Greetings! Today we wrap up our review of Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford, North Atlantic Books, 1993. We’ve reviewed a large part of it already, but there is more good stuff to come.
We’ll start with Part III, Chapter 23, which is called “Five Elements: Seasonal Attunement and the Organs in Harmony and Disease”. The five elements in Chinese medicine include wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each is associated with body parts (e.g. fire with the heart, water with the kidneys), sense organs, senses, tissues, emotions, voice sounds and fluids. The Chinese philosophy elaborately describes the interplay amongst the elements, as they are all interconnected by the flow of qi energy, fluids, nutrients, emotions, and many other factors. Thus, imbalance in one area impacts another. For example, kidneys that cause excessive fluid retention weaken the heart (water can put out fire) and so many who have heart and circulatory problems such as hypertension are given diuretics to shed excess water. Paul Pitchford sums up the situation as “Chinese physiology in conjunction with the Five Element Theory, presents the entire person – bodily functions, tissues, and organs as well as mental and emotional aspects – as correspondences that influence one another. This orderly system suggests perfection in the inter-connection of all things, and thereby enhances our sense of unity.“ Interconnectedness is a theme which pervades this approach and is consistent with other metaphysical teachings as well.
In order to properly describe how to treat system imbalances with diet, the 5 flavors must be introduced, because a food’s predominant flavor is related to its therapeutic value. Thus, this chapter describes the properties, uses, organ functions, seasonal attunement, individuals most benefited by , and cautions for the 5 flavors – sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, salty. For example, the salty flavor is associated with the Water Element, has the yin property and a cooling effect, and tends to move energy downward and inward. It may be used to soften lumps, such as cataracts, and other knottings of the muscles and glands. Because of the descending, cooling nature of the salty flavor it attunes one to the colder seasons and climates, and should be used progressively more throughout the fall and winter.
The rest of the chapter is spent on each of the Five Elements, their associated body parts, and how to treat imbalances through diet. Very interesting stuff and I paid particular attention to the Metal Element (for autumn) and the Water Element (for winter). The Metal Element is associated with the lungs and large intestine and the Water Element is associated with the kidneys and bladder, hence one should pay particular attention to these organs at this time of year. There are many good suggestions in this section about which foods to eat and how to prepare them to stay in tune with the seasons both physically and emotionally.
The final Parts are IV and V. Part IV is called “Diseases and Their Dietary Treatment” and discusses blood sugar imbalances, blood disorders, cancer and other degenerative disorders. There is good information for the lay person here though treatment of these serious conditions would require help from a professional. Part V is called “Recipes and Properties of Vegetal Foods” and contains almost 200 pages of seasonal recipes.
In Part V, there is also one very interesting section called “Vibrational Cooking” that I would like to call out. Up to this point, he discussed the relationship between the food and the eater, and here he discussed the relationship between the cook and the food. Paul points out that there is an invisible energy imparted to the food by the cook that affects everyone who partakes of it. The appearance, taste, balance, and presentation of food and the way everyone feels after eating are reflections of the cook’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state. For example, food prepared in anger imparts anger. Everything is connected energetically (between us and within us), so if you are not in the greatest mood prior to preparing dinner, perhaps take a break and calm down before grabbing the pots and pans!
So that brings us to the end of this book review! I’d say this book summarizes an amazing whole body, whole mind and whole spirit approach to health that has been honed over thousands of years by Chinese sages and hence worthy of consideration. The western medical approach has been around for a several hundred years and is only now slowly accepting that the body, mind and spirit are not separate entities that can be understood and treated in isolation. There is much to learn from ancient Oriental and Indian traditions such as Ayurveda which emphasize the interconnectedness of ALL things, that we are all manifestations of a single energy source. If this approach resonates with you, then please investigate further. This book is very comprehensive and a great start!