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, food, food allergy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Delicious vegetarian nachos (gluten and dairy free)

nachosOne of the areas my patients seem to struggle with is how to eat well when life is busy. Limited time means that eating wholesome, healthy, homemade food can seem out of reach and so it becomes that fast food is an easy replacement if the meal isn’t skipped altogether.

I’d suggest having a few quick and easy recipes up your sleeve for busy nights when you don’t have time to cook your ideal healthy homemade meal.  (Here‘s some other ideas for anyone who finds being busy and healthy mutually exclusive.)

My first fall back is an omelette packed with veggies. It’s fast and nutritious. Here’s my recipe.

Another quick meal is vegetarian nachos. I try to squeeze in as many nutritious foods as I can into these. I’ve ditched the dairy (no sour cream or cheese here) and well, these nachos are bulked up with so many other great ingredients that you just don’t need it.  Plus, they are so much tastier than any nachos I’ve had anywhere else.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective I see this as a yin and blood nourishing meal.  The red kidney beans, spinach and tomato mix support the blood. Avocado provides good oils for the body and nourish our yin. The chili and onion are pungent and warm aiding the digestion of the richer, cooler and more nourishing ingredients.  From a nutritional perspective, this meal is full of fibre and contains a good serve of vegetarian protein.  The lycopene in cooked tomatoes are particularly good for prostate health in men.

Ingredients

  • Organic corn chips
  • Kidney beans (best case scenario: soaked the night before and cooked, otherwise 1 can of organic canned kidney beans)
  • Cooked tomatoes (here’s a nice way to replace canned tomatoes to avoid the BPA lining in the can, otherwise 1 can of organic diced tomatoes)
  • Organic salsa (as hot as you like it), 1 jar
  • Avocado
  • Half a lemon
  • Half a red onion, finely diced
  • Baby spinach leaves

Method

  1. In a small saucepan mix and heat kidney beans and tomatoes.
  2. Mash avocado with onion and squeeze lemon juice into mix.
  3. Spread half the corn chips onto a large plate and top with spinach leaves.
  4. Spoon half of the hot tomato and kidney bean mix over the corn chips.
  5. Top with half a jar of salsa.
  6. Lastly, serve with half the avocado mix on top.

You should have enough of the corn chips, bean mix, salsa and avocado mix to make a second serve.

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, 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.

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

Happy new year! And highlights from the Woodford Folk Festival

DSC00608Happy new year to all of my lovely readers!  I hope your 2013 is shaping up just dandy so far.

I have been lucky enough to spend the 2012/13 transition at the Woodford Folk Festival.  Again this year I was speaking at the fabulous Blue Lotus health and healing venue with my wonderful naturopathic colleague, Kathleen Murphy.

We spoke on “Gluten & Grain Intolerance” and “Vegetarian v Omnivore diets”.  Kath gave the nutrition essentials and I was able to give the Traditional Chinese Medicine spin on each of these.  Both talks were well attended with a great crowd who asked lots of excellent questions.  If you were there, thanks for being such an awesome audience – especially if you came to our New Year’s Day morning talk.  Good health vibes to you!

DSC00639Additionally, we ran a new workshop in the Children’s Festival this year – “Bath time – soothe time”.  In essence it was all about calming babies and small children before bed.  We chatted about good digestion tips, essential oils, herbal teas, acupressure and massage.  The highlight for me was giving a four-year old her first massage – she just about melted into her chair.  See, massage is for all ages, and kids (big and little) love ’em!

I’ll write more on the gluten and diet talks on this blog in coming days.  So stay tuned.

So, as usual, I have returned to reality, still with my post-festival glow (why do I love Woodford? – find out here) and hit the ground running at HealthWise Clinic practicing Monday to Friday for all of January.  If you are in need of re-stoking your glow for 2013 come and see me in the clinic.

May 2013 be your most radiant year yet!

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.

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.

acupuncture, Diet, fertility, food, herbal medicine, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Nourishing the blood with TCM and whole foods

Blood deficiency (xue xu) is a diagnostic term we use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for someone who is showing signs and symptoms of inadequate nourishment of the blood to the body. It is not uncommon for the women I see for pre-conception care, fertility treatment and pregnancy support to have an element of blood deficiency as part of their diagnosis.  Although, blood deficiency is not limited to women in their reproductive years and can also be present in men.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • lightheaded
  • poor memory
  • mild anxiety
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • pale (face, lips, tongue, nails, eyelids)
  • weak nails
  • hair loss or premature greying
  • low energy
  • blurred vision or floaters in the vision
  • dry eyes, skin and hair
  • tics, tremors and numbness
  • women: light or absent periods (maybe after a history of heavy periods)

A lot of these symptoms are consistent with those of iron deficiency anaemia.  TCM blood deficiency is more than iron deficiency however.  It does describe a condition involving a lack of protein building blocks, vitamin B12, folic acid and other nutrients, but more so, blood deficiency, in its TCM sense, is to do with the whole substance that is blood – that is, there is not enough good quality blood in its entirety to nourish the body.

To correct a blood deficiency, we look for possible causes of the blood deficiency.  The three most common are:

  • excessive bleeding (often menstrual, but not limited to this)
  • poor digestive function (not absorbing nutrients)
  • poor diet which is lacking in nutrition (nothing worth absorbing)

Acupuncture alone cannot nourish the blood but it can improve digestive function to enhance absorption.  Blood is a substance and we need good foods ingested so that we have the building blocks to be absorbed by the body to manufacture it well.  The two best ways to build and nourish blood are:

  • Diet: Plant sources include dark green (purple/red) leafy vegetables, seaweeds, spirulina, sprouts, legumes and whole grains. Richly coloured foods (often red) are valued for building the blood including goji berries (Chinese wolf berries), dried apricots, dark grapes, blackberries, raspberries and black strap molasses.  Additionally, animal sources include organic meat, eggs and liver (although it is not healthy to exceed 300g/week in the long-term) and soups based on meat bone broth. Support your digestive system with lightly cooked and warm foods and add some spices to aid digestion such as ginger, cumin, fennel and cardamom.
  • Herbs & supplements:  To nourish the blood more efficiently an herbal formula may be developed for your individual situation.  This may include herbs such as dong quai (dang gui), rehmannia, withania and nettle leaf.  Supplements may include iron, vitamin B12, folic acid and to enhance iron absorption vitamin C may be also taken.

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, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Preserved lemons: I just can’t get enough – so here’s two recipes

I am fairly new to the preserved lemon.  I stumbled across a recipe a few years ago which used this delicious, sour-salty ingredient and ever since I have been hooked.

Preserved lemons fit in really well for cooking in the winter – spring change of season.  Traditional Chinese Medicine values the salty flavour to support the water element (which is dominant in winter).  The wood element encompasses spring, and you guessed it, the corresponding flavour is sour.

You can buy them at gourmet delis and fancy supermarkets, or you can get creative and use DIY preserved lemons.

Here are two preserved lemon warm salad recipes that are perfect for spring eating:

Mediterranean eggplant salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants, cubed, salted, drained and dried
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon currants
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
  • 6 roma tomatoes, quartered lengthways
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 red chillies, sliced finely
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, discard flesh and slice rind finely
  • a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Method:

  1. Warm olive oil in pan and fry eggplant until golden in small batches.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
  2. In same pan, saute cumin seeds, garlic, currants and almonds until golden.  Add tomato and oregano until browned.  Remove from heat.
  3. Add fried eggplant, chilli, lemon juice, parsley, preserved lemon and spinach to the tomato mixture.  Season with black pepper.  Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to serving.

Spicy chickpea salad

Ingredients:

  • 400g chickpeas (tinned)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons harissa (chilli paste)
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 preserved lemon, flesh discarded, rind thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 yellow capsicum
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • handful of coriander leaves, chopped (to garnish)

Method:

  1. Boil chickpeas for ten minutes.  Then drain.
  2. In the meantime, fry garlic in oil.  Add capsicum and onions and stir fry for ten minutes.  Remove from heat.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and garnish with coriander.

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.