What Are Your Taste Buds Saying About You?

When I was 24, I went through a stage of vegetarianism. It lasted almost two years, and I felt supremely miserable the entire time. I was lethargic, my sleep wasn't great, and I just felt like I had no life in me, mentally or physically. I suppose I'm a slow learner; one would think that I'd put two and two together and start eating meat again...but I couldn't imagine that changing things up to a healthier diet could possibly have any negative effects. I kept waiting to feel better, and it just never happened. Now that I know more about the energetics of food, I realize that a "healthier" diet can't be summed up in a cookie-cutter approach. We all need different things, depending on how our bodies process food. I need meat, warm foods, more protein and less fruits and veggies. This is how I feel my best. Others may feel fantastic as vegetarians, or vegans, or on Paleo plans. There is no such thing as a perfect diet that everyone will thrive with.

I've also come to see that how we eat may be as important as what we eat. We spend so much time eating while standing, working, or even driving. I drink protein shakes to get through my day, as I have an aversion to smelling up my office with real food. It would be nice to sit down and have a real meal, I suppose, but there just isn't enough time. So I gulp down my smoothie, and it does keep me full...but I'm sure my body would be happier with something warm and filling and made with love. (Not my own love, someone else's. Everything I cook tastes like a punishment.)

Don't you notice how differently you feel after sitting down to savor a delicious meal at a restaurant, than when you are shoveling in a quick mindless meal between chores? When I enjoy a meal out with friends, I am actually present. Of course, it helps that the food is well-prepared, but there is something about being in the moment, really tasting what is going into your mouth. In my world, food is medicine. Food is the first line of defense against illness and dysfunction. Food can energize you, calm you, heal you. It plays a huge role in how we feel everyday...so why don't give ourselves a little time to let it work its magic? To truly taste what we put on our plates?

Taste is another factor that plays into diagnosis and healing in Chinese medicine. There are five major organ systems in this field: Heart, Lung, Kidney, Liver, and Spleen, and each one has a specific set of colors, tastes, smells, strengths and weaknesses, etc that connects to it. As I've mentioned before, each system also plays a role in forming how we relate to the world around us. People with Livery personalities are rigid, structured, organized. They are a little "harder" than, say, Spleens.  Spleens are caretakers.  They want to mother (or father) everyone around them, sometimes at the expense of their own happiness.  Lung-types can be prone to melancholy.  Hearts are fiery and given to extreme ups and downs regarding emotion. Kidney types can tend to be fearful. I'm oversimplifying, of course, but these are the characteristics that these types are most known for.

Taste-wise, the Liver is sour, Lung is pungent, Heart is bitter, Kidney is salty, and Spleen is sweet. These tastes can either strengthen or weaken any of these organ systems, depending on how much is ingested. It's all about balance. Cravings for these tastes can also indicate an imbalance or dysfunction in one of the systems. For example, a person with a Spleen imbalance may crave sweets, and in small quantities that sweet taste will strengthen the system. Excess sweetness, however, will damage the Spleen energy.

I found this article to be interesting, and parts of it do seem to overlap with TCM theory about the connection between tastes and organ diagnosis.  You can read it here.