Just imagine a time, not too long ago . . . in a rural land where refrigerators didn’t exist and people bought just the right amount of food for the day. Now, I know it is hard to envision a world without Costco, or mega refrigerators, iced water with every meal, late night ice-cream, and smoothies. The thing is, it is not natural for us to ingest such cold drinks and food on a regular basis.
Why, you ask? Well, I am sure that everyone has seen and would recognize the legendary yin yang symbol. Besides for it being an awesome symbol, it is also one of the basic principles of Chinese Medicine. Yin can be seen as the bodies cooling agent, mainly being the fluid substances in our bodies such as water and blood. Yang is considered to be the warming properties of the body, or your metabolism and qi; which many refer to as one’s vital source.
We all know that it takes a great deal of energy to digest food and make it into the proper form in order to provide nutrients to our organs and to maintain proper health. That energy is yang energy. We need a proper balance of yin and yang in order for our digestive system to properly break down the food we eat, transform it into proper nutrients and then transport it throughout the body in the most efficient way. If we ingest foods that are difficult to digest, are too cold in nature, making them overly yin in quality, we disrupt the balance between yin and yang resulting in a slower metabolism.
According to Chinese medicine, the organs responsible for digestion are the spleen and stomach. It is important to remember that when looking at this ancient organ system, the organs do not have the exact role as they do in western medicine. This is because Chinese medicine has a large philosophical component to it and each organ holds emotion, carries out a duty, has a yin/yang partner, and is associated to one of the 5 elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. In this case, the spleen is associated with worry or over thinking, transforms the food and then transports it throughout the body, has the yang counterpart- the stomach which is responsible for grinding down the food initially, and both the spleen and the stomach make up the earth element. Now of course this is a very simplified description of how our digestive system works considering that are numerous texts that just speak about this topic, and there are other crucial factors involved. To stay on topic, I will just add that one of the more important factors in order to complete the mission of digesting is the yang (our metabolism) to break down the food. This yang is like our bodies boiler system and comes from both the spleen and the kidneys.
Ok, so now we know that we need a good balance of yin and yang, and that for proper digestion the yang factor is critical, does it make sense that if we ingest foods that are really cold, especially in the winter we are creating an imbalance in our bodies that causes our digestion to slow down?
So, if for this New Year, one of your resolutions is a juice cleanse and you live in New York during winter storm season, it can really damage your digestion. Fruits and veggies, especially raw, are very yin in nature and can damage the body’s yin yang balance, especially in the winter- being it is the absolute most yin time of the year. It won’t happen right away, even though if you are sensitive you might end up running to the bathroom, but over time it can cause a great deal of damage that your Acupuncturist will have to work very hard to fix. I suggest doing a soup cleanse consisting of cabbage and ginger, which can be just as effective. If you insist on doing a juice cleanse, please supplement it with tons of ginger to warm up the cold nature of the cold and raw fruits and veggies, drink ginger tea throughout the day, and don’t do it for too long. Waiting for the spring to do a juice cleanse might be the better option