Friday, August 8, 2014

sunflower field with tree
Late Summer

As we enter Late Summer, we come into a season influenced by the Earth element in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  It’s a time of fruition, ripening and harvest.  Spleen and Stomach are the associated organs and energetic pathways.  Like Stomach Qi, Spleen Qi relates directly to digestion.  Spleen Qi health is central to our abilities to gain nutrition from what we eat.

Other associations with the Earth element include the color yellow, the “negative” emotions of worry or anxiety and the “positive” emotions of fairness and openness.  When we are Spleen Qi deficient, we tend to feel anxious and obsess about certain thoughts.  One of the simple antidotes to over-thinking is exercise.  This is because the Earth element rules muscles.
Some of the physical symptoms of Spleen Qi deficiency could be fatigue, poor digestion, abdominal bloating or loose bowel movements.  Treatment typically involves dietary changes and appropriate exercise.  If needed, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are used.

Earth element’s associated taste is sweetness.  Here we hit a common weakness in our culture:  an excessive, runaway craving for sweet food and drink.   Most of us know some of the blatant health effects of overindulging in sweets, for example, diabetes, periodontal disease, tooth decay and excess weight.  A few of the lesser known effects can include headaches, sadness, temper tantrums, foggy thinking, pre-menstrual or joint pain and candida infections that are hard to clear.  Cancer thrives on sugar consumption.

There are plenty of good books that talk about sugar and how to kick the habit.  The old stand-by is Sugar Blues by William Duffy.  A more recent book is The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons.  Duffy details the fascinating history of sugar consumption in the North America and its relationship to economic systems of recent centuries.  DesMaisons provides an addiction recovery model for getting out of the sugar trap.

Some books include sugar issues within broader dietary concerns, for example, Nature’s Cancer-Fighting Foods by Verne Varona, or the Self-Healing Cookbook by Kristin Turner.  I like Turner’s delineation of “high drama,” concentrated sweets such as white or brown sugar as well as corn syrup.  She contrasts these with “slow-burning” (slowly metabolized) sweets, for example, carrots, winter squash or apples.

Qigong masters talk about daily practice of a new behavior (for example, a specific qigong form for stress relief) for 100 days before one decides whether or not it is effective. It makes a lot of sense in terms of behavioral conditioning.  This applies to a sugar-free diet, as well.  Usually by the time 100 days of practice have transpired, the habit is well established.  Also, one has experienced enough reinforcing results to seek further practice of the behavior.  Living without simple sugars is certainly a new behavior that requires some time and practice to integrate into our diet.

Many of us know the strong pull of sugar cravings.  The good news often is that after a few days of doing without the simple sugars, the cravings dramatically reduce.   However, each time sugar is re-introduced, the cravings re-start; we may say, “Oh, I’ll have just a little bit of (fill in the blank with your favorite candy/dessert/donut/marshmallow ‘salad’).”  Therefore, it’s often easier to consistently stay away from simple sugars. 

For some, the addiction model of recovery is helpful.  It includes a recognition that sometimes it takes a greater power than a mortal to attain and sustain a sugar-free lifestyle.  Recovery also implies a group process, i.e., a collective working together rather than an isolated individual struggling alone.   Just like recovering alcoholics earn chips for achieved milestones of recovery time, the “sugarholic” can also celebrate extended time periods of sugar-free life.  Slips are acknowledged and addressed by one’s support team but they involve no shame.

How ever one reclaims and maintains a lifestyle that involves radically fewer simple sugars than what is often standard fare, it is important to view it as a positive step.  It’s not so much about giving up a pleasure.  It’s about a return to wholeness and health.  When your brain gets this positive message, it is more cooperative.

Scroll down to read a related blog entry that features personal reflections by someone who accepted the Get-Off-Sugar Challenge.  Ann shared it with me in the spirit of support for others.  With gratitude to her, I pass it on to you.

Janet Lee Cook
 Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions

No comments:

Post a Comment