Saturday, September 18, 2010

TCM - Hot and Cold Foods (Traditional Chinese Medicine)

When I tell people that I try to feed my dogs seasonally and according to traditional Chinese medicine - cool and damp foods in the summer time and adding heat in the winter (though not a lot of heat as both of my boys tend to run hot) I tend to get some funny looks - not (I hope) because they think I'm out of my mind - but more so because it's sometimes hard to understand where foods fall on the hot and cold spectrum. The overall concept of traditional Chinese Medicine is that an individual needs to be balanced in all things. This is the proportion of Yin to Yang, black to white. That a diet or a life that brings all things to balance is a healthier individual.

According to the theory of  Traditional Chinese Medicine, an excess of Yin (cold) creates weakness, lethargy and restlessness. Conversely an excess of Yang (hot) can make us irritable and dehydrated, can be the cause of skin conditions like rashes and acne and  digestive effects - heartburn, constipation and/or diarrhea (or prone to any of those conditions).

I'm by no means an expert in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and there is WAY more to it than hot and cold foods, but I have noticed that if I keep to cool foods in the summer I feel better - and my dogs seem to feel better if I can keep them exclusively to cold foods. I've spent a lot of time over the last two years or so educating myself on all things canine nutrition, feeding both of my dogs for conditioning and fitness. More than high protein, it's also considering appropriate and easily digestible proteins.

What can I feed my dogs to get the best bang for my buck? Over the course of this adventure I've seen Teller blossom into (and yes, I'm likely a little biased) one of the fittest dogs I've ever put my hands on (there's a good reason more than a few people call him "Mr. Zero Percent Body Fat"). The great thing is that there are a lot of food options out there (premixes) that are formulated cold (and some formulated hots) - but not many that are strictly speaking neutral formulations.

For example, let's take a look at one of the foods that I've been feeding this summer - ingredients are as follows: Hormone-free USDA turkey (Cold), organic flaxseed (Neutral), potatoes (Neutral), celery (Cold), spinach (cold), carrots (Neutral), coconut (Hot/Neutral), apples (Neutral), organic kelp (Cold), eggs (Cold), bananas (Cold), cranberries (Neutral), rosemary (Neutral)...That food is oriented on the cold side with neutral tendencies.

Lets look at another commercially available dog food: Lamb (Hot), Lamb Hearts(Hot), Lamb Livers(Hot), Ground Lamb Bones(Hot), Organic Kale (Neutral), Organic Carrots (Neutral), Organic Yams (Hot), Organic Broccoli (Cold), Organic Apples (Neutral), Cranberries (Neutral), Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (Neutral), Organic Parsley (Neutral), Organic Coconut Oil (Hot), Organic Kelp (Cold), Alfalfa (Cold). Lamb is considered very hot - but some of the cold and neutral ingredients do temper the overall mix - I'd consider this mix for deep winter in New England for my dogs (December through February) - but some dogs might do very well on this food September through May.

How about one more: sweet potatoes (Neutral), USDA turkey (Cold), whole egg (Cold), broccoli (Cold), celery (Cold), apples (Neutral), flax meal (Neutral), pecans (Neutral), pumpkin (Cold), cranberries (Neutral), basil (Neutral), dried alfalfa (Cold), ginger root (Hot), dried kelp (Cold). Overall a pretty cold food - and coincidently another food that I've fed pretty heavily this summer.

OK now how about some TCM food cheat sheets.

Here's one for TCM Hot, Neutral and Cold fruits and veggies:
Hot = barley cherries olives, onion, grapes, pineapple, walnuts peppers peaches coconut garlic, cinnamon, ginger neutral=carrots beans honey milk potatoes raspberries apple sweet potatoes peas plum, cold = bananas beans cucumber kelp celery lettuce spinach oranges watermelon radish pear broccoli zucchini tomatoes strawberry

And now one for TCM Hot, Neutral and Cold fish and meat proteins:

I hope this helps as a high-level tutorial...In IT we'll often refer to the 5,000 foot view (as in REALLY HIGH LEVEL) overview, then we'll work down to the 100 foot view, etc. Don't forget that variables in preparation can change the properties of the individual components - take for example a pot of chili. One would think that beef plus tomatoes plus beans (either neutral or cold varieties) would create a relatively cool concoction. However - once you've added peppers (Really hot), onions (Hot) and Garlic (Hot) you've created a TCM Hot dish - and one of the reason that you'll feel warmer after a winter lunch of a steaming crock of chili. You can dial down the overall hotness of the chili by substituting turkey for beef or venison.

Oh a couple other thoughts - I've listed onions and grapes on the list for illustration purposes - y'all remember that grapes and onions are no-nos for your canine friends right? You still have to do your own homework based on the foods that work best for your dog - it's also not entirely accurate to feed cold foods when it's hot out - that's overly simplistic and isn't the entire picture. TCM works because you're complementing the intrinsic (holistic) nature of the being. A dog with excess Yin (cold) should eat foods that trend towards Yang (hot). A dog with excess Yang (heat) should eat foods that are Yin. The overall goal is to move towards balance - not to either extreme.

Oh, in the event that someone was wondering....the three commercially available dog foods that I listed were (in order): The Honest Kitchen's Embark, Primal's Canine Lamb Formula and Sojourner Farm's (Sojo's) Complete.

3 comments:

Nicole on homemade dog food said...

One of the most important things that we can do for pets is to feed them properly, and while it is not that difficult to achieve a balanced diet, it is a bit more complex when we use food to help achieve optimal health. Food also has tendencies toward yin or yang. The temperature or thermal nature of foods does not refer to the temperature at which the food is served, but the way the food makes the body feel once consumed. Cooling foods can cool both the body and the psyche. Conversely warming or hot foods will affect the entire body as well. Foods, like bodies, all have BOTH yin and yang properties, but some have more of one and some more of the other. Cool to know right? :)

Chris said...

Hi,
I was just wondering where you found your lists? You have chicken listed as cold and I was told by my vet that it is considered hot.
I would really like a comprehensive list of the hot and cold foods. My rescue dog is more hot and I would like to make sure I'm giving her more cold/cool foods to help her with her skin issues.
Thank you!!

Chris said...

Hi,
I was just wondering where you found your lists? You have chicken listed as cold and I was told by my vet that it is considered hot.
I would really like a comprehensive list of the hot and cold foods. My rescue dog is more hot and I would like to make sure I'm giving her more cold/cool foods to help her with her skin issues.
Thank you!!