Cookies for Kidneys

Greetings Dear Readers,

RAW cookies

RAW cookies

Cookies for Kidneys.  If it sounds like a charity campaign for your organs, well, it is.  Actually the Kidneys are the most depleted organ in modern people.  It’s extremely rare to meet anyone with very strong kidney system even if they eat all the right foods and meditate daily.  In grade school, our school had a campaign to raise money for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. We had to sell little snack size bags of roasted peanuts to our family and neighbors.

Now if only we were selling sesame seeds instead, then according to Eastern Food Therapy, we’d really be

Dry sesame seeds

Dry sesame seeds

doing the kidneys a huge favour.  Sesame (hei zhi ma) is warm and sweet and  a tonic for the Kidneys and Liver.  It is said to strengthen Yin, Jing and Blood as well as “blacken” grey hair  (use black sesame) and build the spirit (Shen).  Yes, you can eat cookies for a good cause.

The Kidney system is in fact the most charitable organ of our bodies.  Whenever one organ is deficient in Yin or Yang, eventually it asks the Kidney system for an energy loan.  The Kidney is like the savings account of the body so it always needs to be replenished for those “rainy days”.  The Kidney system includes the adrenal glands in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).   The World Health Organization recently (2010) recognized adrenal fatigue as a disease, calling it “21st Century Disease” a condition whereby frequent, prolonged and intense stress caused the adrenal glands to release cortisol which over time leads to burn-out of the adrenals or “Kidney Yang Deficiency” in TCM speak.

The Kidney system is associated with the emotion of fear in TCM.  In this “Age of Precariousness” as some are calling this time of economic and job insecurity, fear is rampant.  The stress toll on the body is evident as people often wake up feeling tired in spite of a long sleep, using caffeine to stimulate their adrenal system which is not strong enough to provide the energy boost and motivation (Yang) for the day ahead, having frequent infections, environmental sensitivities, and doing aerobics (which further depletes the adrenals – do weights/sit-ups instead) to eliminate the excess fat around the waist or “spare tire” which is actually caused by the adrenal insufficiency in the first place.  There are a whole host of symptoms and conditions that have adrenal insufficiency at their root.  I highly recoomend Dr. Wilson’s adrenal fatigue quiz as well as his book .

Now, let’s get on to those yummy cookies!

Ingredients  (Makes about 20 small cookies)

  • 1 ¼ cups almond flour (can grind almonds into flour using food processor or coffee bean grinder)
  • ¼ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • ⅓ cup pitted dates or agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds(un-hulled has double the calcium than hulled)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract
  1. Grind almonds until finely crumbled in a food processor.
  2. Mix in sea salt, dates, sesame seeds, olive oil and vanilla.
  3. Blend until fairly even.
  4. Place mixture in fridge for a couple of hours to harden.
  5. Form dough into small cookie shapes with a cookie cutter or small glass jar (just improvise!)
  6. You can also roll the formed cookies in whole sesame seeds for decoration.

Enjoy!

Yours in Health,

Cynthia

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Unpacking Your Food Cravings with Eastern Food Therapy

Greetings Dear Readers,

Changing your diet means putting your body through a transition.   It takes the body some time.  The mind also has to get used to not eating its comfort foods, those foods we crave in times of stress.  The key here is  rather than jump right back into the ice cream, potato chips, chocolate, cheese or whatever turns your crank; the key is to unpack those cravings and find out what they are about.

I’ll give you an example.  For many years now my pet craving has been popcorn with butter and salt, as well as fried seaweed snacks.  Crunchy, salty goodness my mind says.  From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, foods are craved because they change the flow of energy through the channels of the body in a way that matches our needs, corresponding to our Excesses and Deficiencies.  People with Kidney/Bladder (Water element) issues (deficiency) tend to crave salty foods because salt increases the water in the body.

On an emotional level the Water element is about fear.  When fears surface or are confronted, salt cravings tend to increase.  These people will also have more salt cravings during the Water period of the day.  (In the TCM organ clock the Bladder hour is 3-5pm and the Kidney hour is 5-7pm).   I can actually predict my craving and know I need to have some salty rice crackers on hand around 3pm.  So this is valuable information because when you don’t know why the craving is there or it feels out of control, TCM wisdom is there to help you examine the craving and find some healthier alternatives.

Once upon a time I really liked eating salty potato chips.  As I tried to find replacements for this unhealthy behavior, I realized that partly I was deficient in essential fatty acids and was craving fat.  The other part was the salt.  So I switched to air-popped popcorn with flax oil and Mexican chili powder and found this to be a good substitute.

Now you ask, what about Mexican chili powder?  Yes, so this relates to the Heart in TCM.  The Heart channel, as well as its’ Yin/Yang pairing, the Small Intestine, as well as the Pericardium and the Triple Warmer, these organ systems all belong to the Fire Element.  People with Fire element issues tend to either crave spicy foods (deficiency or blockage) or avoid spicy foods (excess or blockage).  For some people who crave red hot burn-in-hell chicken wings, it’s helpful to use the wisdom of TCM to understand why this happens and how to shift this habit in a way that still gives the body and mind the balance it’s seeking.  So if hot chicken wings is the craving, it may be that it’s just the stimulation (Fire element=nerves=stimulation) of the spice that the person is after.  In that case, flavouring healthier foods with more peppers and spices will help a person feel satisfied while eating healthier.  And still, there are some people who put tabasco sauce on everything, including ice cream, but that is for another post.

Ok chocolate lovers, so you thought you were going to sneak by unnoticed? Now it’s your turn!  Is chocolate healthy or unhealthy?  The debate rages on.  TCM says chocolate and all caffeinated foods (tea, coffee, yerba mate, green tea) relate to the Heart and Fire element because they stimulate the nerves (nerves are governed by the Fire element).  These stimulants are also all bitter foods.  Bitter is related to the Fire element.   Bitters have a cooling, descending nature in TCM so bitters helps cool a condition called “Heart Fire” in TCM which is very often linked with emotional stress and insomnia.

You are probably already familiar with substituting processed white sugar with honey, dried fruits or juices.  In TCM, the sweet flavour is associated with the Spleen and Stomach channel and the Earth element.  Other associations with the Spleen and Stomach are the mother, nurturing, home, and groundedness.  People who have a difficult relationship with their mother (mothers produce milk so dairy cravings fit in here as well), perhaps not receiving enough nurturing in their life, not nurturing themselves, people who have moved home recently or moved residences frequently, travel a lot and feel “ungrounded”, these people tend to crave more sweets.  Sweet cravings can also happen when the Spleen is weak from too much mental work (Spleen on the mental level governs the intellect).

However, sweet cravings in TCM are not just about the Spleen and Stomach.  Often the Liver is involved here as the Liver, in the “Control” cycle of Qi, controls the Spleen/Stomach.  For many modern people the Liver Qi is stagnant, congested, overheated.  In this case the Excess of the Liver causes the Liver to “attack” the Spleen and/or Stomach.  So when the Spleen gets weak from being attacked by the Liver, sweet cravings can also develop as a way to increase the Spleen Qi.  People with Liver issues may also crave Liver type foods, especially sour foods like lemon, orange juice, cranberries, green foods,

any kind of citrus, olive oil, sour dough bread, also foods like onions, garlic which help break up stagnant Liver qi.  People with stuck Liver Qi tend to also experience frustration, irritability, anger and wake up between 1-3am.

Lastly, cravings for pungent flavours such as mints (peppermint, winter green, spearmint, think teas, gum, candy), wasabi, horseradish, and onion family foods, these relate to the Metal Element in TCM.  The Lung and Large Intestine channel belong to Metal.  In many cases people are deficient in Metal energy. So when Metal is too weak to control the Liver, the Liver gets overheated and congested.    Metal controls Wood (Liver/Gall Bladder) in the Control cycle.  People with deficient Metal may also experience a sorrow that never seems to get resolved, constipation, (both physical and emotional constipation) and they may wake up between 3-5am.

Ok so now you can go analyze the foods you eat and feel more insightful about what your body or mind are asking you for.

Do you notice any interesting patterns with your food habits?

Love to hear your comments and questions.

Your in health,

Cynthia