Hello Friends, Students and Family,
Since we are presently having a reemergence of the covid-9 virus, it seems like a good time to share the following information, which is focused primarily on strengthening the immune system. The spleen, lung and kidney organ systems have an interdependent relationship which directly influences the health of digestion and immunity. This dietary guidance comes from the perspective of Taoist Chinese nutrition.
How digestion works A healthy functioning digestive system contributes to Strong Immunity. When you eat, the food first goes to the stomach which then separates the pure from the impure food. The pure food essence goes to the spleen, which transforms it to become jing or nutritive Qi. The spleen then transports the jing to the intestines, where it undergoes another separation into pure and impure. This impure essence is eliminated out of the body and the pure essence is reabsorbed by the **triple burner (a meridian that regulates hot & cold function), which then sends it to the kidneys to be transformed into wei Qi.
What is Wei Qi?
The energy that circulates in the body’s periphery or the space just under the skin and regulates the opening and closing of the pores is known as the Wei Qi in Chinese medicine. (The opening and closing of the pores is controlled by the lung). This is considered the body’s first line of defense against the invasion of pathogens, such as colds or flus etc. While we are constantly being exposed to disease and viruses in the environment, we can usually fight off or lessen the pathogenic invasion If the Wei Qi is strong; but when the Wei Qi is weak, it is easier for pathogens to invade through the pores of the skin. The only way to know if your wei Qi and immunity is sufficiently strong is by how often you get a cold or the flu.
Finally, The kidneys send the wei Qi to the liver to be circulated within the body’s periphery. So, the creation of wei Qi depends on a strong and healthy functioning digestive system (stomach, spleen, intestines) and good digestion depends on what you eat, how you eat, and how well you digest and assimilate what you eat, drink and think. Oh yes, thoughts matter too!!!
Following are some guidelines for strengthening digestion and immunity.
General Guidelines to strengthen digestion: Avoid excessively cold foods, excessively hot, spicy or greasy foods.
Avoid overeating which can create stagnation in the digestive system and other area of the body. This is especially true if you constantly overeat. In Chinese nutrition we say to stop when 70% full. Easier said than done, but if you can master this, then you are truly masterful.
Avoid raw, undercooked meats or animal organs which can have parasites.
Limit sugar, including unrefined sugar which can cause dampness in the body and weaken the spleen. The sweet flavor supplements the spleen in moderation but weakens it in excess. Signs of dampness include: discharges, edema, swelling, oozing sores, lack of thirst, fluid obstructions, puffy complexion or tongue, a heavy lethargic feeling, etc.
Food that is slow cooked or prepared as a soup or porridge is easiest to digest and assimilate; and herbs, such as ginger, astragalus (huang qi) or cinnamon can be added to enhance or balance the energetic quality of the dish. These foods are especially beneficial for elderly, very young or for someone recovering from an illness or surgery.
Pungent foods are beneficial to the lungs. They invigorate and promote circulation of lung and wei qi, and can also induce perspiration to disburse pathogens from the body or keep them from penetrating beyond the wei Qi. Some warming pungent Foods are ginger, onion family leeks, green onions, chives, etc., garlic, cloves. Cooling pungent foods include cilantro & mints, etc. These are wonderful and can be added to most hot or cold dishes or enjoyed as tea.
Mushrooms – mushrooms are primitive plants that are the fruit of fungus which grows underground. In Chinese medicine they are considered sweet and cooling. They enter the lungs, large intestines, stomach and spleen. They clear heat, regulate Qi, tonify Qi and blood and strengthen immunity. Mushrooms also contain selenium needed for a healthy circulatory system and heart. Some mushrooms like shitake or oyster have a greater healing quality and effect on the body, but all mushrooms have value for their trace minerals and B vitamin profile.
Low sodium fermented and cultured foods are high in probiotics, which aid digestion and help to keep the good and bad bacteria in balance. You can also take a probiotic supplement, but if you enjoy foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdoughs, pickles etc. they are really easy to make and you only need to eat a small amount to get a big benefit from cultured foods. Most commercial brands use vinegar and a high amount of salt. I prefer to use whey (made from yogurt) and cut back on the salt. I will soon be posting some recipes online for anyone interested in making their own cultures & ferments.
Vitamin C is needed for the repair of all body tissues and many body functions. It is an antioxidant that is water soluble and destroyed by heat, therefore, the body needs to get Vit. C through diet or supplementation and including some raw foods in the diet.
Some fruits and vegetables containing Vitamin C include: – citrus, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, green peppers, cauliflower, mango, raspberries, blueberries, winter squash, pineapples, sweet potatoes, etc.
Water – nature’s filter – I personally feel that water has a magic healing power. Nothing satisfies thirst like a cool glass of water. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially in hot, dry weather or climates, but also if you tend to be hot and dry internally (yin deficient).
Teas – There are many herbs that are beneficial for lung, digestion and kidney and can be made into a tea, so I encourage you to learn more about herbs and include them regularly in your diet. I’m including one specifically for enhancing immunity. This recipe comes from Healing Herbal Teas by Brigitte Mars, A.H.G.
Immune Health Tea 2 parts echinacea root 1 part elder flower 2 parts pepperming 2 parts lemongrass herb 1 part rose hips ½ part green tea leaf (or nettle)
Bring water to a boil. Add the echinacea root and rose hip. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes. Turn off and add the rest of the herbs to be infused. Cover and let sit about 10 minutes. Strain to serve.
Lifestyle Recommendations While diet can go a long way towards improving your health and strengthening immunity, it’s important to include healthy lifestyle choices and habits to truly gain the full benefit.
This guidance is far from comprehensive, but useful whether experiencing a pandemic or not. A healthy body and mind creates a clear connection to spirit. What we feed ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually contributes to the collective consciousness and manifests as reality.
I will be following up with seasonal guidance, informational articles and recipes on our website and facebook.