Should You Eat Breakfast?: Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Perspective
- Published on: 20 January, 2018
- Last update: 20 January, 2018
To breakfast, or not to breakfast? This is an age old question that is especially relevant in today’s fast paced world.
Today I’d like to look at Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) perspective on the issue. I find it highly valuable to examine our habits through the lens of ancient medicine systems, which often take into consideration the natural cycles of Mother Earth. TCM, for examples, recognizes that the body encounters a movement of energy within each daily 24 hour period, symbolized by the “Chinese Body Clock” above.
They believe that the “warmth/fire” of our digestion mirrors the cycle and brightness of the sun; therefore digestion is strongest in the morning and weakest in the evening. The implication here is that yes, we should definitely start our meals at the breakfast table!
I’ve done many posts on TCM in the past, and because so many Americans suffer from digestive issues, I find it very helpful to explain their view of strengthening “Stomach” and “Spleen.” Now, you have to remember TCM’s usage of these terms is VERY different from the physical organs we refer to as the stomach and spleen today in Western physiology! In ancient writings, they were used to describe a “cooking pot” that breaks down food and turns it into energy/blood for the body. The “Stomach” is the pot itself, and the “Spleen” is the digestive fire that warms the pot up. The Stomach cooks and breaks the food down, sending the pure part of the food to the Spleen to be distributed to the rest of the body.
It is crucial to maintain a strong “spleen,” or digestive fire – otherwise our food just sits in the pot, right?
TCM believes that what you eat for breakfast directly affects the strength of that fire.
Imagine your digestion as a wood-burning stove. When you go to bed, the fire is still going… but will eventually dwindle out as you sleep. When you wake up in the morning, the best way to get your fire going for a brand new day is to gently stoke the fire with some kindling. This means they believe you should eat something heart & nutritious to lightly kick your system into gear, rather than skipping breakfast or gorging on a huge American breakfast. Balance is key!
Most importantly, TCM does not believe you should eat your biggest meal at night for dinner. Your body does its best repair work while you sleep, and eating too much/too close to bedtime redirects your Qi (energy) to digestion rather than detoxification.