Chinese New Year is a time for family, friends, and of course, food! With all the feasting and endless treats, it may be tempting to indulge this festive season. Physicians Charlotte and Klaryce are here to share how popular CNY foods can affect your body from a TCM perspective, and how to take care of our health amidst the festivities!
Common Chinese New Year Symptoms
With such an abundance of festive food and treats, it is hard not to overeat. As a result, we may experience some common symptoms like indigestion, nausea and bloating when eating beyond our digestive capacity. This is due to the stagnation of food in the gut which affects intestinal motility.
Drinking too much alcohol may also cause nausea, bloating and heaviness. This is caused by damp heat accumulation in the stomach and spleen.
The Chinese believe that children should stay up as late as possible on New Year’s Eve to welcome the new year. According to tradition, it is believed that the longer they stay up, the longer their parents will live. However, sleeping late in the long run may cause irritability, ulcers, pimples and bad breath from overworking the Liver. The ideal time to sleep, from a TCM perspective, is before 11pm. Also, with loved ones gathered all around to catch up and talk, when one talks excessively and does not drink enough water, the lung loses Yin and Qi. This makes the mouth and throat prone to dryness.
Chinese New Year Goodies
年糕 is said to symbolise achieving new heights in the coming year. However, 年糕 is hard to digest so people with weaker digestive systems should avoid eating too much.
Pineapple tarts and other sweet desserts are said to symbolise bringing a sweet life into the new year. However, this beloved confectionery, along with other traditional festive goodies like bak kwa, spring rolls, are all heaty in nature and high in calories. Some signs of heatiness include sore throat, ulcers, pimples, irritability and constipation.
According to a 2012 survey by Taiwan’s Health Promotion Administration, most people overeat 39% more calories than they normally do during the festive season, and nearly 45% of people gain an average of 1.7kg during the Chinese New Year holidays. Not only are these most snacks high in calories but they are high in sugar, fat and sodium as well.
TCM x Chinese New Year
TCM is not only known for cupping or acupuncture treatment, but healing through food therapy too. In Chinese, we call this 食疗. It is a healing practice with roots of TCM. The main idea behind this is that we can use food to heal. So food is more than just a simple necessity of life. Food can be medicinal too.
One form of food therapy comes from the basic categorisation of foods into ‘heaty’ or ‘cooling’. If we feel heaty, with symptoms such as constipation or sore throat, we will start taking more cooling food like herbal tea, chrysanthemum or pear. Through these examples, we can see that people cook and consume foods with the intention to balance the body and restore health and this can be practised in our everyday lives without solely relying on medicine and treatments for a more holistic healing. There are many ways we can incorporate food therapy during Chinese New Year.
The number one dish we will definitely have during Chinese New Year will be steamboat. Be it gathering with family or friends, steamboat is practically a CNY must-have.
Chinese families usually have steamboat during Chinese New Year Eve (除夕）reunion dinner. That’s because the steamboat pot, which is usually round in shape, symbolises family reunion, also known as 团圆 （tuan yuan） in Chinese. It is the tradition to strengthen family bonding and share happiness on this day.
Depending on your dietary preference, the broth can be chicken, pork, seafood or vegetarian based. Regardless of the type of broth, here are some commonly used Chinese herbs to spice things up and also, for some extra nutrients and medicinal benefits.
Hawthorn is slightly sour, and it is good indigestion and bloating issues. Studies have also shown that it can help to reduce cholesterol when coupled with green tea, to boost its oil cleansing effect.
Ginger has a warming property that helps in digestion, strengthening the spleen and stomach while helping with vomiting and nausea.
Luo Han Guo helps to reduce these heaty symptoms by clearing heat and increasing production of fluids to stop thirst and relieve constipation.
Ge Hua is commonly used in ancient remedies to treat alcohol intoxication due to its effectiveness in lowering blood alcohol level. It helps to ease the symptoms of hangover, including dizziness, headache, upset stomach and vomiting.
Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.