Journal of Alternative Complementary & Integrative Medicine Category: Medicine Type: Short Commentary

How to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine Principles to Choose a Diet for Your Pet -Use “Four Qi and Five Flavor” to Select a Scientifically Balanced Diet

Shu Dai1*
1 Equine Acupuncture Center/Integrative Medicine, University Of Florida, United States

*Corresponding Author(s):
Shu Dai
Equine Acupuncture Center/Integrative Medicine, University Of Florida, United States
Email:daishu@ufl.edu

Received Date: Jul 17, 2020
Accepted Date: Jul 29, 2020
Published Date: Jul 31, 2020

Abstract

The food therapy principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) come from the collective experience and practice over the span of history. These principles combine the concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements, forming a unique health diet theory. The basic principles mainly include adjustment of Five Flavors; the balance of Cold (Yin) and Warm (Yang); consideration of seasonal, geographical and individual factors; avoidance of excessive food intake, and protecting the Spleen and Stomach (digestive system) first [1]. The key behind these considerations is the principle of conformity to nature and balancing or harmonizing. This article focuses on using the adjustment of Five Flavors and balance of Yin and Yang (cold and warm) principles, or “Four Qi and Five Flavors” as they are called in the language of TCVM, to choose the most appropriate foods from the most scientifically balanced diets available.

Keywords

Diet; Four Qi and Five Flavors; Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM); Yin and Yang

SHORT COMMENTARY

The food therapy principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) come from the collective experience and practice over the span of history. These principles combine the concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements, forming a unique health diet theory. The basic principles mainly include adjustment of Five Flavors; the balance of Cold (Yin) and Warm (Yang); consideration of seasonal, geographical and individual factors; avoidance of excessive food intake, and protecting the Spleen and Stomach (digestive system) first [1]. The key behind these considerations is the principle of conformity to nature and balancing or harmonizing. This article focuses on using the adjustment of Five Flavors and balance of Yin and Yang (cold and warm) principles, or “Four Qi and Five Flavors” as they are called in the language of TCVM, to choose the most appropriate foods from the most scientifically balanced diets available.

FEEDING BY FOUR QI

Four Qi are the 4 actions of foods in the body in TCVM when they are consumed. The theory of Four Qi of food or herbs comes from The Materia Medica or Shennong Ben Cao Jing, written between about 200 and 250 CE [2]. The categories are cold, cool, warm and hot. Examples of each (plant) category include watermelon as a cold food while banana is considered a cool food, cinnamon is warm, and a good example of a hot food would be dried ginger in vegetables; likewise, deep ocean fish is considered cold, duck is cool, lamb is warm and chicken is hot when considering meats. However, not every food has Four Qi, and the majority of daily commonly consumed foods like rice, wheat and beans are considered to be neutral or have very mild Four Qi actions. So, these foods can be consumed all year-round. In food therapy theory, warm and hot foods are called Yang foods, and cool and cold foods are called Yin foods. To balance Yin and Yang to promote health, the strategy is to feed more cool foods during the warm seasons and more warm foods in cold seasons. For a healthy animal, food can be selected according to the changes in the four seasons and the Four Qi of the food. If we only consider the ingredients which are in the highest amounts in a pet food and based on the most common ingredients used in the pet food industry, table 1 below can help you with selecting the appropriatefood for your pets from the standpoint of TCVM. 

Seasons

Four Qi

Meat choice

Grain choice

Others

Spring

Cool Food

Rabbit/Turkey

Buckwheat/Brown Rice

Celery/ Apple

Summer

Cold Food

Duck/Ocean Fish

Barley/Millet

Cucumber/Watermelon

Autumn

Warm Food

Beef/Lamb

White Rice/Glutinous Rice

Potatoes/Pumpkin

Winter

Hot Food

Chicken/Pheasant

Oats/Sorghum

Yam/Sweet Potato

Table 1: Food choices in 4 seasons by Four Qi in TCVM.

Case example: For a 3-year-old spayed female Labrador, generally in good health, if you would like to choose a food for her in summertime, you would look for an adult dog food which has as its protein source duck meat or ocean fish, like Hill's® Prescription Diet® d/d® Canine Skin Support Potato & Duck Formula Dog Food or Brit Fresh Dog Active Run & Work with Duck & Millet 12 Kg, etc. You may also provide her a little cucumber or watermelon as her daily treats.

FEEDING BY FIVE FLAVORS

The Five Flavors of food in TCVM are Sour, Bitter, Sweet, Pungent, and Salty. As the flavors of food are different, so the effect of each on the body is obviously different. In the classic TCM book, Yellow Emperor'sInternal Classic, it states that “after the Five Flavors enter the stomach they enter the organs that they select respectively. Acid first enters the Liver, Bitterness first enters the Heart, Sweet first enters the Spleen, Pungent first enters the Lung, and Salty first enters the Kidney” [3]. Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic also indicates that Pungent is contraindicated in Liver disease, Salty is contraindicated in Heart disease, Acid is contraindicated in Spleen disease, Bitter is contraindicated in Lung disease, and Sweet is contraindicated in Kidney disease. According to the Five Flavor theory, there are the Five Meats and the Five Grains: chicken is considered acid in Five Flavors and it enters the Liver; sheep or lamb as bitters enters the Heart; beef is sweet and enters the Spleen; horse is pungent and enters the Lung, and pork, which is salty, enters the Kidney. The Five Grains are thought of as follows: wheat nourishes the Liver, brown (or yellow) rice nourishes the Heart, millet nourishes the Spleen, white rice nourishes the Lung, and beans nourish the Kidney [4]. The Five Flavors of food theory determines which directions (or Meridians) the food action goes to, suggesting that each food has a “target organ". According to these TCVM principles, if an animal has disorders of the Liver and needs to tonify (promoting healthy function) Liver, foods containing chicken and wheat would be preferred; on the other hand, foods containing horse (or donkey) meat and rice would not be a good selection. Table 2 below can help you with selecting an appropriate food for a pet that has some imbalance or disorders in the body from the TCVM point of view. 

Organ Imbalance or Disorder

Choose

Avoid

Protein

Carbohydrates

Protein

Carbohydrates

Liver (or/and Gall bladder)

Chicken

Wheat

Horse

Rice

Heart (or/and vascular)

Lamb

Yellow rice

Pork

Beans

Spleen (GI tract and/or pancreas)

Beef

Millet

Chicken

Wheat

Lung (respiratory and/or immune)

Horse

Rice

Lamb

Yellow rice

Kidney (urinary and/or bony/neuron)

Pork

Bean

Beef

Millet

Table 2: Food choices for imbalanced pets by Five Flavors in TCVM.

Adjustment of Five Flavors is a method using the selective action of food on internal organs, Qi and Blood, Yin and Yang by the application of food’s Five Flavors in TCVM, to achieve the purpose of regulating organ function, improving body immunity, resisting external pathogens, and preventing diseases.

SUMMARY

The purpose of TCVM food therapy is not only to make the animals full when they are hungry, but to satisfy the taste or flavor they need. So, feeding a pet on one type of food all year-round, without regard to seasonal changes, or not paying attention to the imbalances in the body, either way, would not be ideal in TCVM. By applying Four Qi and Five Flavor principles in TCVM in selecting a scientifically well-balanced pet food, you not only have taken into account the individual pets and the seasonal changes, you also provide your pet the greatest possible benefits from both science and TCVM. Therefore, you will have provided your pets an opportunity to achieve physical and mental health and satisfaction [5].

REFERENCES

  1. Shuanlei T, Qi W (2011) Analysis of the basic principles of dietary regimen in traditional Chinese medicine. Li Shi Zhen Chinese Medicine and Herbal 22 :976-977.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shennong_Ben_Cao_Jing
  3. Rui Z (2008) Discussion on the theory of Huang Di Nei Jing health regimen with the concept of neutralization [D]. Thesis of master’s degree of Heilongjiang University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China.
  4. Zhang Dasheng (2006) Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic (graphic version), Tianjin Ancient Books Publisher, China.
  5. Wenbing X (2018) "Diets and Tastes" ("Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic " Diet Edition), Jiangxi Science and Technology Press 27-79.

Citation: Dai S (2020) How to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine Principles to Choose a Diet for Your Pet -Use “Four Qi and Five Flavor” to Select a Scientifically Balanced Diet. J Altern Complement Integr Med 6: 111.

Copyright: © 2020  Shu Dai, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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