TCM Organ and Meridian Clock

How Foods & Liquids are Converted into Qi in the Body:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the parental energies that a person inherits from birth are called “pre-birth jing.” This is your life essence and it is stored in your kidneys (KD). This essential energy gets taxed with stressors such as overwork and a reckless lifestyle (addictions), compromising your longevity. This essence is called “yuan energy/qi.” Yuan qi is involved in the manufacturing of what you consume. For example, when you eat or drink that product enters your stomach (ST) where its energetic form is stripped and then transported to the spleen (SP). At the SP the energy is further refined and it’s called “gu qi.” Gu qi travels to the lungs (LU) where it gathers with the energy of the air (da qi), or breaths of oxygen you take in. From there that gathering energy called “zong qi” is refined further to produce the final transformation of qi called “zhen qi” (true qi) that assumes two different forms: “wei qi” your protective energy that forms on the surface of your body as well as forming your “nutritive qi (ying)” that nourishes your blood and body fluids (“jin ye”). Your yuan energy given to you from both your parents infuses the gathering qi and this energy is called your “post-birth jing.” Depending on the quality of your parents’ jing that you inherited as well as the quality of the food, liquid and air that you take in, that will be the quality of the qi your body generates/uses to sustain your life. Obviously, the higher the quality of food, liquid and oxygen you take in the better the quality of the qi in your body, all of these are lifestyle choices in your control. Better qi quality equals better health, vitality and longevity. As you can see, the production of qi in the body from food and liquid is a process of refinement. Processed foods denature qi.

Food Quantity/Quality in TCM

Fresh, organic, naturally harvested food grown closest to the land is recommended. As stated prior, processed foods denature qi.

In China there is a saying: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like an emperor and dinner like a beggar.” When you look at the Meridian Clock, the stomach organ (ST) is at its peak between 7am-9am and since the morning is yang rising and yang is hot in nature it’s best to eat warming foods in the morning to support rising yang. According to the Meridian Clock, yin energy dominates the night time and so yang and digestive capacity decreases. The evening meal should support yin, meaning avoid energetically hot and spicy foods. Digestive organs are their weakest after 6pm (contributing to weight gain if you eat lots after this time).

According to the book called “Chinese Nutrition Therapy” by acupuncturist Joerg Kastner, food quantity from an Eastern view is broken up like this: 50-80% of your food should come from grains (oats, rice, spelt); 30-40% of your food should come from cooked vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beans, cabbage); 5% of your food should come from meat (lamb, beef, poultry, fish); Another 5% of your food intake should come from raw foods such as salads and fruit. (TCM recommends that raw foods should be used in moderation because they are too cool and over time can disrupt the stomach and spleen (middle jiao).) In regards to fats, too much oily fatty foods block the flow of qi creating dampness and phlegm. Phlegm slows down qi and clogs the meridian channels making the person feel cloudy and sluggish.

Some general nutritional tips include: Eat with pleasure. Eat three to five meals a day. Do not rush your meals, be mindful of chewing. Drink small amounts of liquids during meals. Choose foods appropriate for the time and season and your constitution (are you a hot or cold person, for example?). Too much sugar, alcohol, fats, and meats causes phlegm and dampness. Excessive fasting weakens yin and blood in addition to your jing.

Four Energetic Classifications of Food in TCM:

Below are four ways food is classified in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

1. Thermal Nature (temperature): hot, warm, neutral, cool, cold.

Hot and warming foods are yang while cold and cooling foods are yin.

Energetically hot foods such as chili and garlic have a heating effect on the body independent of how the food is prepared. Hot foods increase yang and speed up qi. An excess of hot foods or heat in the body injuries yin and dries fluids.

Cold foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and bananas cool the body.  Cold foods cool internal heat and can have a calming effect on the spirit (Shen). An excess of cold foods damages qi and yang.

Warm and cool foods have a milder effect on the body than hot and cold foods. Warm foods such as fennel and oats warm the body, bowels and organs. Cool foods such as yogurt and soy milk slow down qi and clear heat as well as supplement body fluids.

Neutral foods do not change the energetic level of the body.

2. Flavor: sweet, sour, bitter, acrid, salty.

In TCM there is the five element theory whereby each element houses an internal (yin) and external (yang) organ both of which share a common flavor, for example: Earth element (spleen and stomach organs, flavor is sweet); Metal element (lung and large intestine, flavor is acrid); Water element (kidneys and urinary bladder, flavor is salty); Wood (liver and gall bladder, flavor is sour); Fire element (heart and small intestine, flavor is bitter). Using the example of the sweet flavor for the Earth element, whatever sweet food this is it can have a warming or cooling effect on the stomach and spleen (banana is sweet and it has a cooling effect while fennel is also sweet but has a warming effect).

When your body craves a particular flavor chronically such as sweet that is an indication for a potential imbalance. The chronic craving is in contrast to craving a particular flavor such as sweet after a mentally exhausting job whereby your body needs a sweet to replenish itself and restore qi quickly.

3. Organs: Food is classified according to the organs, such as: spleen, kidney, liver, heart, pericardium, and lungs (all yin organs). Yang organs include: small intestine, large intestine, stomach, gall bladder, urinary bladder, triple burner (san Jiao).

For example: With regards to the stomach organ (ST), chickpea is neutral with a sweet flavor;  coconut is cooling with a sweet flavor.

4. Direction of Movement: Food has a direction, such as up, floating, down and falling.

For example, with regards to the earth element (stomach (ST) and spleen (SP)) and foods, cucumber is cool in nature, sweet in flavor and has a downbearing movement as it clears heat, drains yang, reduces swelling, detoxifies and clears skin.