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Healing With Whole Foods - Defining Health By Relationships

from: Rebecca Prescott

Annemarie Colbin, in her book, Food and Healing, presents a
chapter on altering diet to combat specific conditions. Her
recommendations are based on her own experience as a student of
macrobiotics and health food, and a teacher of natural healing
and balanced eating. As well as her observations of those whom
she treated in consultations, and the transformations of her
students over the years. Despite her background in macrobiotics
and vegetarianism, Annemarie isn't dogmatic about food - she
recognizes that what is healing for one person, during a
particular period of their life, may not be healing for others,
or even for that same person at different stages of their life.

She takes as her cue the fact that regular foods have been used
for their medicinal value in most traditional cultures. The
underlying principle is one of restoring balance. Illness is
considered a state of imbalance within the body. And like in
homeopathy, she believes that remedies can cause similar
symptoms to that which they cure - if the symptoms they can cure
are not present, and they are taken in sufficient quantity. So,
the remedy should no longer be taken once the symptoms of
imbalance, the illness or condition, disappears. Otherwise, the
remedy may in fact cause similar symptoms to reappear. If this
is the case, the remedy should not be taken again, as the
remedies are (according to this principle), causing the new
symptoms. Serious medical conditions she does not rely on food
cures for. She recognizes that Western medicine also has its
place. But food being what it is, can also be a useful healing
adjunct in those situations.

One thing that impressed her was food's ability to alter our
metabolism quickly. She described this epiphany after cooking a
meal for some South American friends, who were used to a diet
that was high in protein and fats. When they ate the meal
prepared by her, which was high in complex carbohydrates like
whole grains and legumes, and low in fat, sugar (for dessert),
and low in protein, they found alcohol affected them in a way it
usually didn't. The same amount they normally drank, which did
not make them drunk with their usual fare, got them quite tipsy
on hers. She observed from this that alcohol, being expansive in
nature, balanced out the highly contractive protein and fat they
normally ate. These ideas, of particular foods having an
expansive or contractive nature, is one that she learnt from the
Oriental healing systems she studied.

This approach touches on a core difference between Western
understanding of both food, and medicine, and traditional
Chinese medicine's (TCM). TCM has as its conceptual
underpinning, the study of relationships between things. Western
approaches, to both nutrition and medicine, are based on a
reductionist approach. They explore isolated nutrients, diseases
that are studied under the microscope, with a symptom that then
suggests possible causes, defined within a narrow and static
frame. Ted Kaptchuk illustrates this when he describes how, when
he was studying TCM in Macao, one of his teachers was talking
about shingles. His teacher described how shingles on the face
was different to shingles elsewhere, say, on the trunk. The
reason behind this was that "the Chinese view demanded another
perspective - seeing the relationship of the symptom to the
whole body". (Kaptchuk) he goes on to say: "The question of
cause and effect is always secondary to the overall
pattern...The total configurations, the patterns of disharmony,
provide the framework for treatment." (Kaptchuk)

References: Ted Kaptchuk, Chinese Medicine, The Web That Has No
Weaver (Rider Books, London)

Annemarie Colbin, Food As Healing (Ballantine Books, New York)

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