Every New Year a typical resolution is to get in shape and lose weight. A common question I get from patients, friends and family around this time of year is “Can Chinese Medicine help me lose weight?”. The short answer is yes. The follow up question is often “How can it help me?” or “How does it work?”.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, fat gain is a product of excess phlegm. In western medicine phlegm is defined as a thick and viscous substances that is secreted by the body’s mucous membranes. Most of you are familiar with the physical aspect of phlegm. However, in TCM phlegm can be described as any condensed fluids that have stagnated throughout the body’s circulatory and digestive systems. Where there is phlegm in the body there is also an underlying imbalance in the body which will manifest in disease.
How do we prevent stagnate or excess phlegm? The key is an optimal Spleen. The role of the Spleen in TCM is to promote proper digestion and water metabolism. It is a key player in helping us obtain nourishment from the food and drink that we consume. When the Spleen is unhappy this digestive process does not function properly and results in food/liquid turning into dampness and eventually into phlegm. This often manifests in symptoms ranging from bloating, diarrhea, loose stools, weak appetite, fatigue and weight gain.
So what causes imbalances with the Spleen? The primary causes are mental and physical overwork, stress, lack of exercise and diet. These are typical aspects of modern lifestyles which is why issues with the Spleen are so common nowadays.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind in your daily routine to help keep your Spleen happy:
- Cold temperature food and drinks can affect Spleen function. I recommend avoiding large amounts of cold fluids, fruit and raw fruits and vegetables, especially in the Colder seasons. Warm foods are preferable.
- The Spleen and Stomach have their own internal cycle that is optimal between 7am to 11am. A balanced breakfast of carbohydrates/protein/fats can go a long way to boost the function of Spleen and Stomach.
- Have a large breakfast/lunch but a smaller dinner and avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. This helps the Spleen and Stomach function optimally and not overwork during the night when the body systems should be recuperating and regenerating.
- Staying warm and dry when possible to avoid introducing cold and damp to the Spleen.
- Stress and overthinking can slow down the Spleen. Manage stress and take time to unwind every day to not overwork the Spleen. Also enjoy meals in a relaxed state to promote optimal digestion.
What can be done if lifestyle modifications aren’t enough? With herbal medicine, imbalances with the Spleen and other organs can be corrected. As with any proper TCM treatment, the approach must look at the body as a whole. Proper diet modifications are often enough to help the majority of people achieve weight loss. However, many may struggle through the journey, rebound or even cause damage to their overall health in the process.
TCM herbal supplements support to achieve a sustainable and lasting weight loss by targeting the underlying issues that may exist. In fact, many of my own patients, ranging from professional athletes to physique competitors, have Spleen deficiencies often caused by physical overwork and excessive diet modifications. We not only want to help you look great, but to feel great and be healthy at the same time.
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