A patient who is interested in losing weight and confused about diet asked me to write some posts on diet. So, to start, I am going to talk about something simple and related–the drinks you drink every day.
Most Americans drink a variety of drinks throughout the day. First, there’s water, which Americans like to drink ice cold. In the modern world, there are actually many choices when it comes to water. In modern America, water comes in many varieties: there is purified water, spring water, and even water with vitamins or minerals added to it.
A friend in college had a very clear opinion about water: “I hate it,” she told me.
So, some people are always drinking sodas. Others seem to always have a diet soda at their desk. I have met several people who just have a can of diet coke in the morning instead of a cup of coffee.
Speaking of coffee, another common drink is, well, coffee in all its varieties–a latte or capuccino, caffeinated and decaf (not to mention iced or “frapped”). Some people like tea and drink either the hot variety or the ones you can buy in bottles at the supermarket. If you are hip, you might even drink a chai green tea latte!
In recent years, “energy” drinks (such as Red Bull) have become popular.
For those who want to feel healthier, there are many fruit drinks to choose from. You can make an ice-cold smoothie in the morning or you can buy a canned fruit drink from the convenience store.
As the comedian Yakov Smirnoff used to say, “What a country!” So many choices. So, you ask, “What should I be drinking?”
The answer is simple! You should mostly be drinking water. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, this water should not be cold. If you were to think of your body as a machine that requires energy, and needs to work at 99 degrees F to work properly, why would you want to continually put cold drinks in there? Your body will need to warm that liquid up and the extra energy to do that will come from your organs. You need that energy!
“Wait a second, I know soda are bad for you, but how about fruit juice. Isn’t that healthy?” Actually, have you every seen someone squeeze a glass of orange juice for you? It might take 8 oranges, right? Do you think your body was made to process the sugar in that many pieces of fruit at one time? In Chinese medicine, we say too much sugar promotes “dampness”, which in biomedical terms means that it will cause you to gain weight, promote the formation of intestinal overgrowth, and disturb your body’s insulin response.
Coffee has similar properties, not only does it promote “dampness” (especially if you add sugar and milk), but it promotes inflammation. Ask an GI specialist or gynecologist.
In Chinese Medicine, we do believe there in another beverage that can enhance health, and that is tea. Although tea does contain caffeine, it not only doesn’t promote damp conditions, but actually regulates the GI system (try some tea next time you have a tummy ache or are experiencing loose stools). And now research has confirmed that tea-drinking is great for you, since tea contains not only high levels of antioxidants, but also an amino acid which promotes a feeling of well-being, called l-theanine. If you are sensitive to caffeine (e.g., you have sleep issues or anxiety), you can always drink the decaf varieties of tea.
Herbal teas, like mint or chamomile, are also good. Try a bedtime ritual of chamomile tea (i.e., instead of a bedtime ritual of responding to emails) to help you sleep more peacefully.
So, if you would like to take a free, simple step toward good health today, do it now and start drinking more water, more tea, and cut out everything else.