Warming Food and Drink for the Cold Winter

Warming Food and Drink for the Cold Winter, Bow Valley TCM Clinic in Canmore, AlbertaWhen I tell people that I eat congee in winter, their reply is simply this: “What is congee?” Congee, or Jook in korean, is simply porridge. Basically, a thick and nutritious soup made with rice and whatever meat, spices or veggies needed to help you build your immune system, get over a very bad cold or nourish a specific organ.

Because we’ve had a pretty cold winter here in Canmore, let’s take the first one, how to boost your immune system. Buy a whole cooked chicken and use the bones as broth that you simmer for a couple of hours, then add cooked rice and some veggies to your liking. Add pepper and other warming herbs and you’re done. After everything is mushy, it’s ready to serve.

Another dish that I really enjoy in cold winter time is a broth made from beef bone. Purchase the bones at the local grocery store and ask the butcher to cut them in three inch pieces. Simmer them for most of the day so the marrow will be all dissolved from the bones. Add spices to the liquid as well as green onions, astralagus and red dates. Once ready, eat with a bowl of rice. You’ll see. You will feel the warming properties of the ingredients going down your toes. That’s how warming it is.

Now for a nice warm drink. No, not scotch! Simmer some pieces of ginger in a pot filled with water. In another pot, simmer pieces of cinnamon. The ideal is those big pieces found in a Chinese grocery store, but the small cinnamon sticks will do as well. Once both have simmered for about thirty minutes, pour them together in a bigger pot, add brown sugar for the taste and enjoy! Here’s how it works: the ginger will warm your digestive system, and the cinnamon with promote the blood flow to the skin and to the extremities of your fingers and toes. Moreover, cinnamon is one of the top herbs for heart issues. That’s a winner for sure.

Back pain. Really?

Last week, someone asked me if acupuncture could help with back pain. Back pain. Really?, Bow Valley TCM Clinic in Canmore, Alberta
So I answered yes, and I needed more information to find the root-cause of his problem. He said that’s his only symptom, nothing else is bothering him. That’s according to him. After inquiring about his lifestyle, I found out that he works an average of fifteen hours a day and doesn’t spend any money. The theories of Chinese Medicine apply not only at a physical level, but at an emotional one as well. When we dig deeper, we find quite often an emotional component to the physical symptom. In the case above, we’d think right away about the kidneys being involved. But there’s obviously an obsession with money. Therefore, I’d investigate about his digestive system, more specifically the spleen which relates to nourishment. When we consider the kidney-spleen axis, we’re looking at pre and post-natal energy, which are the energy given to us at birth by our parents, and the energy from the air that we breathe and from the food that we eat. Together, they help us perform our daily activities. Unfortunately, when work takes over our life and we don’t have enough time to rest, our body gets weaker and it lets us know. It’s up to us to listen or ignore the message. In the short term, the pain can be alleviated but real healing will only occur when we also treat the underlying condition. If you have any questions or topics that you’d like me to approach, feel free to let me know and I’ll gladly discuss them.


A Few Words on Nutrition

A Few Words on Nutrition, Bow Valley TCM Clinic in Canmore, AlbertaFirst of all, I believe that it’s important to eat something warm  for breakfast. In winter, the temperature outside is cold. You need your energy to keep your body temperature stable on top of your daily activities. If you ingest something cold, it’s like being attacked on two fronts, the internal from the breakfast and the external from the temperature. That’s just to avoid catching a common cold due to a lowered body temperature. More importantly, the kidneys are related to the Ministerial Fire. This is a more advanced theory that I will not
discuss here. On top of that, those kidneys support the spleen in transporting the essence from the food ingested. A solution is to eat a lamb stew with rice. I know, it’s a bit unusual from a western perspective but it does bring great results. Lamb is considered to have hot properties, so much easier to digest and keep the digestive system warm. The body doesn’t have to be in overdrive just to digest the food, therefore using its energy for other functions/activities. The rice itself is used to nourish and protect the stomach. Worth mentioning is the energy flowing in the spleen and stomach meridians between seven and
eleven in the morning.
Talking about the spleen, which is so underrated but oh! so important. Being in the centre of the body, it has a direct connection with each element (metal, fire, water, wood). In this case, its importance in transporting and transforming the essence from the foods is crucial, that essence being transformed into blood and energy. The spleen can become weak due to the excessive intake causing a burden on the organ. Eventually, dampness will be created and transformed into phlegm, which will accumulate and stay in the upper body, affecting the lungs, throat, sinuses, heart, and spirit. There are other reasons causing a weakening of the spleen, but I’d like to focus on food that can cause a deficient spleen: Dairy products!!! Cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream. If you want to eat any of these, lunchtime is the best because that’s when you have the most yang energy flowing in your body. Even better, put a pinch of cinnamon in your yogurt. Doing so creates more warmth and becomes easier to digest.

I hope this all makes sense!

How it all began for me!

Once in a while, someone asks me how I ended up practicing Chinese
Medicine. That’s a good question considering the odds of “making it” in
our society. A practitioner of Chinese Medicine isn’t necessarily the first
person in mind when you’re sick or in pain. In fact, most patients will rely
on other forms of treatments before even thinking about trying
acupuncture or Chinese herbology.
In my early thirties, I had a moment –of clarity maybe?- when I had to
leave the country and see the world. A few weeks later, I was in South
Korea teaching English like so many foreigners there. During the second
year, I lived in a very small town where I was the only Caucasian. Having
plenty of time on my hands, I began reflecting on my life and the
direction I wanted it to take –professionally speaking. A few ideas
popped up including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but I’d push it
back. The idea of studying full time for five years instead of making
money wasn’t appealing at all. But it was always in the back of my mind.
To make a long story short, after seven months of “soul searching”, I
decided to study TCM, but not right away. I’d wait another year just to
make sure that’s what I really wanted to do. Eighteen months later, I was
back in Canada, in Victoria more precisely, to study TCM. I had to stop
for three years to earn money, so taught English again in Korea with the
intention of finishing the program. Over there, an older friend of mine
offered me to shadow him in his clinic. With over twenty years of
experience in Oriental Medicine, that was a golden opportunity to get
more experience in a real setting, especially when he’d see an average
of seventy patients a day. With that baggage of newly developed skills, I
went back to Victoria and finished the program.
To conclude, I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say that I believe Chinese
Medicine picked me to practice this beautiful art. Why? I have no idea
and I don’t need an answer. What’s important is that I’m right here right
now with my patient. I’m fully present. That’s what matters.

Syndrome Differentiation

Syndrome Differentiation, Bow Valley TCM Clinic in Canmore, Alberta“Dominic, I’ve got constant headaches and pain in the ribs”. Are these problems related? Probably yes. In Chinese Medicine, it’s important to look at a health problem from a holistic perspective and not just the diseased area on the body. This problem is a signal telling us to stop and listen to our body, that it isn’t in harmony anymore.

So how do we use Chinese Medicine’s philosophy to help people healing? The basic idea is syndrome differentiation. Several signs and symptoms related to an organ form a syndrome. For instance, being tired after eating, craving sweets, teeth marks on the edge of the tongue, being overly worried, the inability to begin a project, being sick at the turn of a season, all show mainly spleen Qi deficiency.

When the diagnostic is established, we focus on the treatment principles. What are the objectives that the patient wishes to accomplish? In the example mentioned above, we talk about tonifying the spleen Qi. To reach that goal, herbology and acupuncture are highly recommended to patients.

My name is Dominic Vallee and I practice acupuncture in Canmore. In the following months, I will write articles related to Chinese Medicine, that being philosophical in nature, a concept, a problem like arthritis, or simply the benefits of a single herb like ginseng.

If you wish to learn more about a specific topic or would like to meet me, do not hesitate to contact me at (403) 707-5010, or visit our website www.bowvalleytcm.com.

See you soon!