Chinese Nutritional Therapy

An old Chinese saying states “The best doctor treats the problem before the problem becomes the disease” (see The Three Doctors). Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a number of direct treatment protocols and disciplines to treat health disharmony. We use Tuina and massage, Acupuncture, Herbs and medications, and medical Qi Gong exercises. TCM has been practiced in Asia for over 5,000 years. To emphasize its health preventative importance, the ancient Chinese only visited doctors for preventative care. If they became ill, the doctors were not be paid.

One of the most important elements of these preventative treatments or consultations was nutrition advise. Nutritional knowledge in China has been accumulated since at least 6,000 years. Humans have existed on our planet for about 200,000 years and we are probably the only animals that rationalise everything about our lives. This is no different when it comes to food and what we eat and the most important “Why we eat”. This knowledge is changing in modern times because of the powerful influence of advertising. Modern research does not seem to be helping either because its research which is expensive is usually funded by private sources. It tends to break down each food into its constituent nutrients and explores the benefits of each nutrient without reference to the others or the whole food. For example, a food manufacturer can then state that vitamin C which is researched as healthy, is an ingredient of the product and therefore the product is healthy.

Chinese Nutritional Therapy is based on the accumulated knowledge of the nature, benefits and safety of individual whole foods and the effect they have on the principals of Yin and Yang balance and harmony. The deepest truth of life is the inner meaning of Yin and Yang, and like Yin and Yang, the nature of life also tends to be both harmonious and balanced. Even when we observe events that could be conceptually classified as negative or conflicting, are only stages in the accomplishment of further harmonisation. This is the reality expressed in the Tai Chi diagram.

If you would like to express your interest in our forthcoming course in Chinese Nutritional Therapy, please complete the form here.

Tonifying Your Qi with Food

Qi (pronounced “chee”) is defined as the vital energy of the body, it is responsible for all energetic aspects of life and  living activity perceptible and imperceptible. It functions to protect, warm, hold, transport and transform, metabolism, hold the organs and muscles in place, maintain fluids, maintain the energetic function of all organs, the whole organism. When there is poor nutrition, chronic illness or severe diseases, Qi of the body can become deficient and is also affected by our ancestral constitution or genetic makeup. It also tends to decline with age.

Everything in existence contains or is motivated by Qi, for example the earth beneath your feet, your computer, your flesh and blood, to the most immaterial aspects like light, heat, movement, nerve impulses, thought and emotion.

Life is a meeting of Qi. A healthy and happy human being is a dynamic and harmonious combination of all the aspects of Qi. It is in a continuous state of flux, transforming endlessly from one aspect of Qi into another type of Qi. You cannot destroy it because it was always there. You can only change its manifestation.

In order to talk about the relationships between the various aspects and manifestations of Qi within a given context, Chinese philosophy employs the concept of yin and yang.

The main symptoms that identify a deficiency of Qi in the body are shortness of breath, breathlessness, feeble breathing, weak voice, spontaneous sweating or sweating on slight exertion, loose stools or diarrhoea, tiredness, weakness, fatigue, lethargy, poor appetite, urinary incontinence, pale complexion, desire for hot drinks, cold skin, cold limbs, aversion to cold. Some of these symptoms may be part of other clinical pictures but in the main they are signs of Qi Deficiency and may benefit from foods that tonify Qi.

Logic dictates that we advise complex carbohydrates in vegetables and unrefined grains as a good source for energy (Qi). We also advise eating small meals frequently. Avoid cold foods or foods straight from the fridge. Raw foods will not help you tonify Qi even in hotter countries.

Foods to avoid include processed sugars, large heavy meals and rich foods.

Warm Qi Tonics
dates artichokes brown sugar malt syrup
butter lamb molasses eel
ham pearl rice artichoke beef
grapes reishi mushroom sunflower seeds chicken
chestnuts coconut milk green beans quinoa
sweet potato mustard greens shrimp oats
ginger cinnamon garlic onions
cherries dates barley malt rice syrup


Neutral Qi Tonics
yams carrots shiitake mushroom celery
potatoes string beans freshwater fish beets
turnips papaya winter squash okra
apricots raisins pearl rice barley
black beans kidney beans currants carob
vanilla coconut artichokes cheese
nutmeg oysters goose brown rice
peanuts almonds tapioca cashews
pecans honey maple syrup cornmeal
hazelnuts rye parsnip pumpkin
Cool Qi Tonics
watercress lettuce banana buckwheat
tofu summer squash ocean fishes apples
avocado corn millet yogurt
clams cottage cheese wheatberries crab


A great start to the day for someone wishing to tonify Qi might be

  • A bowl of rice porridge flavoured with some honey and dates

To demonstrate the comprehensive nature of Chinese Nutritional Therapy let’s take a closer look at the kitchen herbal food Garlic.

  • The nature of garlic is warm
  • Its flavour is pungent
  • The meridians or channels are lung, spleen and stomach
  • Other: protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and mineral
  • Throughout Chinese medical history garlic has been called the “penicillin in the earth”. In earliest Egypt and India soldiers ate garlic to keep healthy and boost their courage in battle. In World War II the British government shipped tons of garlic to the infantry to cure the soldiers’ wounds. Its effects include: destroying parasites, detoxifying, removing indigestion, and strengthening the stomach. It is used to treat food stagnation, cold-pain of the stomach and abdomen, diarrhoea, dysentery, carbuncles, furuncles, swelling, whooping cough, snake-bites and insect-bites.
  • Because it has a warm nature, garlic is especially good to eat in the winter.
  • More on garlic here.

The Active Health Foundation Chinese Nutritional Therapy Course

This course is developed to include a detailed study of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the accumulated knowledge on the properties of foods and their practical application in nutritional modification for various disharmonies and conditions. The student will gain a thorough understanding of the principles of nutrition, the essentials of nutritional assessment and the functions of specific foods. The student will be able to apply Chinese nutrition and the use of Chinese herbs in food applications for specific Zang Fu (Internal Organ) disharmonies.

Topics covered:

  • History of Chinese Nutrition Therapy
  • The principals of traditional Chinese medicine
  • The Energetic characteristics of Food
  • Constitutional Types of People
  • Compare Chinese Nutrition with Western Nutrition
  • TCM View of Nutrition
  • Food Groups and Their Properties: Animal Products, Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Beans, Nuts and Seeds
  • General Plant Families
  • Eating with the Seasons Guidelines
  • Foods by the Five Elements: Wood (Liver), Fire (Heart), Earth (Stomach), Metal (Lung/Large Intestine), Water (Kidney),
  • Cooking with Chinese Herbs
  • Congee Recipes
  • Practice Cases

If you would like more information on this course when it becomes available, enter your details here.