Traditional Chinese Medicine & Immunity Boosting Foods

Traditional Chinese Medicine & Immunity Boosting Foods

            Traditional Chinese Medicine nutrition puts more focus on each food’s energetic properties like bitter, sweet, sour, pungent, and salty. A balanced TCM diet is recommended according to both body type and illness/condition considering each food item’s taste, nature, and function on the human body. Armed with the right knowledge on the TCM perspective of foods, we can use this information to boost the immune system and maintain overall health.

TCM Nutrition Basics

            The main goal of TCM nutrition is to keep the body in a neutral state by eating the proper foods at the proper times in proper amounts. The most natural way of all to boost our immune system is through food, and in TCM, this has been a well-known fact for thousands of years. Ying Qi is the energy the we obtain through nutrition, and vital for a healthy immune system. Along with this there are a few easily understood steadfast tips when it comes to TCM nutrition.

Top 3 TCM Nutrition Tips:

  • Although raw foods have more nutrients compared to cooked foods on a molecular level, they are also harder to break down within the stomach. Lightly cooked is best to get everything that we need from the foods we eat.

  • The temperature of the food being consumed is important. Having cold food and drinks in general is not the best for digestion. Having food and drink that is room temperature is preferrable.

  • A common problem, especially in the United States, is dampness from foods that backs us up. This dampness comes from hard to digest foods like refined sugar and dairy. Have a patient cut out these types of foods, and they will be surprised at the change in their health issues.
Essentially, TCM does not want to make the stomach’s job harder and disrupt digestion in the body. The goal is to encourage self-healing through boosting the immune system. Additionally, patients should consume food that is grown locally as much as possible, while eating foods that are appropriate with the seasons. For patients to maintain immunity, especially in colder months when sickness is more common, they should take increase their intake of fresh vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, water, meat and fish, and a small amount of oil.
Common signs that a patient has a compromised immune system are chronic fatigue, chronic skin conditions like inflammation or allergies, frequent colds or body aches, and digestive issues. A tongue diagnosis would reveal teeth marks or scallop outline and greasy coating when a patient is showing a weak immune system.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Foods Best Suited for Immunity

            The types of herbs and/or individual foods prescribed is based solely off of each patient’s individual body constitution as well as the presenting balance of yin and yang energies.

Generally speaking, these are foods that are beneficial for anyone in TCM nutrition:

  • Soup – A warming broth is easier to digest, and aids the immune system by freeing up energy to fight bacteria and infection at any point. Not to mention, soup provide nutrients and immune-boosting properties like minerals and amino acids.

  • Warm Water – In TCM nutrition, replacing cold drinks with warm ones is highly recommended. Warm drinks help raise the body temperature in order to fight toxins that patients come into contact with, as well as aiding in digestion similar to the warming broth/soup. It is important when the patient is fighting illness, to advise them to drink extra water, and doing so will increase regeneration of the immune-fighting lymphatic cells so that they feel stronger or better.

  • Astragalus Root – Known within the TCM community to boost a patient’s vitality and increases immune boosting compounds.

  • Ginger – This powerful food induces sweat to help clear the pathogen and fire up the immune system. Additionally, it helps to decrease inflammation and nausea.

  • Garlic – Garlic lowers blood pressure, fights infections, and is used for immunity. It is widely utilized and known for being antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory.

  • Vitamin A & C – These important vitamins protect the body from infection as well as stimulate the forming of antibodies in the body to fight illness. Combining whole citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, clementines, grapefruits, and tangerines that are high in vitamin C and warm water make for a natural restorative for viral infections. Vitamin A helps protect the cells from potential attack, and can be found in foods like carrots, broccoli, and spinach, as well as yellow and orange foods. According to TCM, it is always recommended to take vitamins in naturally through foods and drinks.

  • Fermented Foods – These types of foods contain live and active cultures which populate in our digestive tract to help fight bad bacteria and improve digestion. They have also been shown to fight diseases and decrease viral infections by stimulating the immune system. Some fermented foods include tempeh, miso, plain yogurt, and sauerkraut.

  • Sunlight & Sleep – While this isn’t a food or drink, they are essential elements in TCM nutrition. Sunlight being a natural healer with vitamin D, and sleep because the body goes through cell repair while asleep making for an immune system boost.
In short, a healthy diet in TCM is minimally-processed. Avoid overeating, reduce eating late at night, and not consuming foods at extreme temperatures which can stagnate and weaken Qi. As we know, in the world of TCM nutrition there are many foods that can be recommended to patients depending on their unique body constitution, and presenting conditions.

TCM Nutrition Recipes

            While there are an infinite number of TCM recipes out there, there are some staples that are good to recommend to patients if they are just easing into a TCM diet.

TCM Nutrition Recipes:

  • Congee – a type of rice porridge that is many times served as a side dish or served to someone who is ill. Below is a version of it, but there are many out there.

    • Ingredients – 1 cup long grain white (traditional) or brown rice, 8 cups chicken broth, 1lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, 1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce, 1tbsp fresh ginger, 2-4 cloves garlic.

      • Top with 1lb shitake mushrooms, 1tbsp ginger, 5 green onions, 2-3 cloves garlic, salt & pepper, 1 small jalapeño sliced (optional), chili oil (optional), 3tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp red pepper flakes.

  • Directions – mince ginger and garlic. Add rice, chicken, chicken broth, coconut aminos, 1tbsp fresh ginger, and 2-3 cloves garlic into a slow cooker. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7 hours.

    Next: Prepare the mushroom topping right before serving – slice green onions separating whites from greens, add a drizzle of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt & pepper to the pan. Cook these until lightly softened (about 5-6 minutes). Add ginger, garlic, and whites of green onions, then cook 4-5 more minutes. Remove from the heat.

    Last: Shred the chicken and mix into the congee. Spoon into bowls and top with mushroom mixture, greens of the green onions, jalapeños, and drizzle with chili oil.

  • To make chili oil, put red pepper flakes in a bowl. Heat olive oil until it is shimmering, then pour over the chili flakes, mix, and let the mixture come to room temperature.

  • Note: omit the jalapeño and chili oil if the patient is cleansing.

  • Teas for Immunity – Starfruit Mulberry tea, Astragalus tea, and Wellness tea.

    • Starfruit Mulberry tea – 1 pc of fresh starfruit, 3g mulberry leaves, 3g green tea. Boil the fresh starfruit with the mulberry leaves and steep the green tea in the liquid. Add a small amount of sugar to taste.

    • Astragalus tea – 10g astragalus, 3g tea leaves, for allergies or sinus issues add 3g divaricate saposhinkovia root. Steep 300ml of boiling hot water and drink as a tea. Continue to add water to the same ingredients until they run out of flavor.

    • Wellness tea – 2-3 slices of fresh ginger, 1-2 slices of fresh lemon (or 1tbsp of lemon juice) added to a mug. Add hot water to the mug and let it steep for 1-2 minutes.

  • Sesame Fish with Ginger Sauce – beneficial for Lung and Kidney energy, and the ginger brings warmth to the stomach.

    • Ingredients – 1 cup of sesame seeds, 4 white fish fillets, salt & pepper to taste, 1tbsp oil, 1tbsp butter, 1tbsp minced ginger, 1tbsp soy sauce, and 2-3tbsp of hot water.

    • Directions – toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan, then remove. Salt & pepper the fish fillets and pat on the sesame seeds. Heat the oil and add the fish for about 3-4 minutes. Turn the fish over, and continue to do so until browned, then remove from the pan.

      For a side sauce, heat the butter and stir in the ginger for 30 seconds, then stir in the soy sauce and water. Sprinkle over the fish and serve

  • Avocado & Mung Bean Sprouts – the avocado lubricates the lung and colon as well as harmonizing the liver, and bean sprouts make this a nutritious meal.

    • Ingredients – 1 small avocado, 1 handful of mung bean sprouts, hot sauce to taste, crackers or toast.

    • Directions – Gently mash the avocado, and place on a piece of toast or crackers. Add the mung bean sprouts and drizzle your favorite hot sauce or relish such as the sweet chili sauce from Trader Joe’s.

  • Dragon’s Way Treats – these are a traditional treat that was developed 2 decades ago for the Dragon’s Way participants (a comprehensive wellness program based on TCM). All of the ingredients are a good source of protein and support the Kidney.

    • Ingredients – 1/2lb walnuts, 1/2lb black sesame seeds, 3-4oz. of honey, 1/4lb of coconut flakes (optional).

    • Directions – Grind the black sesame seeds and walnuts together in a blender or fruit processor. Cook this mixture in a double boiler or steam for 1 hour. Then, mix in the honey and evenly distribute. Let this mixture cool, roll into bite-sized balls, and roll in coconut flakes if desired and refrigerate.
These are only a few examples to get you and your patients started on the road of TCM nutrition. You can direct your patients to TCM World for a plethora of delicious TCM nutritious meals and/or snacks.

TCM Immune Boost

            TCM nutrition is beneficial for patients of all walks of life because it is not only fresh, but also well-rounded to address multiple issues within the body. By making a few simple changes in dietary choices, patients can improve their immune system and reap the benefits in their day-to-day life. Incorporating aspects of TCM nutrition, with the addition of acupuncture treatment, could be the thing that a patient needs to achieve optimal health all around.
Resources:
Recipes-TCM World. Accessed October 24, 2022. https://www.tcmworld.org/health/recipes/
Our Recipes-TCM Recipes. Accessed October 24, 2022. https://fiveseasonstcm.com/pages/tcm-recipes
7 Traditional Chinese Medicine Ingredients That Can Help Boost Your Health. Tatler. March 6, 2020. Accessed October 24, 2022. https://www.tatlerasia.com/style/wellness/th-chinese-medicine-ingredients-help-boost-health
Immune Supporting Recipe. Accessed October 24, 2022. https://prescribe-nutrition.com/blog/immune-supporting-recipe-from-a-tcm-practitioner/
4 Food Therapy Recipes to Boost Your Immune System. Accessed October 24, 2022. https://www.nwhealth.edu/news/boost-your-immune-system/
5 Tips From Your TCM Physician to Boost Your Immunity. Raffles Health Insurance June 24, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2022. https://www.raffleshealthinsurance.com/blog/health/5-tips-from-your-tcm-physician-to-boost-immunity/
Congee is the Immune-Boosting Meal TCM Recommends. Clean. Accessed October 21, 2022. https://www.cleanprogram.com/blogs/clean/congee
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