One of the greatest misconceptions regarding nutrition is that one formula can serve everyone, that there is a right way and many, many wrong ways to eat and that only the people who follow that elusive correct path will be permanently healthy and live a long life. Of course, as the great majority of us already know, there are many flaws in this perfect plan. My clients and students are often frustrated (as I have been myself in the past) with the fact that the information we have on nutrition seems to be ever-changing. What seemed to be correct a few years ago was debunked last month and the things that we know to be true today will probably be proven wrong tomorrow. Why is it that us nutrition professionals can’t seem to get our story straight?
Well, as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I have been able to obtain some answers for myself and for my clients. One of the many qualities of this medicine is its holistic nature: it considers each person as a whole, with all of our physical, emotional, psychological and environmental circumstances. According to TCM, our wellbeing depends on a perfect balance between Yin and Yang, the two aspects of Qi (Energy). The disruption of this balance is responsible for the appearance of certain syndromes, which in turn lead to certain symptoms, which TCM practitioners identify in order to decide on a treatment protocol.
Because of the fact that every person has a different set of syndromes, we would never apply the same treatment protocol to everyone. In the same way, we should never apply the same nutrition protocol to everyone. It would not make any sense, as even the healthiest food could not be an ideal match for a person with a certain syndrome.
Nutrition is a very big part of TCM: providing someone with a perfect acupuncture and/or herbal treatment would be useless in the long run if the person did not also adjust their nutrition and life habits, in order to make sure that the balance was not disrupted again.
The objective of my work is to combine the wisdom of TCM nutrition with the healthiest, most beneficial and most compassionate lifestyle I know: the vegan lifestyle. TCM nutrition is not traditionally vegan… although, as the work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell showed in The China Study, rural China has historically been virtually 100% plant-based. Moreover, dairy is not a part of the traditional diet in most Asian countries, although globalization is unfortunately bringing these countries up to speed with our unhealthy western ways, with fast food chains and processed foods making their way into cities and bigger towns at an alarming rate.
When I started working on my nutrition programs, my thought was that combining TCM with a 100% plant-based diet would yield nutrition coaching plans that would be tailor-made to the specifications of each individual client, while at the same time providing them with the healthiest way to live, for themselves and for the planet. With that in mind, I have adapted the nutrition specifications for each syndrome to a plant-based plan. In this way, I guide my clients towards the best possible foods for their particular case, while at the same time introducing or maintaining a healthy vegan diet for them.
For instance, a certain client could learn that raw vegan food is not ideal for them, because they have a Spleen Yang Deficiency, meaning that the Yang of their Spleen is low as compared to the Yin. This syndrome can cause several symptoms, including feeling cold, having cold hands and feet, tiredness (particularly in the mornings) and slow digestions. If a person is suffering from this syndrome, they should avoid raw and cold foods, favouring cooked foods and foods that are of a hot/warm nature. Therefore, a raw vegan diet would not agree with them at all.
Of course, there are many factors to consider for each individual case and, while nutrition will probably always have many unanswered questions, the beauty of combining TCM with a marvelously healthy vegan lifestyle is that each person can find the best vegan diet for them… and live a life of balance, wellbeing and wonderful health.