Why do we Crave Certain Flavours?

A healthier you is a happier you and a healthy body always begins with a healthy diet. With the media bringing awareness of health concerns that arise from poor diet, we try our best to abstain from processed, fatty, and greasy foods, or foods with harmful chemicals or additives and opt instead for smoothies and salads as this is implicitly and explicitly acknowledged as the universal definition of a healthy diet that works for everyone. In reality, each body is different and we all have different nutritional needs according to our body’s constitution. Therefore, eating according to your constitution is as important (if not more!) in contributing to a healthier you.

One important aspect of eating is the taste of food and it can be categorized into five flavours: sweet, bitter, sour, spicy and salty. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the intake of certain flavours can help the function of the five organs in your body to balance your health, treat different diseases as well as recover from some acute illnesses.

Functions of the different flavours

Each flavour has a distinct job within the body and is linked with one of five important organs to help the organ function when there are disorders:

Sour flavour (liver) calms the body

Salty flavour (kidney) moves stagnation

Spicy/pungent flavour (metal) expels wind/cold

Sweet flavour (spleen) tonifies the body

Bitter flavour (heart) clears heat

Therefore in TCM, when we crave certain foods especially during special situations involving stress, anxiety, insomnia, and menstrual cycles for females, it is more than just a craving: it is your body giving signs that there are imbalances in your body that needs to be addressed immediately.

Craving Salt? Kidney (Water Energy)

A block in energy flow or lack of energy to the kidneys can result in salt cravings. In TCM, some of the problems related to the kidneys are lower back/knee pain, early grey hair/hair loss, menstruation problem, sexual dysfunction, developmental problems, fatigue etc. Some people believe that we crave foods that are necessary to our bodies, but this is not always not true. If you crave salty foods and indulge in large amounts, your symptoms can actually worsen especially for those who are overweight or have high blood pressure.

What type of food is helpful?: Seafood such as prawns, kelp and seaweed, along with walnuts and goji berries in healthy amounts are all great to incorporate into your diet.

Craving Bitter? Heart (Fire Energy)

Even though bitter cravings are not as common, craving them can actually be a link to your heart health as well as signs of excess heat in the body. Excess heat is related to anger, emotional instability, anxiety, and even insomnia. Ingesting bitter foods can help to relieve fevers, drain dampness, induce bowel movement, improve digestion and fight infections to improve the overall flow of energy in your body. However, people with weak, thin, dry and cold constitutions should take caution and limit their intake of bitter foods.

What type of food is helpful?: Bitter melons or other bitter leafy greens, chard, dandelions, chamomile, alfafa, romaine lettuce and rye all help with this condition.

Craving Sour? Liver (Wood Energy)

In TCM, Our liver is strongly related to our emotions and an imbalance can cause anger/stress/anxiety, resulting in a craving for sour foods. A liver imbalance could also be causing you to crave fried, greasy, fatty foods. Some symptoms of an imbalanced liver energy can be irregular menstrual cycles, depression/anxiety, migraines/headaches, tinnitus , tight muscles etc.

What type of food is helpful?: Tomatoes, oranges, kiwifruits, vinegar can open up the liver qi and help circulation.

Craving Spicy? Lung (Metal Energy)

In TCM, the lungs help to defend against foreign pathogens/invaders/evil which can cause sicknesses in the body. These pathogens can come in physical forms such as bacteria and viruses, or in psychological forms such as grief and anxiety. Individuals who crave spicy food may be at the onset of catching a cold or may hold onto negative thoughts and brood over them, which is why eating spicy and pungent foods during the winter is especially helpful. Spicy food can help get rid of such pathogens and can also help our immune system against sickness.

What type of food is helpful?: Go for spearmint, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, anise, pepper, cloves, fennel, spring onions, curry, chilli, and onions.

Craving Sweet? Spleen (Earth Energy)

In TCM, the spleen is one of the most important organs because it helps to filter your blood and plays a key role in the immune system. If you’re craving for sweet things, that means the spleen Qi(energy) is weak or there is some imbalance which may lead to dampness. This can also cause lack of energy, digestion problems like stomach or abdominal bloating especially after eating, irregular bowel movement, low appetite, sinus congestion, heavy and puffy extremities, poor quality sleep, brain fog etc. Since children are at the stage of developing their spleens, they have stronger cravings for sweets. Eating small amounts of healthy sweet foods can help children’s growth and development.

What type of food is helpful?: Cherries, carrots, figs, winter squash, sweet potatoes, nutmeg, yam, brown rice, dates, whole grains, cinnamon etc. (If you have spleen Qi deficiency or dampness, eat hot cooked food instead of cold raw food/salad).

In the same way that each organ has a function in our body’s systems, each flavour also functions in different ways. By having healthy amounts of each flavour, your body can maintain a balance which also helps to prevent future illnesses. So the next time you start craving specific foods, try to see which organ is demanding your attention!

Stages of Acne and How to Treat Them From The Inside Out

The Struggle Against Acne?

Are you tired of using chemicals or concealers to manage your acne? At Complete Balance, we are passionate about a holistic approach to acne and through TCM treatments and life style changes, you can enjoy a clear complexion that addresses the problem both internally and externally.

Acne is the most common skin condition worldwide and can continue to be problematic from the beginning of puberty all the way until adulthood. It is a long-term skin disease that occurs when dead skin cells and oil from the skin clogs up the hair follicles resulting in inflammation. Black/ white heads, pimples, scarring and oily skin are common features that can affect primarily the face, upper chest and the back.

The real culprit behind acne is the propionibacterium acne. This is a type of bacteria found in sebaceous glands. Normally it has a slow growth rate and lives peacefully with us. However, it has anaerobic properties meaning whenever a hair follicle is clogged and there is no oxygen around them anymore, they grow rapidly and start causing inflammation. In summary, these are the four risk factors that needs to be addressed in the stages of acne development:

Regulate oil production on the face

Prevent clogging of hair follicles

Lower inflammation at the onset

Clear inflammation induced infection

How can TCM help with acne?

Due to the diverse range of products for acne-prone skin, it is difficult to know which one is best to reduce. eliminate and/or prevent acne. So how can we, your Complete Balance team help you in your struggle against acne?

Step 1: Thorough TCM Assessment

Our TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners will do a full assessment to determine the cause of your acne. Although many acne products promote external treatments such as creams or ointments, most often the cause of acne is related to internal imbalances caused by stress, diet, and lifestyle. Receiving a thorough assessment from a TCM practitioner will help to identify the exact root cause of your acne.

Step 2: Personalized Treatment plan

Once a TCM diagnosis is made, you will receive a treatment plan that is personalized to suit your exact diagnosis. Depending on the diagnosis, the practitioner can prescribe treatments such as acupuncture, herbal formulas, lymphatic draining and life style changes to help treat the internal imbalances.

Step 3: Medicated Diet

Many already know that the food we eat influences our health, and this includes our skin health. Identifying and eliminating foods that can contribute to your acne is therefore an essential factor alongside the treatments.

Step 4: Healthy Lifestyle

Is it over once your acne gets better? Not at all! Maintaining and preventing future acne breakouts will help manage your acne for many years to come. Involving a physical trainer and psychotherapist to help establish a regular exercise routine and stress management for a healthy lifestyle will provide lasting results.

What are some simple lifestyle tips that you can apply today?

Due to the structure of our lifestyle, diet, and stress, cases of acne have been on the rise. The resulting appearance can lead to anxiety, reduced self-esteem and in extreme cases depression. Here are some tips for fighting against acne and to maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle:

Acne is a problem that involves the mind and the body. Start making small changes in your life to have a positive mindset and keep a healthy lifestyle

Any emotional stress, tiredness, staying up late can cause the condition to relapse or worsen

Patience. The skin regeneration time is 21-27 days. Treatment for acne will not happen magically but with consistence and patience, you will get better

Avoid spicy, oily, and sweats. These food can stimulate oil secretion from sebaceous gland leading to more acne

Consume foods that are rich in vitamin A such as carrots, leafy vegetables (they should be consumed cooked and not raw because vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin), and bean products like tofu, soybean milk (full of estrogen)

Eat lots of vegetable to make sure your bowel movement is regular and smooth

Choose facial cleansing products according to your skin type. Avoid products that overly control oil secretion which may result in dryness of the facial skin

Do not try to squeeze or use invasive products on the face. Give your skin time to go through its healing cycle naturally

When using cosmetic products, avoid blocking the pores when possible

After sweating or showering, avoid using cold water directly on the face. Instead, use warm water or a warm towel to keep the pores openReady to get started on your journey towards healthy skin?

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