I have a friend who runs a couple of marathons a year. She’s slim and muscled, and can hammer out fifteen miles at the drop of a hat.
While I’m a little bit envious of her physical abilities, there is a down side, too.
My poor friend seems to catch every cold, flu, or stomach bug that’s going around.
More often than not, she seems to be just catching or just recovering from some upper respiratory or intestinal malady that keeps her close to home.
My friend needs a little moderation in her life. In the long run she would feel better and be healthier.
Is there anything more boring than moderation?
Moderation in Chinese Medicine
Maybe not, but taking it easy may be just the key to better health that you need, too.
Ho hum perhaps, but moderation is one of the pillars of Chinese medicine. The reality is that most things that are good for you are good in small doses. When overdone, those good things can deplete you physically or cause stagnation, which are blockages of energy, food, blood, or other substances.
Here are some examples and implications of under or over doing it within the framework of Chinese medicine:
You’ve heard this a thousand times — you need about eight hours a night.
Some people may need a little less and others a little more. Regardless of exactly how much, you need enough sleep because your body and mind recover from the stresses of the day while you’re sawing wood.
If you don’t get enough sleep, over time you’ll become depleted, which is something akin to being a walking Zombie — not enough energy, no focus, and you start to get crabby. Too much sleep and you pretty much become a couch spud. Your Qi, or energy, needs movement to flow effectively, and if you’re sleeping the day away, you’re energy is stagnating.
This is a little like sleep.
If you’re moving too much in the form of exercise, you’re setting yourself up to become depleted. This is what’s happening to my marathoner friend, who has a weakened immune system. If you’re not moving enough, see couch spud, above.
Who doesn’t like the feel of a little sunshine, especially during the cold, short days of winter?
In fact, you need a little sun on your skin each day in order for your body to synthesize Vitamin D, which boosts immunity, helps build bones, and even helps to alleviate depression.
Can you overdo the sun?
Of course — I have seared into my mind the vision of a woman I saw sunbathing in Hawaii years ago. It was midday and the sun was blazing. Her skin was burnt crispy and covered with a sun rash, but she wasn’t budging from the poolside until she was sufficiently tanned.
In Chinese medicine, the sun is pure Yang — it’s hot, light, warms us up and dries us out.
And yes, a lifetime of too much sun creates a physical dryness that no amount of moisturizer or water is ever going to undo. This kind of dryness is considered damage to your body’s fluids, and is the cause of wrinkles, age spots, broken blood vessels, and it just plain looks bad.
Where to start with food?
Eating a wide variety of foods ensures that you’re getting all the nutrients you need in your gas tank. Remember when we were cutting the fat out of everything?
Turns out we’re a little smarter now, and we know that there are good fats and bad fats. You need some fats in your diet, and you need a balance between the Omega 3’s (mostly plant based and fish) and the Omega 6 fats (mostly animal based) for good health.
Sugar is also one of those foods that has moved to the dark side, too.
In Chinese medicine, each of your internal organs is associated with a flavor, and your Spleen/Stomach likes sweets.
According to the Chinese, you need a little something sweet after a meal to aid in your digestion. Centuries ago, this meant fennel seeds, a few dates, or some other dried fruit.
That’s fine, but today the sweets we tuck into after a meal are very sweet, fat laden bombs that only serve to clog up your digestion.
In fact, when I see patients in the clinic who have really severe sugar cravings, I know that their digestion needs some help.
Remember for a moment that the role of vitamin supplementation is only to deal with vitamin deficiencies.
However, many people are taking tons of vitamin and mineral supplements that they don’t need, and which pass right through them. The very real possibility too, is that over supplementation may be throwing your body’s chemistry out of whack.
I occasionally see the flip side of over supplementation in the patient who survives entirely on fast food, but doesn’t take any vitamins at all.
They may be okay getting their meals from the drive through window, but I’m guessing not. They’re the ones who might benefit from a really good multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.
Yes, the idea of moderation isn’t very catchy, especially in a world that demands quick fixes and magic bullets.
The reality, however, is that moderation may be just what you need.