acupuncture, Diet, exercise, food, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Drying the damp: feeling well in humid climates

This week in Brisbane the heat and humidity have picked up and it’s no surprise that summer is just around the corner.

Humidity has a tendency to make many of us feel:

  • Heavy
  • Lethargic
  • Fluidy
  • Sweaty and sticky (a skin nightmare!) – use this scrub recipe
  • Unmotivated
  • Irritable or melancholy
  • Foggy headed
  • Not hungry, and yet still craving comfort foods and drinks
  • Nauseous and/or prone to loose bowels

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we refer to this syndrome as ‘dampness’.  That is, humidity from the environment, our lifestyle and diet has accumulated in our body and become stagnant, making us feel… bleh.

So, if this sounds like you in humid weather, what can be done?

  1. Keep moving – keep up the exercise even when you feel heavy and unmotivated, it will help you feel better.  Don’t sit for too long, get up regularly.
  2. Stay dry – don’t sit around in sweaty clothes or wet swimsuits.  Towel off properly and get changed.  Also be aware of your living, working and playing environments – are they well ventilated and dry?
  3. Keep up your fluids – it may sound counterproductive to drink more water (2-3L) but we need to promote urination to pass the excess fluid from your system.  That is, clean fluids going in so we can wash away the stagnant ones.
  4. Eat small meals, regularly, and make your lightest meal in the evening.  Don’t overeat.
  5. Reduce sweet, oily, rich and dairy foods – An icy soft drink, creamy gelati or fresh mango may seem like just the treat to give you a refreshing pick up but it will probably have the opposite effect, making you feel heavier and more lethargic than you were before.  Steer clear of  soft drinks, fruit juices, milk shakes, smoothies, ice cream, excessive high-sugar tropical fruits (eg. mangoes and bananas), fatty meats and greasy fried foods.  Before you get upset that I have taken your mango away (because let’s face it, they are delicious), a slice or two after a meal with a slice or two of pawpaw or pineapple is fine for aiding your digestion, we just shouldn’t go crazy on them.  While we are at it, an excessive intake of grains (eg. pasta dishes) will add to the damp feeling.
  6. Eat more light, bitter and pungent foods – these are what you can eat and will help your body reduce excessive fluids that are being held.  Make sure to eat small, light meals that include some ginger, garlic, onions, chili, caraway seeds, aduki (red beans) beans, mung beans, bitter leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, celery and rye (if gluten is ok). A squeeze of lemon or lime in your food and water will be refreshing. Diuretic teas – nettle leaf,  dandelion, corn silk (here is a recipe on how to make it) and green teas are useful – drink them like they are water.  Barley water can also make for a refreshing diuretic drink, although not for the  gluten intolerant.
  7. Herbs and acupuncture – if the humidity is still knocking you around and the thought of doing anything on this list is beyond you, get some professional help from a herbalist or acupuncturist.  They will choose the right herbs (often bitters) and acupoints to kickstart moving the dampness so that you can then get back on track with the lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

If it’s more the heat than the humidity that is getting to you – here’s some ideas to help you feel cooler.

Eating a diet to resolve dampness isn’t fun.  But neither is feeling heavy, lethargic and unmotivated.  So, do what you can, keep moving and if you can make even just a few of the dietary recommendations you should feel lighter and brighter to enjoy this summer.

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, food allergy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Red bean heart biscuits

It’s Valentine’s Day.  And somehow I’ve gone all mushy.  I have been meaning to make these gluten and dairy-free adzuki bean biscuits for a while.  They were originally supposed to be circular but the vibe of the day got to me and I used the heart shaped cutters instead.  They have a crisp outer layer but you’ll discover that the inside is sweet, soft and mushy.

These little treats feature adzuki beans.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, adzuki beans are valued for their ability to reduce dampness in the body.  Dampness translates to feelings of heaviness, waking sluggish, having a fuzzy head and experiencing digestive symptoms that are worse when consuming dairy, fatty and excessively sweet foods.  High humidity in the air or rainy days will also aggravate people who are holding dampness. The recipe also features some healthier sugar substitutes to keep the calorie count down.  These biscuits are based on this recipe, which is based on the red bean sweets that are popular in China. I’ve made a few changes to the recipe as detailed below.

Filling ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked adzuki beans
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons xylitol
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

 Biscuit ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons xylitol
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Filling method

  1. Place adzuki beans, agave nectar, water, xylitol and salt in food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Place mixture into saucepan and heat until it thickens (approximately five minutes).  Then add coconut oil and stir until the bean mixture looks glossy.   Remove from heat and cool.

Biscuit method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C .  Grease two biscuit trays.
  2. Combine brown sugar, water, xylitol, vanilla extract, almond meal and vinegar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add coconut oil and beat well.
  4. Mix in remaining dry ingredients and gently knead into a dough.
  5. Flour a clean, dry surface.  Roll out dough to about 3mm thick.  Use heart shape (or any shape you like) biscuit cutters to cut dough.
  6. Take one biscuit and place a teaspoon of bean mixture into centre.  Place another biscuit over the mixture.  Pinch the edges to avoid the mixture escaping.  Then smooth the edges over.
  7. Dip one flat side of each completed biscuit into sesame seeds.
  8. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until firm and golden.

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, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Eating to be cool, when you’re hot

sunSummer may have taken a little longer to manifest in Queensland this year, but now it’s out in force.  Hot and humid!  And that can play havoc in your body with headaches, lack of appetite or a ravenous appetite, nausea, fatigue, strong thirst, irritability and sweat pimples (here’s my favourite treat for clear skin).  Oh, what joy!

Food is one of the great delights in life, so how can we use it to survive summer heat? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) classifies foods by their impact on your body according to their temperatures and actions, as opposed to western nutrition which classifies foods by their nutritional content.  Both systems have merit and even often overlap but today I’ve featured some summer eating tips from TCM.

To cool your body down, ditch these:

  • caffeine
  • excessive spicy (hot) and pungent foods
  • excessive sweet foods
  • red meat
  • fried, grilled, roasted and barbequed foods
  • alcohol
  • overeating

To increase ‘coolness’ in your body, increase these:

  • Steamed, boiled, blanched and raw (in moderation if they don’t upset your digestive system) foods and soups.
  • Fresh foods especially cucumber (- cool as a), celery, mung beans, spinach, greens, mint, watermelon, tomato, radish, asparagus, eggplant and bamboo shoots.
  • Bitter foods, eg. lettuce, alfalfa, pawpaw, quinoa and amaranth.
  • Salty foods (in moderation), eg. seaweed, soy sauce, miso and pickles.
  • Sour foods, eg. lemon, lime, grapefruit, vinegar, star fruit, strawberries, apple and raspberry.
  • Proteins such as tofu, tempeh, egg white,  white fish and crab.
  • Herbs and spices such as mint, lemon balm, white peppercorn, coriander and marjoram.
  • Herbal and iced teas made from peppermint, chrysanthemum and rose petals.
  • My old favourite, add a squeeze of fresh lemon to your drinking water and keep those fluids up.

Now, who said cooling foods should be boring?  This food list screams out a chance to enjoy some delicious vietnamese and other south-east asian dishes, not to mention Japanese miso soups and seaweed-based meals.

Is the humidity also bringing you down?  Here’s some tips to feel less ‘damp’.

Enjoy, and stay cool!

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.