Hydration: wet-cooked food as the foundation for health

Do you experience any of the following?

  • Weakened digestion
  • Low immunity
  • Inflammatory heat conditions
  • Dry skin
  • Dry eyes, nose or lips
  • High blood pressure
  • Anaemia
  • Fluid retention

It is possible that chronic dehydration is a factor – underlying the cause, contributing to an exacerbation of the condition, or limiting your body’s attempts at healing.

My patients will be familiar with me harping on (ALL. THE. TIME) about the importance of hydration. It’s because it’s so important – for your overall health, and for the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments.

When I perform acupuncture I am stimulating the Qi through acupoints and channels in the body. Qi is dynamic movement or potential, it is relatively yang in nature – insubstantial, we might say ethereal or ‘energetic’. Stimulating the Qi invites a response in the body, and on the level of physiology it will require yin substance (fluids and Blood) in the body to flow and to nourish the Qi. We see this yin-yang interdependence in many forms in a healthy body.

For example, the Liver in Chinese medicine stores the Blood, and is the system responsible for smooth movement of Qi. When the Blood (yin) is deficient, the Liver tightens up to attempt to store the little Blood reserves available and consequently the flow of Qi (yang) is restrained. It is said the Liver is “in excess”. This may manifest as headaches, menstrual pain or a tight body. Women who have very heavy periods and are low in Blood may experience tension or pain on a regular basis or during and just after their period.

For my acupuncture treatments to be effective, I require you to have sufficient fluids to support the body’s response to the message being transmitted by the Qi.

The same concept applies to why hydration and healthy fluids are needed for efficient daily functioning.

Your immune system relies on healthy fluids to support sweating and a functioning mucosa. Healthy fluids are the yin that supports the (yang) Qi response commanding the body to generate a fever and efficiently eliminate the pathogens. Elimination may occur through sweating, coughing, urination, sneezing and defecation – all of which require fluids.

Fluids are also required on a daily basis to be distributed out to the exterior and nourish the skin, to be ascended to the head to nourish the sensory organs, to calm and hydrate the digestive tract, to build Blood and so on. Good digestive function supported by healthy fluids ensures your body can extract and make the vital substances you need from the food you eat to sustain all activities in the body.

Many people are chronically dehydrated.

If you are living off a diet of toast, chips, tea and coffee, skipping meals and eating whilst worried, you won’t be generating the fluids you need. Further, if you are not taking in enough fluids in the diet, the body will take fluids away from other places in the body – the lymph, blood, muscles, interstitial spaces, digestive tract,… leave the body desiccated.

So how do we ensure we generate sufficient healthy fluids?

All fluids utilised by the body are manufactured in the Stomach, so we need to take enough fluids in through our diet. Drinking plain water helps flush our system but it is not the best to hydrate. To hydrate we need wet-cooked foods in our daily diet. Think soups, stews, congee, porridges, broths, casseroles. Anything that is cooked in plenty of water allows slow-release hydration into your body as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract and you digest the food. Soups used to be a common accompaniment to main meals; a practice that has fallen away in the last few decades much to our detriment.

Also important is to avoid foods that desiccate fluids and inflame. This includes sugar, garlic, onion, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol.

Personally one of my favourite ways to achieve daily hydration is by eating a breakfast congee – made from either rice or millet and served with a boiled egg, sauerkraut, grated ginger and tamari. It is delicious and since making this a regular feature in the AM I have noticed improvements in my digestion and skin.

What is your favourite wet-cooked food?

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