Is Your Body Too Cold?
Being that it is mid-July in Maryland it’s hard to think about anyone or anything being cold. But in Chinese Medicine, we have a different idea about how temperature can manifest in the body. When an acupuncturist talks about a “cold” condition, they are referring to either someone being exposed to too much cold, or their insides aren’t warm enough. This is known as external vs. internal cold. The way low temperatures can affect nature is the same way they can affect the body, and many people don’t even realize that cold air can cause symptoms. Air conditioners in summer are an example of external cold because if we are always exposing ourselves to cold air it will “freeze up” the qi in the body and make it become stagnant. Internal cold can come from diets such as raw foods or being vegan, or can be caused by lack of exercise (not generating enough heat).
What is Being Cold Like?
When cold sets in the body, everything has a tendency to slow down. Digestion is slower, chills can occur, and aches and pains begin to manifest. Even regions of the torso might feel cold to the touch. When I have patients who have a lot of cold conditions one of my favorite things to use is moxa! Moxa is a dried and processed form of the plant mugwort. Acupuncturist make little cones of it and put them on acupuncture points. Then we light it with incense and let it smolder (we remove it before it burns the skin). The heat and oils from the plant go into the meridian and help to warm it up. Often times the point will be needled after moxa. Moxa smells amazing by the way!
Diet and Digestion
One of the best ways to expel cold from the body is with diet. People who are cold can benefit from eating many types of meat, especially lamb. Using a lot of herbs and spices, and cooking with oils and fats which provide the body with fuel. Nuts and seeds are great, and teas with warming spices like ginger and cinnamon help build digestive fire. Lastly, a lot of warm soups and stews with a lot of slow cooked meats or vegetables for easy digestion and absorption are perfect!
I have found that the ketogenic diet is a great Western system for reducing cold conditions because it provides the body with plenty of fat in order for it to effectively stay warm. When combined with warming spices and teas, a ketogenic diet will help enhance the metabolism as well. Fatty soups, stews, and broths are also an effective way to utilize the diet and use it for Chinese medicinal purposes.
Food for Thought
I like to talk about both models of nutrition because a whole person needs to be taken into account. Chinese medicine and Western Nutrition can support each other where the other fails. Chinese Medicine doesn’t take into consideration nutrient density of food and blood results of patients when done traditionally and Western Nutrition does not work with the movement of qi/energy in the body. When combined, the two modalities can create a myriad of healing results and offer the most benefits to patients.