How Diet can Contribute to Mental-Emotional Problems in Chinese Medicine

October 02, 2018 - by enrica - in Conditions, Diet Therapy

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In Chinese Medicine, diet can be a contributing factor to someone who has mental-emotional problems, including conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. The aspects of diet which apply to Western patients are:

  • excessive consumption of hot energy foods;
  • excessive consumption of Damp-producing foods;
  • excessive consumption of cold-energy foods;
  • irregular eating habits; and
  • insufficient eating.

Excessive consumption of hot energy foods

Hot energy foods creates Heat or Fire in the body and particularly because heat rises, it can disturb the Mind.  Imagine that you’re trying to be calm but there is a lot of movement and heat, this can cause agitation, which can result in anxiety and insomnia. Some hot energy foods are:

  • red meat
  • spices
  • alcohol
  • tobacco

Excessive consumption of Damp-producing foods

Dampness is what occurs when fluid cannot be transformed in the body and is retained. Phlegm, a more substantial version of Damp, can also occur. Both Damp and Phlegm can obstruct the Mind. When Phlegm obstructs the Mind, in serious cases, it can cause serious mental illness and confusion, aggravating both feelings of depression or feelings of excessive elation and anxiety. They both have a “heavy” nature and can add to a person’s feeling of being weighed down and exacerbate feelings of depression. Some Damp-producing foods are:

  • dairy foods
  • greasy foods
  • fats
  • sugars

Excessive consumption of cold-energy foods

Cold energy foods injures Yang, which is the movement and fire of the person, and can make someone who has depression with a background of Yang deficiency feel worse. Some cold-energy foods are:

  • fruit
  • most vegetables
  • cold drinks

Irregular eating habits

Poor eating habits can affect the Stomach Qi or Stomach Yin, which can make someone who is suffering from anxiety with a background of Yin deficiency feel worse. Examples of irregular eating habits are:

  • eating late at night
  • skipping meals
  • eating on the run

Insufficient eating

This can occur with vegetarians, those on a strict slimming diet or with an eating disorder such as anorexia. This causes Blood deficiency and makes worse those who have anxiety or insomnia against a background of Blood deficiency.

There are many patterns of disharmony in Chinese Medicine for anxiety, depression and insomnia, as can be seen above. A Chinese Medicine practitioner can diagnose what your pattern is, treat you with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, and provide some diet advice such as that above.

Maciocia, G. 2009., The psyche in chinese medicine: treatment of emotional and mental disharmonies with acupuncture and chinese herbs, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.

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