Diet, food, food allergy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Releasing the exterior: a soup to expel the common cold

spicy noodle soupWhat should you eat at the first signs of picking up the common cold? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recommends increasing your intake of foods that are pungent in flavour, such as these:

  • onions
  • garlic
  • chili
  • mints and fragrant green leafy culinary herbs
  • ginger

You may have noticed that when you eat foods that have a pungent (spicy) nature they induce perspiration and help to loosen up blocked noses. Basically, pungent foods help us to excrete the stuck fluids in the upper and outer parts of our bodies. TCM refers to this area as the ‘exterior’, as the symptoms are not quite in the internal organs (eg. lungs) yet. Inducing perspiration and getting that blocked nose running helps to ‘release the pathogen from the exterior’. Better out than in?

While you are under attack, decrease your intake of any foods that will produce excessive phlegm or ‘tonify’ the pathogen (virus) in your system:

  • dairy
  • cold temperature and raw foods
  • animal protein
  • excessive sweet foods
  • excessive fatty foods

If your common cold comes with fever, sore throat and yellow mucous choose cooler foods such as mints and green tea.

If it is chills and clear runny mucous that are more of a problem for you choose  chili, cinnamon and ginger to warm you up.

I came across this incredibly delicious New Year Noodle Soup that ticks all of the boxes for a soup to ‘release the exterior’. I left out the cream from the topping and replaced the egg noodles with konjac noodles (popular in Japan) that are now marketed in Australia as SlimPasta. Konjac (ju ruo) is an Asian root vegetable. TCM has used it for resolving phelgm and blood stagnation. The soluble fibre absorbs water and can be shaped into a very low calorie pasta substitute. The noodles have a bland taste which makes them great for using in soups and sauces and a slightly chewier texture than a regular noodle. All in all, they were terrific in the soup.

For more information on preventing the common cold you should read: The art of war: your defences v the common cold.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

It’s time for a detox – Traditional Chinese Medicine style

detox dietEvery now and then, maybe once or twice each year, I put myself on a detox diet.

Now I’m not one who is big on following a particular diet trend, a detox diet for me is more about establishing good eating and living habits – bringing myself back into line – back to basics – that kind of thing. It’s about prioritising what’s important – and that’s doing what makes me feel well.

Usually I get this urge after an extremely busy few months when some of my good habits have slid and I’ve been running from the clinic to social event to karate training to professional education seminar to giving a lecture while surviving on food that is far more convenient than it is worth eating. That’s when I know, it’s time to set things straight.

So my detox diet usually runs for about two or three weeks, and since I respond well to structure and routine I spell it out like this:

None of these

  • Dairy
  • Gluten and refined grains
  • Animal protein
  • Processed foods (this includes chocolate)
  • Added sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee and black tea

And plenty of these, organic where possible

  • Fresh vegetables
  • A small amount of fruit
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Wholegrains (non-gluten)
  • Plenty of herbs and spices (eg. ginger, garlic, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, parsley and coriander).
  • Water
  • Herbal and green teas

I take a few herbs and supplements for:

  • liver support 
  • good digestive function
  • healthy gut flora

I like to consider this as more about what you can have, and that is spoiling your body with excellent quality food that you deserve (none of that cheap, nasty processed stuff)! For me, this means I can eat as many gluten-free porridges, curries, casseroles, stir frys and soups as I like. Which is great because I love these foods.

Now, you don’t have to go without gluten grains if you don’t have a problem with them, I just feel better when I do avoid them. I’m also already a vegetarian so the meat thing isn’t a problem.

The part I struggle with most is avoiding sugar.  I have a sweet tooth and I love dark chocolate. The rest of the diet makes me stick to a good routine for two weeks and that’s long enough for me to remember my good habits and stick to them most of the time after that. I also find that if you fill up your body with good food it is very satisfying and you tend not to want the processed or sweet foods you might otherwise crave. These cravings are usually gone after only a few days. There are a few other tricks I have up my sleeve for people who struggle with sugar cravings.

A good detox program should also include some exercise, again use this as a way to set your future exercise routine.  Do exercise that you enjoy – if it’s outdoors in a green space it’s even better! Be kind to yourself during your program and add in a massage or two and some epsom salts baths.

Detox diets and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Detox diets are not part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) so this post is a little controversial.  TCM supports the body back to a healthy function but does not traditionally use therapeutic methods as a ‘clean out’, unless of course you are blocked up.  Detox diets do form part of naturopathic and ayurvedic thought.

My personal idea of a detox is not huge on the cleaning out side of things, but more on re-establishing a healthy diet and lifestyle routine. In TCM terms it’s all about supporting the Earth element – the Spleen and Stomach (or digestive system in western terms). It’s a plan for a set period of time (2-3 weeks) to get yourself back on track. I also do not subscribe to the raw food clean-out idea. A little is ok, but it depends on your constitution and you’ll probably need to see a TCM practitioner to work that out. My detox doesn’t usually include any juicing (or at least not copious amounts). When your body is functioning well, it can eliminate easily what it doesn’t need.

Detox programs aren’t for everyone.  It depends on your constitution and your signs and symptoms. I design different types of programs for my patients as individuals. Different foods, herbs, supplements and time periods. The goal is to re-establish (or establish in the first place) a healthy diet and lifestyle for a period of time that you can then stick to maybe 80% of the time thereafter.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, exercise, food, food allergy, health, nature

Happy campers eat wholefoods

capsicum egg ringsI’ve just come back from a delightful little camping trip to Cunningham’s Gap in southern Queensland. While I really do love to rough it when I go camping, this trip was a luxury affair with a Weber Q barbecue, gas stove and gas camping oven, in addition to the traditional campfire.

bestbrook mountainThere are so many reasons why getting outdoors and going camping is good for your health.  Here’s my list.

camping vego breakfastIn between the horse riding, hiking through the beautiful forest of the Scenic Rim and taking afternoon naps, we cooked and ate some really great food altogether as a big group of friends.  There wasn’t a tin of baked beans or packet of Deb (instant potato mash) to be seen. And you don’t need the fancy cooking gear to cook like this – a campfire, butane stove, hot plate and a few pots will go a long way.

So here’s a snapshot of just some of the great wholesome camping food (all with vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options) we enjoyed on this trip:

  • Tofu and vegetable Thai red curry with rice (plus there was enough leftovers for lunch the next day).
  • Peanut butter, avocado and salad gluten-free wraps.
  • Scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes cooked on the barbecue.
  • A ‘hangi’ style meal with loads of vegetables: sweet potato, potato, pumpkin and corn served with a grilled chickpea and spinach patty.
  • Leftover vegies from the hangi meal cooked into bubble and squeak, with mushrooms and eggs cooked in capsicum rings on the barbecue (pictured).
  • Gluten-free chocolate berry cake baked in the gas camping oven for dessert.

Have you got some tasty camping recipes based on whole foods? I’d love to know about them.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, health, nature

When to choose organic foods?

Dirty dozen foodsOrganic is the buzz word of the moment and everything from granny smith apples to tinned kidney beans to chicken breast fillets to cabernet sauvignon to body wash to tampons to cotton socks has an organic tag on it.

What does ‘organic’ really mean anyway?  (For anyone who remembers their grade 8 chemistry, ‘organic’ in a produce context refers to much more than the presence of carbon.)

According to Australian Organic, “organic produce is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or GMOs with a focus on environmentally sustainable practices. Organic food is not just chemical-free. Organic farmers take a holistic approach to food production and handling, and the whole system is linked – Soil. Plants. Animals. Food. People. Environment. Health.”

As the term ‘organic’ is banded around by many companies to sell their wares, a savvy consumer will look for the term ‘certified organic’ to confirm that their produce is exactly that.  This is an excellent guide to understanding certified organic produce (e.g. food, clothing and cosmetics).

The downside of organic produce is that it can be more expensive than regular produce.  This lovely little guide (above) was produced to let you know which foods are the most pesticide heavy and so are best bought from organic producers.  It also lets you know which foods you can purchase from regular suppliers if price or availability is a factor in your buying decision.

But, when in doubt, choose organic.  It’s good for you, the farmers and your planet.

I’ve always loved Food Connect as a community supported agriculture (CSA) supplier of in-season organic fruit, vegetables and a wide range of other delicious produce.  Food Connect operates throughout South East Queensland and Sydney.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, emotional health, food, food allergy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

A heart warming curry and sweet tropical treat for Valentine’s Day

heart chilliThis week I leafed through a few of my vegetarian recipe books looking for inspiration for something interesting to make for a special someone.  Neither of us tolerate dairy well, so dairy-free was a must.  But really, I was searching for a menu that was flavoursome, fragrant and delicious.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the heart is represented by the fire element.  The temperature of the fire element is hot – warming and spicy – it builds our Yang energy (our internal fire), think of chilli, onions, garlic, ginger and the myriad of spices we have at our finger tips in the modern kitchen.  Interestingly, the corresponding emotion is joy.  Have you ever felt grumpy when eating a perfectly spiced dish?

What first caught my eye was a recipe for dessert: tropical fruit sushi.  This sounds weird but looks divine, and was the perfect mix of sweet rice, coconut, spice and the last of summer’s mangoes.

Continuing with the tropical Asian inspired theme, I chose a vegetarian Penang curry for the main course and tweaked the recipe to suit my preferences, maximising produce from my very own balcony herb garden.

Okay, so these weren’t cooked and eaten on Valentine’s Day, but I thought you might like to take advantage of these ideas for a romantic meal (even if it’s just for you – I’m all for spoiling oneself!)

Here are the recipes:

Eggplant and tofu Penang curry

Ingredients

  • 2 large red chillies (seeded and sliced)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (white part chopped into 1 cm pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 400g cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups snow peas (trimmed)
  • 2 cups eggplant (cubed, salted, washed and dried)
  • 200g tofu (sliced and fried)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons basil, sliced

Method

  1. Blend chillies, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and salt in a food processor until herbs resemble a thick paste.  Add a little of the coconut milk to help this process.
  2. Add the paste to a saucepan and fry a little until fragrant.  Add coconut milk, eggplant and tofu, simmer.
  3. When eggplant is almost cooked add snow peas.
  4. Season with soy sauce and maple syrup, stir well.  Cook just until snow peas are tender.
  5. Serve with steamed rice and top with basil.

Tropical fruit sushi

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sushi rice
  • 150mL coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons caster sugar*
  • 1 mango
  • 4cm  fresh ginger (grated finely)

Method

  1. Boil rice with just enough water to cover it and allow to simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain.
  2. Then line a steamer with muslin, add rice and steam for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Transfer the rice to a small saucepan and mix with coconut milk, nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 6 minutes and rice mixture is thick and creamy.  Cool.
  4. Line a baking dish (18 x 25 cm)with cling wrap leaving enough at the edges to wrap over the top.
  5. When rice is cool spread into the baking tray at about 2 cm thick.  Smooth the top.  Fold cling wrap over the top. Refrigerate.
  6. Slice mango thinly and cut into small rectangles (2 x 4 cm).  You’ll need 16 pieces.
  7. In a small saucepan combine remaining 4 tablespoons of caster sugar with 1/2 cup water to make sugar syrup*.  Stir over a low heat until combined, then bring to the boil for 2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat and add mango and ginger.  Cool.
  8. Slice rice into 4 x 2 cm slices.  Top each slice with a piece of mango.  Drizzle with ginger syrup on the serving plate.

*The sugar syrup can be made with stevia instead – here is a recipe although you’ll only need 1/2 cup so reduce the recipe to an eighth.

Another idea for a love inspired sweet are these red bean heart biscuits.

And if you are not feeling the love, maybe Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you find your happy heart again.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, food, food allergy, health, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Quick & easy Japanese-style rice-egg breakfast

IMG_0376This week I’ve finally got my act together and started riding to work again.  It really is the best way to get to work (and here’s why). However, this transport method has always presented a breakfast challenge for me, as I leave early in the morning and really do love a hot, fancy breakfast (following the Traditional Chinese Medicine view on meals that is – “eat breakfast as an emperor“).

But, I’m incredibly pleased to report that I have found the hot and fancy cook-at-work breakfast solution: tamago kake gohan (translated as “egg sauce over rice”). I ate this dish when I was training in karate and exploring traditional medicine in Japan last year and loved it.  A gorgeous friend gave me a small rice cooker for Christmas so I’ve taken it to the clinic and put the dish into action. I have been mighty impressed with the tasty and satisfying results.

As a side note, grains are copping a bit of a beating at the moment.  While it’s not good to eat too much of anything and that some grains are also not digested well by some people, it is worth noting that if you do tolerate grains and eat them in moderation they can be health promoting – after all the Japanese have the longest life expectancy and use rice as a staple food.

Japanese-style rice & egg breakfast

Ingredients:

  • 1 small rice cooker cup of brown rice
  • 3 small rice cooker cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons tamari
  • a small piece of a nori sheet, cut/torn into little pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Add rice, water and grated ginger to rice cooker and follow cooking instructions.
  2. Just before rice is cooked, beat raw egg and add tamari to taste.
  3. When rice is cooked and still steaming hot, transfer to a bowl and pour egg/tamari mixture over the top. Stir through.  The egg will cook a little in the hot rice.
  4. Top with nori and sesame seeds.

Note: It tastes MUCH better than it looks!

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

2013: what can The Wellness Ninja do for you?

Wowzers!  While seeing patients today I’ve realised we are well on the way towards the end of January and I’ve been so busy in the clinic that I have been neglecting The Wellness Ninja updates. Apologies!

The Capricorn in me is trying to manage the situation with a level of careful thought and organisation right now starting with some reflection and planning for the future – which has involved a carefully written list that may be further developed into a very nerdy excel spreadsheet!

Many of us are also taking this approach to optimising various aspects of our lives with the new year (eg. health, finance, relationships, fun and relaxation).  I’ve seen many patients this month wanting to start detox and weight loss programs, and others who are motivated to tackle old injuries and chronic health problems. However,  if you feel as though you have missed the new year bandwagon, never fear, there’s always  the Chinese New Year in just a few weeks – another new beginning and fresh start!

So, on reflection, I thought I’d share a few of the posts that have been most popular since I started this little blog a few years ago:

  1. Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes and the accident prone
  2. The acupuncturist and the broken heart
  3. Summer skin treat – the DIY salt scrub
  4. Scuba diving: extreme relaxation
  5. The natural medicine guide to surviving the Kokoda Challenge ( or other 100km hike)
  6. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): can natural medicine help?
  7. Karate: unlock the free flow of Ki
  8. Darkside decadence: the gluten-free biscuit
  9. A treat to settle a sick tummy
  10. How to have breakfast like an emperor (or empress) everyday

I have had a few requests for some blogs on topics such as:

  • What would be the top three herbs a Jedi Knight would take?
  • How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view different types of alcohol beverages? (After all, medicinal wines are a TCM treatment method.)

Have you got a burning health question you think The Wellness Ninja needs to tackle?  Let me know!

This year will be jam packed with some excellent seminars and of course further Traditional Chinese Medicine masters study at UWS. Fertility, digestion and paediatrics are all on the schedule, and yes, you’ll be reading all about it.  So stay tuned for a wealth of interesting bits and bobs on health, natural beauty, fitness and martial arts.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.