A Journey of Food, Fitness, Freedom and Philosophy
Hi Don, I recently discovered your blog and have been reading over your posts. It's been fascinating to see the evolution of your dietary habits over time, and I have a great deal of respect for the amount of work you've put into self-experimenting with different nutritional protocols. I'm curious as to what your opinion is on Traditional Chinese Medicine these days, especially as regards your current foray into VLC. My impression of TCM (based on your descriptions of it, as I have little knowledge of it myself) ias that it generally advocates a heavily plant/starch-based diet, with fat and meat used in limited quantities, almost like a medicinal prescription for certain conditions. Is there any "orthodox" TCM justification for a diet like your current one, or even for ketogenic diets (which would probably be lower protein)?
Kisame,That's a big topic, too big to address in a comment here. I'll prepare a post or video to respond as soon as I have enough time available (very busy right now). In short I will say, just as there exists both orthodox official nutrition dogma (e.g. USDA, AND, etc.) and dissenting views (LCHF, paleo, etc.) in our culture, there exists both orthodox official TCM nutrition dogma (your characterization is mostly correct), which was created and maintained mostly by Confucian scholar-doctors who believed in the superiority of Han Chinese civilization, and dissenting views, mostly from Taoists who despised civilization as the corrupter of human health and spirit, and saw the grain-/starch- based diet recommended by the Confucians as the cause of many of the diseases the TCM doctors were treating. Some Taoists recommended avoiding grains (bi gu) which would lead to a low carbohydrate diet, although the interpretation of this recommendation was varied because "gu (grains)" was culturally a word used both for grain foods and for food in general. In addition, despite the fact that Confucian TCM doctors promoted a plant-/ grain-/starch-based diet, some famous TCM doctors were the first to declare that starchy and salty diets are the cause of diabetes i.e. sugar in the urine (700 AD in China vs. 1660 AD in Europe: only an indication that the Chinese had succumbed to and identified the ill effects of a civilized carbohydrate-based diet at least 900 years before Europeans). As an aside, when I was taking my first Chinese medical nutrition course at the Taoist Studies Institute (Seattle), the instructor, Dr. Ma (who spoke little English, had an interpreter present to translate his Chinese) came one day to discussing the medicinal effects of beef. He then stated that from the northern people (Mongols, I guess) TCM doctors had learned of a special diet used to treat all kinds of diseases: a strict beef-only diet. He went on to say that he never had the opportunity (or, I would guess, the necessary funds) to try this beef-only diet when he lived in China, but he planned to do it now that he lived in America where beef is much cheaper. At the time I was all about plant-based and thought it was just absurd that eating a 100% meat-based diet could be beneficial to health. This same doctor had once recommended to me that I eat dog meat, and another had told my former wife that she needed to eat the fat from a pig face to resolve on. My point here is that although orthodox TCM does seem to recommend a plant-based diet, just as the USDA and AND in America, orthodox TCM still recommends an omnivorous diet that even includes animal products that are not "acceptable" to Western palates or concepts, and further, just as in the West, individual doctors have their own experiences and recommendations that are grounded in TCM nutrition concepts but may appear to deviate from the 'orthodox' point of view.
"...to resolve on." Didn't complete that sentence> to resolve one of the imbalances she was being treated for.
Thanks for the answer! It never occurred to me that there might be multiple competing schools of thought in TCM, but when you consider TCM as a holistic theory of health (including not only nutrition, but also concepts such as qi and the meridians of the body), it only makes sense that there would be different theories, just as there are in Western science before the evidence rules in favor predominantly of one theory over the others.I've been looking to learn more about this topic, and a few texts that come up repeatedly in my research so far include "The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine," "The Web That Has No Weaver," "Between Heaven and Earth," "Healing With Whole Foods," and "Staying Healthy with the Seasons." I plan to read these, but I imagine that they all probably lean towards orthodox TCM. Are there any additional Eastern nutrition books or resources you'd recommend off the top of your head, especially if they're of a more "heretical" bent?
Kisame,The Yellow Emperor's Classic states in sections on diet that the '5 grains' are the basis for nourishment. However, it also contains this passage which I quoted in The Garden of Eating: "In ancient times, people lived simply. They hunted, fished, and were with nature all day. When the weather cooled, they became active to fend off the cold. When the weather heated up in summer, they retreated to cool places. Internally, their emotions were calm and peaceful, and they were without excessive desires. Externally, they did not have the stress of today. They lived without greed and desire, close to nature. They maintained jing shen nei suo, or inner peace and concentration of mind and spirit. This prevented pathogens from invading. Therefore they did not need herbs to treat their internal state, nor did they need acupuncture to treat the exterior. When they did contract disease they simply guided properly the emotions and spirit and redirected the energy flow, using the method of zhu yuo to heal the condition."This passage appears to indicate that the author(s) of the Classic were aware that earlier humans were hunters and fishermen, not agriculturalists, and were healthier than their agricultural descendants.The Web That Has No Weaver has practically no general diet information. The others are orthodox.
For "heretical" views within Chinese medicine, see Ken Cohen's Way of Qigong: https://books.google.com/books?id=4rs02yrmHiMC&q=diet#v=onepage&q=meat&f=falseparticularly p. 299 ff, where he discusses "bi gu" (avoiding grains) and recommends a limited carbohydrate diet along the lines of Barry Sears's Zone diet. Also, Kristofer Schipper, an ordained Daoist priest, wrote in his book The Taoist Body, in regards to "bi gu":"The "cutting off" of grains, which were the basic staple food for the peasants, was also a rejection of their sedentary life and the peasant condition as such. This refusal should not solely be interpreted in the light of the miseries endured by farmers, but also in a much more fundamental way. Agriculture has occasioned, since Neolithic times, a radical break with the way of life that prevailed for almost the entire prehistory of humankind. Agriculture has also been the main culprit of the imbalances of human civilization over the last ten thousand years or so: the systematic destruction of the natural environment, overpopulation, capitalization, and other evils that result from sedentariness. "p.170If I remember correctly (don't have the book anymore to check), Taoist physician herbalist Steven Chang recommended a diet of meat and vegetables, little or no starch or grain, in his book The Tao of Balanced Diet.Daniel Reid, another Chinese medicine 'heretic,' recommends avoiding grains ("unfit for human consumption" because can't be eaten raw) and eating nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fish, lamb, and eggs. He learned from teachers in Taiwan, i.e. Daoist doctors who fled communism. Wikipedia's entry on "bi gu" has other leads as well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigu_(grain_avoidance)
Will check these out, thanks!
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