Warming Foods for Colder Weather and Colder People
It’s officially winter!! You know what that means — time to adjust our diet, and lifestyle accordingly. As the bears go into hibernation, we too must turn inward to nourish our inner warmth during this period of ‘yin within yin.’ (Thankfully, our local produce shows us the way!) In addition to the warming foods listed in the table below, now is also a time to be mindful of how we hold cold in our life — both physically and emotionally. If you are prone to viral infections, this subject will be particularly relevant for you.
What is pathogenic “Cold”?
In Chinese medicine, there are a number of causes of Cold; and depending on whether the cause is internal or external, treatment will be different. Symptoms of Cold, nonetheless, are consistent:
- low body temperature or perceived chill; preference for covers or other warmth
- lack of thirst
- cold limbs
- preference for lying down or curling up
- slower heart rate (e.g. < 60bpm)
- profuse, frequent and clear urination
- thin or sloppy bowel movement, possibly with undigested foods
- sharp pain or contraction
- decreased sexual desire and/or function
Warming foods are an easy first step towards warming the body and its tissues.
Emotional & Spiritual Symptoms
If we are to accept the body as an integrated whole, we cannot ignore the emotional and physical aspects of Cold. To this end, I was struck by something I read recently on the body’s response to trauma. In her book, “Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma,” author Haines writes:
Sounds just like Cold at work, huh? I guess that’s why they call it the ‘freeze’ response. Not everyone faces such obvious reason to withdraw, to numb, and to harden; however, in my experience, any chronic fear, insecurity, or chronic mild trauma is enough to sway the body to turn to its comfortable safety measures. Emotionally and spiritually, I would suggest to truly thaw out internal Cold, we must cultivate a deep self-love, a faith in our resourcefulness, and a grounded orientation towards kindness in our life.
Foods to Warm the Body and Tonify Yang
Food preparation for increasing warmth
The best ways to prepare your warming foods include:
- Cooking with alcohol
- Frying or roasting
Preparing stews are an ideal way to increase the yang of your foods.
Beyond food, how else is one to warm the body?
You know what I’m going to say — cultivate self-love, cultivate an unfailing orientation towards kindness, work on releasing your fears and your doubts. Let what you eat be a welcoming of more warmth into your life. Perhaps less clear, is avoid *too much heat* — like hot yoga, saunas, extra long baths, a lot of chili or pepper. As soon as you start to sweat, the body has started its cooling process — that’s not what we want here! Lastly, your acupuncturist and herbalist will have great tools to work with when it comes to warming up the body and releasing pain: Warming Chinese herbs, moxibustion, and a TDP heat lamp. If you need more help, go get it!
Kastner, Joerg. Chinese Nutrition Therapy. 2004.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. 2002.