This article is a response to the question, “Are there any foods I can eat or exercises I can practice to help my condition?” The answer to this question is always “yes and yes”, but there is a bigger picture which generally is overlooked. It is assumed in Chinese medicine that people will care for themselves by eating well, exercising, practicing Qi Gong (Chinese energy exercises) and relaxation exercises, and obtaining proper rest. In fact, the great Chinese doctor Sun Si-miao said that diet and lifestyle should be adjusted before treatment with herbs and acupuncture is administered at all. In the West, we do exactly the opposite.
For the vast majority of people, trying to use a specific food or exercise to treat their condition is like putting the cart before the horse. More important than eating one specific food, is having a good diet to start with. Without this foundation in place, isolated changes are essentially meaningless. Thus I find that despite the huge body of knowledge available in Chinese medicine concerning diet and exercise, this information is beyond what the average person needs. Learning the basics of how to eat well and take proper care of oneself overall, will produce far greater change than learning a technique aimed at one specific thing.
Making small changes, beginning with what is needed at the moment, is certainly a useful way to begin the process. However, the enormous number of diet, weight loss, and exercise programs which are popular suggests that people are generally looking for that one thing which will fix them, and are ignoring the basics. Eating well is not that complicated. Exercise is not that complicated. The moral of the story is do not wait until you are sick or injured – start now, learn the basics, and practice them. Then you can focus on one specific area if it is needed in the future. It does not work the other way around.