It’s the winter holiday season, that crazy blur that whizzes by between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the year’s unfinished business bumps into the New Year’s plans. It will be the year of the Rat in 2020 and we are looking forward to that clever, frenetic creature’s help in pushing through our projects, work and studies. We have great help from the steady, grounded guidance of Roger Green and The Academy of Healing Nutrition.
Born a New Zealand “Kiwi” he has lived in Australia, London and New York, traveled the world over, practiced traditional Chinese medicine, opened cooking schools, macrobiotic restaurants and, for over forty years, has lead the quest for healthy eating with his “Longevity Diet.” Roger is a family man with grandchildren who years ago gave his “Mum” wise advice: Drink green tea, stop using unhealthy vegetable oil, and use miso as the base of soup stocks. She remains a traditional Kiwi cook, but with those simple dietary additions she lives a healthy, productive life now in her mid 80s.
Roger’s students include chef’s, people with serious healthy issues, and many who hope to find their career path with nutrition. All are food lovers who want to look and feel great, live a long time and join Roger’s 120 year club. Some international students follow the course online and come to class for cooking demonstrations. This weekend at the Academy’s midtown location on Manhattan’s East 53rd street, Roger’s students from the tri-state area, Pennsylvania and California will learn about natural, traditional Health Assessment, ways to observe imbalance and enhance wellness by looking, listening, asking questions. It’s fun to apply this ancient Chinese method of understanding the body, mind and spirit to gain an enlarged understanding of our appearance, habits, and personality. A trained Health Assessment, the “Longevity Diet” and natural remedies used to bring about balance are the basis upon which we build health and longevity at the Academy of Healing Nutrition. Past students have cleared their tumors, multiple sclerosis, asthma, obesity, diabetes while gaining a sense of freedom and courage.
Allopathic medicine rarely takes time to deal with diet, our foundation of wellness, but treats disease after it happens. An estimated 80% of patients have illness impacted by diet. At the Academy we study how diet prevents the damaging effects of aging and stress through the relationship of yin and yang.
Yin is the nourishing, moisturizing aspect of internal health, our blood, moisture balance, and fluids that prevent dehydration, keep our organs refreshed, our skin young, hair full and nails strong. Yang is the transformative and digestive action that supports vital energy (Qi), circulation, digestion, breathing, our senses, ideas and sexuality. The yin nourishes yang and yang protects yin. In essence it is “the school of stomach (yang) and spleen (yin).” Roger says, “Every ailment can be traced back to the stomach and spleen, the quality of our food, its preparation, and our digestive “fire” (how we process food.)
In addition, we study wei Qi (the energy that protects against threats from outside the body such as bad weather, germs, and allergies. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic doctors treat our deepest resources of wellbeing. Traditional Chinese medicine TCM calls jing, our inherited vitality, immunity and life force that impact hormones, sexuality and survival from substance abuse, emotional trauma and illness. An allopathic doctor may look at your blood tests and recommend a treatment, but they will not be able to look at your facial hue, listen to your voice, sense the flow of your energy throughout your body by taking your pulse, observe the strength of your digestion, breathing, circulation, vitality and immunity by observing your tongue. Those are practical methods used by the ancients to perceive and predict illness, are the same methods we study in the Academy’s Health Assessment. With training, such observations can help determine what we eat and improve how well we prevent illness, sustain life’s challenges and stay in the flow of life’s stream.
What impressed me about this weekend’s module on Health Assessment was the mystical aspect of traditional observation. We covered the basics of the Five Elements that students have studied since the beginning of this session in Fall 2019: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood the elements that house our yin and yang. With refined methods of observation, the invisible becomes visible. We see how Fire–our circulation, warmth, and mood—can be perceived with facial hue, voice tone, movement, mood, as well as heart symptoms. Seemly unrelated things–chronic nightmares, palpitations, a reddish complexion, shrieking laughter, mania, anxiety or depression and low vitality, cold or hot extremities can indicate a Fire imbalance (eventually affecting heart, pericardium, small intestine and triple heater).
The Five Elements are a way of understanding our endocrine system. The ancients formulated the generation and control cycles to describe how vital organs affect each other to support illness or health. According to Roger Green, with the “Longevity Diet” the first year brings improved digestion, a rebalance that allows us to go through the entire year eating foods appropriate for the season. The organ groups get stronger with seasonal diets. In spring and summer we eat lighter, cleansing green foods, more fruit and enjoy lots of activity and exercise. In fall and winter we enjoy root vegetables, warmer cooked foods, spices, rest, meditation and assessment of our life direction.
Color is an aspect of Health Assessment (call it traditional diagnosis.) Spring is associated with green as new buds, leaves and grass appear. Green is associate with the Wood Element (liver, gallbladder, muscles, tendons, vision, the direction and carry-through of projects.) Greens help flush out toxins, prevent spring allergies, improve vision etc. But Green observed in facial hue, the tongue coating, urine or stools is not a good sign. We might also observe a tight jaw with tooth grinding, chronic constipation, insomnia, frustration, anger, problems with vision such as near-sightedness or spots in the visual field. These are related to an excess heat (inflammation) imbalance of Wood. Who would have thought that you can perceive the underlying malfunction of our major detox organs, the liver/gallbladder, tie together and predict issues such as testy behavior, painful PMS, headaches, poor sleep, arthritis, and allergies by looking at a red, dry tongue with a yellow coating? Those signs indicate chronic dehydration and an acid condition affecting digestion. Spicy hot foods, alcohol and late nights increase the imbalance.
In the generation (or nourishing) cycle Wood feeds Fire. Wood (liver, gallbladder, muscles, joints, tendons, etc.) affect heart and circulation. The heart is a muscle that sends blood to every cell and supports our physical and emotional warmth, brain and blood circulation. By the second year of the “Longevity Diet” circulation improves so that we suffer less from temperature extremes, reduce chronic pain and by the third year most people experience clearer thinking, better intuition, better decision making and they push forward with their career and detox from poor relationships. There is a shift in spirit, first digestion, then circulation and the nervous system.
Trouble arises when we abuse lifestyle, for example, what Roger calls “executive woman’s syndrome.” They work hard sometimes with several jobs, abuse diet, smoke, take medicines and have relationship problems or illness. This can lead to surgical or stress- and dehydration-related early loss of menstruation. A healing diet can rehydrate, rejuvenate and protect beauty and wellness. Diet and herbs can gradually improve a deep circulation problem Chinese doctors call “stuck Qi” when the flow of vital energy circulation cannot pass through the body smoothly to affect organs and acupuncture meridians. The result is often muscle cramps, pain, headaches, tightness and stiffness affecting breathing and digestion, sharp pain along nerves, emotional upset and much more. Imagine blocking a flowing stream. The water overflows to cause havoc. What makes “stuck Qi” worse? Roger says: Environmental toxins, a diet of excess animal protein, sugar, difficult to digest foods, lots of eating out at restaurants, inflammatory foods, and our “yang society” where we are on the go day and night.
“Stuck Qi” that leads to inflammation can show up with a tense jaw, a shouting voice sound, blood-shot eyes, a red facial hue, hot or cold or overly dry hands, a muscle tic, acne, a strong unpleasant body odor, jerky movement, or rigid ideas and extreme behavior. Qi can get stuck in acupuncture meridians causing severe pain or pain that moves like the wind, for example sciatica.
Look in a mirror. Your face shows the health of yin and yang. The mouth shows digestive health. The upper lip indicates stomach and lower lip large intestine. Are they swollen, dry, cracked, moist, dark colored or overly pale? Lips can indicate whether or not you are absorbing nutrients. Watch dry lips improve with moistening blood-enhancing foods. Dietary abuse shows on the face. A swollen nose and rosacea indicates inflammation, too much alcohol and possible heart issues. Liver and Spirit health are observed in the eyes. Dark circles under the eyes often indicates “kidney yin deficiency” coming from poor sleep, adrenal fatigue, pollution and other causes. Bags under the eyes are from water retention and poor spleen/pancreas function which controls our use of body fluids, (edema) the shape of our body, the ability of blood vessels to contain blood properly (bruising too easily.)
Using traditional health assessment, at a glance, we can sense if our family and health clients are abusing their body and vitality. Using simple, non-invasive ways, we observe their face, tongue when they speak, the temperature and skin texture of hands, their speech, breathing and voice. Breathing and the voice express the connection we have with others and the environment. We take in air and give out sound. We give and receive information, enthusiasm, love, patience, and tolerance. Are we taking in enough air to feel strong? Do we feel vulnerable from fatigue gasping for breath? Is excess phlegm or asthma reducing breath? Is the tongue pale or red and dry or coated? For a pale tongue, by adding radish and other pungent spices we help clear watery phlegm and improve our use of oxygen. Is the complexion troubled and mouth overly dry? Is there a hacking smoker’s cough? Moistening asparagus, oatmeal and other longevity foods properly cooked reverse beauty, energy and blood sugar problems.
Does the voice have a pleasant easy to listen to sound? Is it:
- Strained, tight, sounds like shouting even when quiet (Wood)
- High pitched, frenetic, hysterical laughter, extreme chatter or too silent? (Fire)
- Sweet, melodious or sing-song and whining? (Earth)
- Breathy, shallow, coughing, wheezing (Metal and Water)
- Groaning, hopeless or courageous or domineering (Water)
Your doctor may never make a connection between chronic thirst, skin rashes, stabbing PMS, headaches, insomnia, street drugs, and painful relationships. But you may treat such inflammatory issues with a cooling, nourishing, supportive diet. Doctors may never make a connection between poor breathing and unwillingness to speak, depression, feeling chronic vulnerability, anxiety or difficulty to share feelings. Those are the connections of the Five Elements, our way to sense the invisible.