Why Do I Have Trouble Eating Some Foods?
Food allergies are a common diagnosis in this country, but in Eastern Asia food allergies are much less prevalent. In Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) there is no such disease category as food allergies. That is not to say that there are no food allergies, just that medicine in East Asia has not had the exposure to them that we have. So why is this so?
For starters, diets in China and the rest of East Asia tend to still consist of traditional foods, including a large amount of fresh vegetables.
Most food allergies begin in infancy where our current Western lack of nutritional sense is most glaring and apparent. Traditional East Asian Medical theory states that a child’s digestive system is immature until at least six years of age. Just like all endeavors, beginners must recognize the need to start slowly and easily until he/she develops the requisite skills and abilities; babies need to be fed beginner’s foods. This means breast milk, watered down cereal soups, mashed, cooked vegetables, and small amounts of animal soups and broths. Instead, we ply our infants with cold fruit juices, raw carrots, apples, oranges, cheese, fried foods and chips, peanut butter, cold milk, and sweetened yogurt.
All of these foods are “dampening” or heavy and hard to digest, especially for young children with a spleen and stomach that are just learning how to function properly. If one is fed or allowed to eat the wrong foods as a child, this can cause chronic digestive dampness and weakness including possible allergies. Nonetheless, this is the standard fare at most daycare centers and in many of our homes.
Those foods that account for 90 percent of all documented food allergies include:
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
- Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
- Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
- Wheat/ Gluten
All of these foods are very “dampening” and “phlegmatic.” Because of these qualities, these foods tend to slow digestion, which entail leads to heat or inflammation as the food sits in your system. Of these foods, milk is one of the most dampening according to Traditional Eastern Asian Medicine dietary theory. Therefore, milk, cheese, and all dairy products tend to aggravate dampness and impede digestion. If one’s digestion is sound, these are very nutritious foods, but to a young digestive system these foods may cause a lifetime a struggles. Although TEAM has no category of disease called food allergies, they do, nonetheless, exist and as the West is more and more influencing diets in the East, this is something that will change. If one has such an allergy, it is important to identify the worst offending foods and avoid them. It is possible to strengthen one’s digestion and eliminate dampness to the point that a moderate amount of the previously allergic foods can be added back into your diet. However, it should be noted that such highly nutritious, damp-tending foods listed above should not be eaten too frequently nor in large amounts by anyone. If you or a family member is having any issues eating foods or just have questions about your diet, Synergy Wellness Center is here to help.