In Part 2 of this series, I described how flavours of foods effect our internal climate and how that has a direct effect on the gut micro-biome. There is another aspect of using food as medicine, which is very important to understand and utilise in order to improve health conditions. It is known in Chinese Medicine as the 4 movements of Qi.
Click to read other articles in this series, The Secret to Using Food as Medicine!
It is important to understand that the Chinese character 氣 Qi, is contextual and relative. It is used to describe complex physiological processes and relationships. When illustrating the 4 movements of Qi, we are actually talking about how internal physiological processes and relationships interact in the body. This allows us to easily see and comprehend what physiologically is out of balance, and also how to correct it.
The 4 movements of Qi refer to 4 regions of the body:
1). Upper (above the waist)
2). Lower (below the waist)
3). Outside (Skin and Body Surface)
4). Inside (Internal)
If you remember reading part 1 of this series, I mentioned particular flavours of foods have a physiological effect on different parts of the body.
Pungent (Spicy, Aromatic) flavours have an outward movement, they can induce perspiration and fever.
Sour flavourshave in inward movement, they can ease gas and distention, and arrest perspiration.
Bitter flavours have upward movement, they can lift prolapse, and stop diarrhea. (Bland Flavours slightly lift and dry)
Salty flavours have downward movement, they can relieve acid reflux, vomiting, hiccupping, and headaches. (Sweet Flavours, slightly descend and moisten).
The image below is helpful in illustrating these movements:
Let’s now look at some common ailments and use the 4 movements of Qi to diagnose an imbalance:
1). Migraines, Chronic Headaches, with High Blood Pressure - They occur above the waist, in the head. The movement of Qi therefore is Rising (upward), and Entering (Inward) pressure. Therefore flavours of Bitter and Sour, will aggravate this condition. Hot/Spicy foods should also be avoided as they have a lifting and rising nature, and can increase the upward movement, even though they have an outward movement being pungent.
The opposite flavours – Salty, Sweet, and Pungent will have a descending and outward movement, and can ease the condition.
2). Acid Reflux and/or Vomiting – They too occur above the waist, but are also exiting. So the movement of Qi in this circumstance is upward and outward. Flavours that would aggravate this condition are pungent, and bitter.
Use the opposite flavours to correct the movement of Qi: Sour, Salty, and Sweet.
3). Diarrhea– This occurs below the waist, therefore the movement is downward. It is also exiting the body through the bowel, therefore it is also an outward movement.
Therefore use foods that will lift and astringe, which have the flavours of Bitter, Sour and Bland.
4). Gas and Bloating – This occurs at midlevel. So we have to investigate a little bit more:
Is it better with inward pressure on the abdomen? If so, we know there is deficiency and exiting (outward movement).
Therefore use sour flavours with an inward movement.
Is it worse with inward pressure on the abdomen? Then we know there is excess, and entering (inward movement).
Therefore, use pungent flavours with an outward movement.
But, if this discomfort is accompanied with constipation, or a feeling of incomplete evacuation, we know there is also an upward movement. So, we need to also use flavours that are descending, such as salty (softens hardness) and sweet (moistening).
If the discomfort is accompanied with hiccupping, and heart burn, this too is a rising movement, and sweet and salty should be used.
However, if there is diarrhea, or prolapse associated with this gas and bloating, we know there is also a descending movement. To counter this we need to lift with bitter, and bland flavours.
5). Common Cold– Occurs from a pathogenic invasion from outside the body to inside. A pathogenic invasion is an inward movement. Therefore the remedy during the initial stages is to expel outwards, and open the pores of the skin, using pungent foods that will facilitate sweating.
It should be mentioned that too much of a particular flavour can have the opposite effect. There is a saying in Chinese, "In order to drop something, you must first raise it up." Coffee is a great example. One cup can make you alert, and give you a lift in energy and spirit. 3 or 4 cups, and it turns into a diuretic, laxative, and can cause perspiration, and anxiety.
To use food as medicine correctly, one needs to have the correct diagnosis. Using the information from this series of articles should help you design the best dietary choices to accomplish your health goals.
As you can see there are many complimentary and corresponding relationships between Flavour, Nature (Energy), and the 4 movements of Qi. For best results, try to design a food remedy and diet based on as much of this information as possible. Use the image above to help you see what properties overlap, and ignore the one’s that don’t match up. In doing so, you will most likely get it right!
Sometimes, things are so out of balance, medicine or medical intervention is required. But, knowing how to use food as medicine can help you recover faster, correct imbalances, maintain well-being, and overcome many chronic ailments.
Alchemy Wellness Centre is located in Byron Bay, NSW Australia
RJ Singer is a registered Acupuncturist, and Chinese Medicine Doctor with AHPRA and AACMA. He is also a highly regarded QiGong Healer and Teacher, and Feng Shui Consultant. RJ’s area of special interest is in the treatment of stubborn and difficult chronic disease, and all types of painful conditions.
Katrina Hillis is a Kinesiologist, and a registered Remedial & Relaxation Massage Therapist with AMT, who specialises in helping people overcome emotional issues and life transitions working holistically to balance the body, mind and spirit.