Greetings Dear Readers,
Just as the year has a seasonal cycle – spring, summer, fall and winter – so too does each day have a cycle. Early morning, when the sun is rising, is the most Yang (warming, energizing, invigorating) part of the day. Later morning and early afternoon are Yang with some Yin while late afternoon and evening are Yin with some Yang. Late night is the most Yin (cool, calm, quiet). In TCM, health is about harmonizing with the Yin-Yang energy rhythm of the day and night which in Western terms is called the circadian rhythm. So what does this all mean in terms of diet? By matching your food choices with the sun’s energy phase, i.e. Yang foods during the Yang part of the day and Yin foods during the Yin part of the day your overall energy, digestion and stamina will increase. Plenty of research on shift workers has shown that living outside the normal rhythm (i.e. sleeping during the day and working and eating at night) increases the incidence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer as well as gastrointestinal disorders, mental health problems and preterm deliveries in pregnant women.1 This is a good reminder for our modern age when people are working more according to the rhythm of their work place or their technological devices rather than their bodies’ circadian rhythm and the sun.
On a side note – a set of acupuncture points called “Horary points” can also be used to adjust your body to the sun’s rhythm in cases of jet lag or shift lag. Shift workers often develop an excess on Yang and deficiency of Yin because they are not getting sleep at the most Yin time which is night, so they lose out on this Yin energy. If you have heat signs such as dry mouth at night, sore throat, feeling of heat, try eating more Yin foods such as sesame, lotus seed, water chestnut, white fungus, lily bulb, seaweeds, pears, wolfberry fruits, red dates, lotus root, tomato, water chestnut, soybean sprout, and Chinese cabbage.
Early morning as the sun rises, it is most Yang. This is the time to eat more Yang foods. Interestingly many people already do that. Many people like to drink coffee first thing in the morning. This is not surprising at all as Chinese Medicine says that coffee is Yang and warming. For those who would like an alternative to coffee for their morning Yang tonic, there is ginger tea or, if pressed for time, you can nibble on a piece of ginger pickle which you can make yourself using the very simple recipe below.
In the West, many people start their day with cooling Yin foods such as cold milk and dry cereal with a glass of cold juice. Others who are trying to be quite health conscious may drink a fruit smoothie with bananas and yogurt. The problem with these breakfasts is that they are too cold, or Yin. Bananas and dairy are Yin and cool in TCM and are best eaten later in the Yin phase of the day, late afternoon or evening.
A Chinese friend of mine recently gave me this ginger pickle recipe below that is used for strengthening the Yang energy and digestive fire. It is a perfect thing to take first thing in the morning to give you stronger energy all day provided that you are not over-heated (it’s all about balance!). Ginger benefits the spleen, stomach and lung channels. Ginger disperses cold, wind and damp-phlegm. This recipe is also traditionally used to prevent the common cold virus because ginger clears “Wind” which is the external pathogen that carries the virus into the body. Fresh ginger is warm while dried ginger is considered hot. If the Spleen is deficient and causing blood to leak out of the vessels as in for example, menorrhagia, ginger can strengthen the Spleen’s astringing function to hold the blood inside the vessels and stop the excessive bleeding.
How to make Ginger Pickles
8 oz ginger sliced finely
1 cup apple cider vinegar**
1/3 cup unpasteurized honey
1. Chop up fresh ginger into bite-size pieces.
2. Place ginger pieces into vinegar (organic apple cider vinegar is the healthiest kind)
3. Let ginger “pickle” by letting it sit and absorb the vinegar for 1 week or more.
4. Start each day eating one or two pieces of ginger pickle.
**Using high quality rice vinegar instead will cause a slight pinkish colour change to the ginger if that is preferred.
Yours in health,
1.Institute for Work and Health. 2005. Shift Work and Health. http://www.iwh.on.ca/topics/shift-work
2. Health Tips for Shift Workers and TCM Remedies. Shen-nong Ltd. 2002-2005. Taken from: http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/tcmrole_sleep_shift.html.