It seems the obsession with a raw food diet has made a resurgence. I thought it had died out in the late 70’s but apparently not. The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help all the associated damage that this kind of diet causes to the people who undertake to go on a raw food diet. The Raw Food Diet Fanatic Syndrome (RFDFS) leads to a chronic spleen and stomach deficiency and depending how long the people stay on it, leads to other complications involving other organs. We will look at the damage that this diet does to the body and the reasons why.
What is the best way to treat raw Food Diet Fanatic Syndrome?
To treat the cause of the problem is paramount, which is to start eating cooked food again, but often this is not possible because the fanatical obsessive phase of RFDFS has taken over and they believe they are becoming really healthy.
Which organs of the body are regarded as the most important according to Chinese medicine?
The stomach and the spleen organs are regarded by many traditional Chinese medicine practitioners as being the most important organ group and in fact ancient physicians often put these organs as the centre of the 5 elements. Many centuries ago, physicians started what is known as the Earth School, which involved major texts devoted to the sole treatment of the Spleen and Stomach. Sayings like “All chronic diseases eventually damage the spleen” emphasise the importance of keeping these organs in balance and nourished. Contemporary Chinese medicine physicians also advocate the necessity to tonify the spleen in geriatric diseases as paramount in helping assist the symptoms of the aging process.
What can damage the Spleen according to traditional Chinese medicine?
Firstly, there is the mental state. Each organ is damaged by an imbalance of any emotion and with the spleen it is pensiveness and worry. Pensiveness is literally thinking too much or brooding. It works two ways, once the spleen has been damaged by another cause, it may also lead to excess brooding and worry which will further weaken the spleen. The environment also can play havoc with the spleen, and prolonged exposure to damp weather or living in a damp environment can weaken spleen energy. Any chronic disease eventually damages the spleen energy. The diet is also of major importance in helping or hindering the spleen.
What type of diet or foods damage the Spleen?
Chinese medical theory states that the stomach takes in the food and the spleen digests the food. In fact the spleen is in charge of transforming and transporting food. The spleen makes energy to produce the blood. Many centuries ago Chinese physicians came up with the saying “The spleen likes warm cooked foods and loathes raw cold foods” . The excess eating of raw foods causes digestive problems and leads to condition known in Chinese medicine terms as interior dampness.
What symptoms and health problems can people with Raw Food Diet Fanatic Syndrome (RFDFS) get?
In the early stages, symptoms like tiredness, weak limbs and abdominal distension can develop. The spleen controls the flesh so the longer the body is deprived of warm cooked foods and the weaker the spleen becomes, then muscle tone and strength is affected. The face can start to become pale and later on a red nose can be noticed. With time, there may be constant running of the nose and they start to catch colds often. Those with RFDFS explain this this as the body detoxifying. In Chinese medicine, insufficient qi and blood leads to a external energy weakness known as wei qi deficiency and they become more prone to catching colds and flu. In addition, they start to feel cold and need to wear extra clothes. Loose stools is common amongst those with RFDFS but unfortunately they believe it is healthy and normal when eating raw food.
What are the severe signs of Raw Food Diet Fanatic Syndrome?
When the spleen qi becomes deficient, it can then lead to spleen yang deficiency which can lead to “water flooding” otherwise known as oedema. This is usually seen in the legs and these people then mistakenly start to drink more water to flush the kidneys which compounds the problem. Basically it is like adding more water to a swamp to try drain the swamp.
What other organs can become involved from a weak spleen?
The consequences of spleen deficiency can be broad and can lead to lung energy deficiency causing cough and colds. If the spleen is not making adequate blood then there can be numbness, diminished vision and menstrual problems. If the spleen doesn’t make adequate blood for the heart, insomnia can result. Another problem is that a weak spleen leads to phlegm and dampness.
What about fertility and a raw food diet?
Classical Chinese medical texts have for many centuries advocated the avoidance of too much raw food when trying to get pregnant because it harms the spleen energy and therefore cannot produce adequate blood.
What acupuncture points can help tonify the Spleen?
Commonly zusanli and sanyinjiao acupuncture points on the legs are used with a warm needle technique where small pieces of mugwort are placed on the ends of the needle and burnt.
Can Chinese herbs help with this syndrome?
A common formula that can help is known as Six Gentleman Soup which has specific herbs in it to tonify the spleen. You will notice that it is a bunch of herbs “cooked” as a soup as it can be then readily assimilated. Chinese physicians discovered thousands of years ago, that eating dried bark, sticks and leaves gave a very poor result.
What is the best way to try help people with RFDFS?
My experience is that you can’t try convince these people that they are on the wrong path. With time, many of them start to crave some warm cooked food like a stew and realise they feel so much better after having eaten some. Rob Moore, of Mount Acupuncture in Mount Maunganui says “I try to keep my advice very simple. In Chinese medicine theory, everything comes down to a balance of yin and yang; sun and moon, hot and cold and fire and water. If there is not enough fire (cooked food) you will end up with too much water“.