TCM Dietary Therapy

Confucius, the wise and venerable scholar of mid sixth century China, emphasized that one should eat not for pleasure but in order to increase strength and preserve life. Confucius’ basic message about diet and nutrition is that one should follow the ‘middle way.’ This approach means that while food is to be enjoyed and savored, its fundamental purpose is to nourish us and to maintain good health.

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Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) dietary therapy seeks to accomplish three things:

1.  Contribute to remediation of an illness or disease.

2.  Assist you in establishing a healthy diet from varied sources of whole foods.

3.  Assist you in selecting foods for your specific needs and physical constitution.


At HealthPoint Oriental Medicine, many of our patients present with pain, illness, disease, or syndromes where the symptoms can be remedied though acupuncture, Chinese medicinal herbs, and tui-na (the body-work modality of traditional Chinese medicine). However, in many cases we are treating the branch (i.e., treating the symptoms) when what the patient needs in order to avoid recurrence of their symptoms is to undertake certain lifestyle changes. These changes, like all positive change, require information, knowledge, and choice. Once one has received information and developed knowledge, then it is up to the individual to make certain choices in order to see lasting improvement in their health. Often, these choices must be practiced daily until they become positive habits so that one no longer needs to give it a second thought.


There are two basic differences between Western nutritional therapy and traditional TCM dietary therapy. As used in the outpatient setting, modern Western nutritional therapy is most often used for weight loss whereas traditional Chinese nutritional therapy is used to treat a variety of health issues ranging from uncomplicated hypertension to skin disorders. The second main difference is that Western nutrition considers foods with regard to their protein, caloric, carbohydrate, vitamin, and other nutrient content. These measures were largely unknown in ancient China. Instead, TCM dietary therapy considers foods for their five flavors, five energies, movements, the common actions of foods (e.g., to lubricate dryness, soften hardness, or nourish blood), and organic actions (the specific internal organs on which certain foods can act).

  • One should eat a variety of whole foods in order to benefit from all the flavors, energies, and organic actions a varied diet offers.

  • Foods should be selected according to one's particular needs and physical constitution.
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According to TCM a balanced diet means two things. The first is that one should eat a variety of whole foods in order to benefit from all the flavors, energies, and organic actions a varied diet offers. The second is that foods are selected according to one's particular needs and physical constitution. A qualified Oriental medicine practitioner can evaluate you in this regard and help select foods that are specifically beneficial to you.

Chinese Medicine Dietary Therapy and Weight Loss

Traditional Chinese medicine categorizes fat as a type of heavy phlegm, turbidity, and dampness. It is formed due to non-transformation of righteous fluids and humors. These collect and accumulate and produce fat. While obesity is closely associated with loss of regulation of the lung, spleen, kidney, and triple burner functions of TCM, it is most closely associated with the spleen function. When spleen vacuity engenders dampness it impairs the spleen's function of transforming the food-stuffs we ingest into qi and blood and then transporting these to the body tissues. Water-rheum can develop and accumulate, eventually leading to phlegm and obesity.

The general treatment strategy in using acupuncture for weight loss is to strengthen the spleen, harmonize the stomach, transform phlegm and drain dampness, warm and unblock the channels and collaterals, and raise the clear and descend the turbid. Your acupuncturist might use a combination of body and ear acupuncture points for the treatment of simple obesity. He or she might also select certain herbal formulas from HealthPoint's well-stocked and diverse herbal pharmacy to boost your metabolism, transform dampness, resolve food stagnation, and/or supplement and tonify the digestive function.

However, the focus of treatment for obesity in Chinese medicine must include and emphasize dietary therapy. No one can maintain a healthy weight if they are eating nutritionally deficient foods and/or eating in excess beyond their energy expenditure. Acupuncture points and herbs can assist the patient’s efforts by better reducing or eliminating dampness and phlegm, thereby regulating the body’s metabolic spleen (and pancreas) function. But again, the benefits of acupuncture and herbs will not be fully realized without concurrent reduction or elimination of dietary sources of dampness or phlegm. Regular physical activity is also essential. Physical activity moves qi, which in turn can help dispel dampness. Qigong or t’ai chi are especially good forms of exercise for patients who have been inactive for some time and who may require a safe, gentle form of physical activity.

How HealthPoint Integrates with Western Nutritional Therapy

Modern Western nutritional science also has much to offer for someone seeking to understand and improve their nutrition and we like our patients to have options. If necessary, we can refer to qualified, experienced registered and licensed dietitians.

Please call us at
651-698-1404 if we can help you with your dietary or nutritional needs, or click here to schedule an appointment.



HealthPoint Oriental Medicine

232 Snelling Avenue, South
Saint Paul, MN  55105
651-698-1404






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