Nutrition and the function of the "Tripple Heater" in Chinese medicine

Does this sound familiar: you would like to lose some weight and despite only eating salads and raw vegetables, the pounds just don't want to go? Even worse, you feel more bloated, uncomfortable and are freezing?

There is a principal in Chinese medicine that explains this phenomenon beautifully. According to TCM, a whole system of organs is responsible for the process of digestion, transformation, and distribution of food energy (Gu-Qi). This organ system goes by many names: the "Triple Warmer", "San Jiao", "Triple Heater" etc. This structure of different organs is divided into three levels with specific tasks. To better understand this complex digestive system, it helps to look at it from a perspective of a rice cooker:

The Upper Heater (lung/heart)

The area in which the "food energy" (Gu-Qi) is distributed throughout the body. Comparable to the steam which rises from the cooking pot and spreads everywhere.

The Middle Heater (spleen/stomach)

This is the area in which the food is transformed. Comparable with the "cooking pot" in which the raw rice is cooked so that the body can get to the necessary "Gu-Qi" (nutritional energy) and the nutrients that are important for the body functions.

The Lower Heater (liver/kidney/large intestine and bladder)

This area can be compared to the fire or heat source under the pot, which brings the rice to a boil.

The image of the cooking pot helps to better understand various important principles of nutrition in Chinese medicine. Here are two eating habits that should be avoided:

1. Cold and raw foods should be avoided as much as possible since they cool down the "cooking process" and the "hearth fire" and thus burden the entire process of transforming and absorbing the nutrients. On one hand cold an raw foods force the body to use more energy to transform the food. On the other hand, if the body does not have additional energy, undigested food will "sit" and start to ferment. This can lead to various health problems such as fatigue, digestive problems, bloating and water retention.

2. The consumption of cow's milk and sweet foods should be reduced. In Chinese medicine, cow's milk products and sweet foods (including carbohydrate-containing foods such as bread) produce dampness and phlegm in the body. If you picture again the rice cooker you understand that too much dampness (fluids) also strain the "hearth fire". On one hand, the fire also needs more energy to cook away the fluids and on the other hand, boiling down a lot of fluids is reducing it to phlegm. This problem is especially common in children because children are born with a weak "digestive middle". Unfortunately often cold, sweet milk products are heavily advertised for the consumption of children and praised as healthy.

My tip for the day: go ahead and try to replace cold and raw foods with warm alternatives for a week (for example eat a cooked carrot instead of a raw one, or eat a warm vegetable salad instead of a salad with iceberg letuce) and/or try to reduce cow's milk and other sweet products. Monitor your body and see if you feel better.

I wish you a lot of fun with experimenting!

- Petra -

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