What I like about Chinese medicine is that we don’t judge any naturally occurring food to be good or bad, but rather consider that the properties of a food are beneficial to certain individuals at times and maybe not at other times as their health situation changes. Some people, due to their constitution, may never tolerate a particular food well but that does not mean that the food is bad for all of us. No naturally occurring foods are…. evil.
Dairy is not considered in our classic Chinese medicine texts to represent the huge problem we have assigned it in the West today. This is described in this excellent post by Chinese Medicine scholar, Eric Brand. As Eric points out it’s likely that cow’s milk products were used in smaller amounts, less frequently and were prepared differently to how we do now in the West (eg. homogenised and pasteurised). For instance, the Chinese most likely did not regularly consume cafe latte, chocolate milkshakes, banana smoothies, pasta carbonara, creamy dips, full cream dairy milk chocolate, creme brulee and cookies & cream icecream, or even just a big glass of milk straight from the fridge, as part of an every day diet. The problem with most of the foods I’ve just listed is that they are also combined with more fat and sugar that the average Chinese probably consumed too, and this changes the properties of the dairy once again.
Eric points out that milk products have medicinal qualities when used with people who are in need of those properties. Cow’s milk is considered to be thermally neutral, sweet and benefits the Lung, Stomach and Heart, depending on the source that you read. It moistens dryness. It should be used with caution in people with loose bowels due to weakness and coldness, and phlegm-damp in the middle burner. Eric also describes the properties of other mammal and plant-based ‘milks’.
Dairy is often considered today to contribute to phlegm-damp. And there are many people who will share their story of this effect. I even have my own:
“When I was three years old I had been suffering from recurrent ear infections. This was treated with repeated courses of antibiotics. Next stop was to have grommets inserted into my ears. My mother heard a doctor on the radio discussing his experience with taking cow’s milk out of the diet of children with recurrent ear infections. Well, my mother gave it a go. (She also boosted my diet with non-dairy calcium foods.) The ear infections stopped, the grommets weren’t needed. I’ve stayed away from dairy, mostly strictly, ever since. I do get sinusy, phlegmy and partially blocked ears when I occasionally let it creep back in.”
There are equally as many people, or actually probably a lot more, who don’t have a story like this. So dairy is not bad for us all.
And dairy is not the only contributor to phlegm and dampness. You can read more about dampness and what to do about it here. Phlegm is not the same as dampness.
It really comes down to being aware of your own body regardless of what the theory says. For instance, there was a study published finding that cow’s milk made no difference to mucus production. There seems to be more factors to this picture.
So, in my humble opinion I’d say that the jury is out. The theory and the practice don’t quite match up for those whose symptoms (whether respiratory or digestive) seem to be definitely worse for the ingestion of cow’s milk. Or perhaps Chinese medicine is right and it is just good for some people and not others, and at different times in their lives.
It comes back to listening to your own body. If your symptoms are worse for dairy or any particular food, don’t consume it. If you suffer from digestive or respiratory symptoms seek help. You can also have allergy and sensitivity testing conducted. In my clinic I do some food sensitivity testing.
If you are removing dairy foods from your diet, you don’t have to give up everything you love, there are alternatives and often they are very good. And I have lots of experience with this. Also, if going dairy-free makes you feel better you won’t want to touch the foods you used to eat – you know it just isn’t worth it.
Here are some ways to substitute for dairy:
- Cakes and baking. I often substitute plain water for milk. But sometimes soy, rice, almond or coconut milks are better.
- Cheesecakes. Vegans have been making quite palatable cheesecakes based on cashews for a long time. The internet is full of recipes.
- On cereal, smoothies, tea and coffee. Substitute again with soy, rice, almond or coconut milks. Many coffee shops now offer alternative milks.
- Yoghurt and icecream. There are wonderful coconut milk based alternatives these days. However they can be fatty and sugary and not overly healthy in anything more than small, infrequent serves (particularly the icecream).
- Cream. Cream can be made with coconut cream. you’ll find tonnes of recipes online.
- Sour cream. A mix of a milk alternative with some lemon juice or vinegar usually does the trick. Again get a recipe online.
- Cheese. Cheese can be tricky. Expecially for a tasty, meltable kind. You can experiment making a white sauce with the milk alternative of your choice thickened to your requirements for pizza or lasagne (grill the finished meal to firm and brown it on top). You can also buy cheese alternatives from vegan suppliers (shops or websites). Some are reported to be quite good but you may need to try a few.
- Other substitutes. The recipe book and website godairyfree.org are laden with alternatives to dairy products that can be easily made at home.
Be aware that if milk does not agree with you then some of the substitutes may not either as you are looking for the same kind of texture and quality as the milk has in your substitutes – energetically they may be similar. Test them out for yourself. And also due to the different processing to make different kinds of dairy products you may find that some dairy agrees with you but not all of them. For instance, some people tolerate whey powder, butter and yoghurt. The way the dairy is prepared changes it thermal and energetic properties, so all dairy is not the same and may have subtle differences in how it affects you. So, test them for yourself.
What about calcium?
Everyone asks this question. There are many non-dairy sources of calcium. If you are avoiding dairy you need to actively include other calcium sources in your diet. Of particular note are sesame seeds (including tahini), fish with soft bones (salmon and sardines), tofu, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Here are some links to calcium food sources and recommended dietary requirements:
Removing dairy from your diet is not the end of the world. If you feel better for it, then it may very well be the start of a new lease on life. And it may not be forever either.
If you feel as though dairy may aggravate your symptoms, please feel free to discuss your symptoms and your dairy consumption with me or your health practitioner at your next consultation.
For further information on TCM dietary therapy contact Sarah George. Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.
Happy International Day of… Happiness! Yes, the United Nations proclaimed that 20th March is the day to officially recognise that Gross National Happiness is just as important in creating policy as Gross National Product.
Today I thought it was fitting to share two videos with you. The first an entertaining and warm take on compassion and interconnectedness with others to our well being. These are ideas we can all include in our daily lives – starting right now. Robert Thurman, the first American to be ordained a Tibetan Monk by the Dalai Lama, gives us this short little gem of a TED talk.
Secondly, if you want something more light hearted which will put a smile on your face right now, well you can’t go past Monty Python’s Always look on the bright side of life. It actually reinforces one of Robert Thurman’s points that even in times of suffering making the effort to smile is more beneficial to you than the alternative.
I have written before on happiness tips:
- The happiness web: how to get in it. These are my favourite happiness resource websites.
- How to stress less: create happy habits. My tips for happiness including a one minute meditation video.
- Tea and happiness. Well just that really.
I hope you enjoy today’s happiness offerings. And while we are chatting about happiness, why not drop me a comment about what contributes to your happiness?
For further information on happiness and stress management contact Sarah George. Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (CMRB registered), massage therapy and natural medicine at Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre and lectures at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Chinese Medicine.
Join The Health & Happiness Collective for our last post on our ‘Change’ blog hop. The amazing aromatherapist and homeopath, Sandra, shares with us how to make change easily. Thanks for joining us on this blog hop – I hope you’ve got something good from our excellent bloggers.
Originally posted on Natures Healing:
Health & Happiness Collective
What is Change?
Have you been saying things such as
- why do the whales gets hunted?
- why is there so much hunger in the world?
- isn’t it sad to see so much war in the world?
- isn’t it awful that those children were molested?
These questions make us dwell on what is not right in the world, or even in our world. Mahatma Ghandi stated that WE must be the change we wish to see in the world.
This is so very important when we are wishing for things to be different, we need to begin within, to make the changes we wish to see. One person can start a change. Are you that person?
How do you begin to change?
Change begins one step at a time. I have been listening to some podcasts recently, and a couple…
View original 653 more words
Here we have the latest post in the Change series from The Health & Happiness Collective. Jan shares with us changes from her garden. Gosh I admire people with the skills, time and space to create beautiful outdoor green spaces like this does. I also admire their gardens. Enjoy!
Originally posted on The Eloquent Garden:
I’ve just read “Maddadam’ by Margaret Atwood. Now she’s an author who’s terrific at imagining change. She takes our fantasies, our dreams of change and details them in dystopian comedy-dramas. “God’s Gardeners” in charge of the world. Hmm. Not so practical, it turns out. And that marvelous fantasy that males and females have - ‘if only we knew exactly when someone wanted to mate with us’ - that would save us so much time and heartache we think. It’s wonderful what Atwood does with that one. I won’t spoil it for potential readers, but it does involve spontaneous colour change of body parts.
And plants and animals change too in surprising, fascinating ways. Convergent evolution, where two unrelated species take on the characteristics of one…
View original 739 more words