, if we are eating the highest quality food on the planet, but we are not able to break down or absorb that food properly, we are not creating the health in our body that we are striving for.
So, think of the Spleen as our digestion or digestive fire to simplify things. Our digestion is like the oven in our body. If you throw ice into an oven, it now must work SO much harder to do what it is meant to. The food you have in the oven is going to have to sit in there longer just to get cooked. The same is in our body. If we throw cold foods and beverages into our digestion, our body now must work a lot harder to process and break down the food. It could be using that Qi and energy to perform other much needed tasks in the body, such as detoxification or restoration, but now all that Qi is “spent”. Over time, this depletes our Qi and energy and we can be left with such symptoms as fatigue, feeling tired after eating, bloated, constipation, or loose stools.
Now let’s look at this issue from a Western medicine point of view. We need HCL (hydrochloric acid or stomach acid) to digest our food, including breaking it down and assimilating it to absorb the nutrients from the food (Champagne, 1989). HCL is secreted when we eat food, which signals stomach cells to secrete pepsinogen, which is a protein digesting enzyme, which then becomes pepsin. HCL also signal the pancreas and small intestine to secrete digestive enzymes and bile and it kills bacteria, yeast, and even parasites that enter our bodies through our food (Bernard, 1995). If HCL or hydrochloric acid levels are low, we have a tough time breaking down our food, especially proteins. This leads to many problems including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, nausea, pain, heartburn, anemia, food allergies, bacterial and yeast overgrowth, bloating, and indigestion just to name a few (Mercola, 2011).
By now I’m sure you are wondering what causes low HCL? Good question. There are multiple causes, including aging, eating processed foods, antacid use, eating while stressed, and drinking ice water (Saltzman, 1994). This is because cold foods and beverages inhibit or stop the production of HCL and slow down the digestion process overall. If production of HCL is stopped, then the enzymes to break down your food do not get released and over time, you are left with the problems listed above. So PLEASE refuse the ice water when you go out to eat. Instead, ask for a cup of hot water, or even better, a cup of ginger tea, as this increases HCL production. Even so, you only want to sip fluids while you eat because large amounts of any liquid will dilute HCL, pepsin, and other digestive enzymes, making it more difficult to break down your food.
Other ways to help your digestive fire grow include relaxing before eating. When our bodies are under stress, initially we produce too much HCL, which can lead to ulcers, but over time our body gets exhausted when stress is chronic and eventually HCL is under-produced. So, relax while eating and if you are very extremely upset, worried, angry, or emotional, DO NOT eat at all. Relax your body before you eat, sit with your family at a table, and do not have any electronics or distractions at the table. TVs and cell phones are stress to our bodies and prohibit us to being mindful in the moment while we eat, which can not only hinder social relationships, but also stop us from chewing as many times as we should. Chewing starts the digestive process by secreting enzymes that break down our food, so chewing thoroughly is extremely important and is the first step of digestion.
You can also add fermented foods into your diet, such as sauerkraut. Fermented foods are unique in the fact they regulate stomach pH. Himalayan salt is also a powerful addition to your diet as it has 84 different trace minerals in it and stimulate HCL production. It is also important to avoid processed foods, such as refined sugar and processed grains, such as flours. Eliminate genetically modified (GMO) foods, additives, dyes, and artificial flavorings and sweeteners, all of which will alter your gastric pH and cause inflammation in your body. Instead, consume whole foods that have not been altered and use natural herbs and spices for flavorings. Make sure you cook all your food, rarely consuming raw or cold foods. Stop eating at 7pm to allow your body time to digest the food to have high quality sleep and prevent food stagnation.
If further support is needed, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese herbs can be a powerful addition to promote your health. It is so important to protect and stimulate your health daily. It is the everyday small choices that either foster and restore your health or cause more imbalance and disharmony. You must take responsibility for your health. It is in your hands and you are the only one that can make those changes. However, many people are available, including myself, to support you on your journey to health if you are willing to dive in!
P.S.- check back soon for the 1st rule in TCM!
Bernard, M. D., Papini, E., Filippis, V. D., Gottardi, E., Telford, J., Manetti, R., . . . Montecucco, C. (1995). Low pH Activates the Vacuolating Toxin of Helicobacter pylori, Which Becomes Acid and Pepsin Resistant. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 270(41), 23937-23940. doi:10.1074/jbc.270.41.23937
Champagne, E. T. (1989). Low Gastric Hydrochloric Acid Secretion and Mineral Bioavailability. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Mineral Absorption in the Monogastric GI Tract, 173-184. doi:10.1007/978-1-4684-9111-1_12
Mercola. (2011, January 6). Problems with Digestion? Processed Foods May Be to Blame... Retrieved October 11, 2017, from http://www.mercola.com/
Saltzman JR, Kemp JA, Golner BB, et al. (1994). Effect of hypochlorhydria due to omeprazole treatment or atrophic gastritis on protein bound vitamin B12 absorption. J Amer Coll Nutr 1994;13:584-591.
Learn why krill oil is a safer and smarter choice than fish oil through the Fish Oil versus Krill Oil: The Cold, Hard Facts infographic. Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.
Discover which cooking oils can damage your health, and the healthiest options you can use to replace them.
If you try to avoid sugar in your life, birthdays can be quite the challenge! Well here is a recipe for a gluten free birthday cake with fruit being the only sugar in the whole thing. You would never guess it by how great it tastes- sort of like banana bread. I found a few recipes online, altered them a little, and found this version to taste the best and have the best texture.
9 ripe organic bananas
1c. cooked & smashed organic apples
6 T organic butter (or coconut oil for vegan version)
2 T organic vanilla
2 t. baking soda
1 c. gluten free oat flour
1 c. almond flour
1/2 c. coconut flour
1/2 c. rice flour
Mash the bananas and cooked apples. In a separate bowl, mix the flours (preferably organic) and the baking soda together. Mix all the remaining ingredients together and mix really well. Coat the bottom of your pan with butter or coconut oil. Pour the batter in the greased pan(s) and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. The time depends on what type of pan(s) you use, so be sure to check that it is done by putting a clean knife into the center and when it comes out clean, it is then done.
I did the above mixture in a 9 x 13 pan and then when it was done baking I took a small 2 cup round glass Pyrex dish and cut out 2 circles and then set that aside for our daughter's cake and cut the rest into bite sized pieces for all the other kids at the party. We figured it wasn't fair to feed our daughter a sugar free cake and not have that option available to the other kids! (We had a gluten free sugar cake for the adults...)
For the frosting, we used organic whole whipping cream, whipped it up into whipped cream and added 1 T organic vanilla. We did not add any sugar to this either. Then you can decorate it with your child's favorite fruit! It is quick, easy, and your child will still be a happy child at the end of the party! :)
This is all about toddler nutrition from an Oriental Medicine point of view! Although similar to Baby Nutrition, there are some differences and this article is geared toward the 1 to 3 year old. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like clarification or more information in any area. I look forward to hearing from you!
How are children different from adults?
Why is nutrition so important to children?
What nourishes the Spleen?
Before we get to specific foods, here are some general rules:
What foods should I feed my child?
Although by now your child has been eating a variety of foods, still make sure you are keeping an eye out for any signs of food intolerance or reaction. Some symptoms are: mood changes, sleep disturbance, excess gas or bloating, increased spit up or vomiting, diarrhea, redness around the mouth and/or anus, body rash or hives, and increased mucous such as nasal discharge or congestion.
Here are foods that you want to be sure to include in your toddler’s diet. These foods rebuild and restore the function of the Spleen/ digestive system. Do not give up if your toddler doesn’t like the food the first time you offer it, or even the next five times after that! It can take more than ten times of offering a food for them to start enjoying it. The key is to be consistent and persistent. They will not starve themselves and if you withhold the processed or damp producing foods that may have become their favorite, before long their taste buds will adapt to their new diet.
* Be sure to soak the grains overnight in water to break them down and increase their digestibility. Cook them longer in at least twice the amount of water to create a porridge or congee. You can add in nourishing vegetables and warming spices (fennel, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, and/or cinnamon).
See Sally Fallon’s article on why and how to best prepare your grains at http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/be-kind-to-your-grains-and-your-grains-will-be-kind-to-you/ (Fallon, 2014).
It is important to have every meal and snack balanced. This means eating a variety of food and always incorporating protein, fat, and unprocessed carbohydrates (fruit, vegetable, and/or properly prepared whole grains) at every meal and snack. This will keep blood sugars stable, provide a full range of vitamins and minerals, and allow for maximal absorbability of those nutrients.
Some recipe ideas:
cooked apple, fig, and red cabbage together and blend into a sauce. This protects the digestive tract, treats and prevents constipation, and your baby will love it.
Cooked sweet potato, cauliflower, and chicken broth with a pinch of Himalayan salt makes for a very nutritious meal with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and prevents blood sugar spikes.
Adding some warming digestive herbs and spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom can help the digestibility of foods and balance our “cold natured” food.
Adding fats to their meals, such as butter, coconut, and avocado oil is extremely important as it will keep them satisfied, nourish their brain, and keep their digestive track protected.
Oats slowly cooked in extra water with pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Crock pot works great!
Rice congee with sweet potatoes, zucchini, beets, and onion
Whenever you are making something, make a large batch and freeze the extra into cubes for easy meals when you are busy!
When your child is sick, the best thing he or she can consume is breast milk. A great supplement to this is bone broth with a pinch of Himalayan salt and is a much better electrolyte replacement than pedialyte.
Foods to avoid until around 12-24 months
Despite conventional wisdom, it is not necessary for toddlers to continue to drink milk after weaned off breast milk to get adequate calcium. Many other foods provide sufficient calcium, such as:
If you had delayed cord clamping during the delivery of your baby, your baby will have enough iron stored until they are 6-10 months, depending on the individual scenario (Buckley, 2009). Around 9 months is when you want to make sure your baby is getting enough iron. Children that have a higher risk of low iron include: born premature, born at a low birth weight, and babies whose mother had gestational diabetes or poor nutritional status during pregnancy. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Iron for both males and females from 0-6 months old is 0.27mg/day, for age 7-12 months 11mg/day, and for children 1-3 years old 7mg/day (CDC, 1998). Foods that are iron rich:
NOTE: Cereal is NOT a good source of iron. Most is added synthetically and only about 4% is absorbed (Famons, 1989). Furthermore, eating processed or refined foods actually pulls nutrients from your baby’s body in order to digest and break down the food.
Signs your baby is iron deficient include: slow weight gain, no appetite, pale skin, and low activity level but high irritability
Combining Vitamin C with iron rich foods helps increase absorbability. Foods high in Vitamin C include:
Another reminder that every child is different and has a different constitution and predisposition to certain imbalances. Although these are general guidelines for your little one’s diet, each child may need to eat or omit certain foods based on their pattern of disharmony. For example, if your child has a lot of “dampness”, which could be in the form of frequent coughs, diarrhea, nasal congestion, or ear infections, then it will be extremely important to avoid dairy and bananas. If your child has a lot of “internal heat”, as evidenced by red cheeks, sweaty, irritable, or restless, then your child should avoid too much red meat, spices such as cinnamon and ginger, and eating too frequently or right before bed. Your child can be evaluated by an Oriental Medicine practitioner to find their imbalance and get treatment, herbs, and dietary advice that is more specific to their constitution and pattern.
Buckley, S. J. (2009). Gentle birth, gentle mothering: the wisdom and science of gentle choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
CDC. (1998). Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States . Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/m0051880/m0051880.asp#Table_2
Fallon, S. (2014, June 18). Be Kind to Your Grains...And Your Grains Will Be Kind To You. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/be-kind-to-your-grains-and-your-grains-will-be-kind-to-you/
Flaws, B. (1999). Keeping your child healthy with Chinese medicine: a parent's guide to the care and prevention of common childhood diseases. Kuala Lumpur: Eastern Dragon Press.
Fomon, S. J., Ziegler, E. E., Rogers, R. R., Nelson, S. E., Edwards, B. B., Guy, D. G., . . .
Janghorbani, M. (1989). Iron Absorption from Infant Foods. Pediatric Research, 26(3), 250-254. doi:10.1203/00006450-198909000-00019
Scott, J., & Barlow, T. (1999). Acupuncture in the treatment of children. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press.
USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory | USDA Food Composition Databases (2016). Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/
Vitamin C: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2015, February 02). Retrieved February 8, 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm
Brittany Petrick, L.Ac, MSOM, BSN
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