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Vegan diet


I have a question about vegan diet. My wife and I are both vegans, she is 52 and I am 62. We are in good health, active and happy. One of my friends, formerly a vegan, was having some health issues and went to a TCM practitioner. She was told: "You have a choice between eating fish, meat, or both." I have heard this from some other people as well. I am wondering if in TCM's view consumption of animal products is necessary for good health, or if it depends on the condition of the person, and that vegan diet can be quite suitable for some people.

Thanks for your consideration of this question.


I don&#39t think TCM would necessarily say that you need animal protein for health. The general idea with TCM dietary therapy is more focused on the constitution/diagnosis of the person overall and eating with relation to the seasons/weather and energetics of the person.

Our western habits of eating roughly the same things day in and day out all year long is more of the problem than eating meat or not. Additionally as westerners tend to be over-heated (i.e. stressed) they tend to both choose things that help make them feel more comfortable within their stress (i.e. why we choose red bull over chamomile tea as a culture but complain of anxiety and insomnia) and then are drawn to cooling substance such as cold drinks, ice cream, salads, to try to balance extremes so to speak.

My general rules that I offer to many patients are:

<li> to avoid dairy as much as possible, particularly lower quality dairy and most particularly drinking milk.</li>
<li>avoid excessive cold and raw foods, particularly salads and fruit juices/smoothies, and most particularly avoid those things in the cooler months. Instead have far more cooked food and warmer drinks.</li>
<li>if you feel weak, cold and low immunity after being vegetarian for months/years - then, unless you are strongly opposed to animal consumption add in small amounts of red meat based on your energy level. This could be something as simple as having red meat once a month following menstruation, as an example. So being 98% vegetarian. From a TCM perspective fish are yin and chicken in neutral, so I like to use small amounts of yang (red meat, beef, lamb) with large amounts of yin (vegetables, legumes, etc.). </li>



Thank you for yor very helpful comments. I have been mostly vegetarian since 1972 and mostly vegan since 2002. the only exceptions made are when travel requires flexibility. for instance, as a guest in a house in India, I take a small amount of curd (yoghurt) as it is offered. My wife, on the other hand, would choose to starve rather than break out of the vegan mold!

I will offer the following detail on our dietary habits, and perhaps you or others have some suggestions on the following:

Our energy level is quite good. We enjoy the outdoors and also doing physical work around our place in Vermont. We also love cooking and eating together, and we do follow your guidelines to take warm food in the cooler weather, and we save our eating of raw vegetables seasonal consumption, straight from the garden, bush or tree. We do eat one or two pieces of fruit daily in the winter.

You spoke of variety, which we try to follow. We eat only whole grains cycling between brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff and occasionally I make flatbreads from whole wheat, spelt or rye flower. With the whole grains, we always soak them before cooking. Breakfast is oats mixed with whatever leftover grain from the night before, with ground up sesame, flax seeds and whole raw sunflower seeds.

Similarly, we cycle through a wide variety of root and green vegetables. Daikon radish, turnip rutabega etc. for roots and kale, collards, and mustard greens (daily) for green leafies.

Leumes and beans are a similar story. All pre-soaked, of course. Pintos, black beans, split peas, mung beans, adzuki beans, etc. , French lentils, Mysore lentils and more.

We try to get some fat and other nutrients by eating nuts. i&#39m not sure how we are faring on this one. I love them so try to limit my consumption to maybe a handful a day, but sometimes go a bit over on that. I haven&#39t noticed any negative effects, and my cholesterol and blood pressure are in the normal/low range so I don&#39t think I&#39m cloging up my arteries, but I have heard it is good to be careful with nuts. We eat them raw, unsalted.

The only noticable side efeect from all this is that I tend to pass a lot of gas. It isn&#39t uncomfortable or anything, but i wonder if it is a sign of overdoing something or wrong combinations.

I appreciate you or any others taking the time to read the above and gove any pointers or advice. Also feel free to ask for clarification.

be well!!


Your diet sounds fine. Generally gas is a sign of spleen qi deficiency which can come from the diet being too raw/cold or improper for the person (among many other issues). The best would be to find a local practitioner and have them look at your tongue, pulse and use other common diagnostic tools. With that information they can better offer more direct advice to you. For someone who is relatively healthy, treatments anywhere from 2-4 times/year around the changes of the seasons can be very helpful in keeping the body healthy.


Thanks for that info, Chad. That makes sense about the possible spleen chi deficiency connection and the gas. I will check with local practitioner on that. I am about due for a check up in any case. What are the signs on the tongue for that? How about the pulse? I will leave it to her to check tongue and pulse for me, rather than try to self-diagnose, but I am interested to learn more about it.




I love the yin yan house website, very well set up. I learn a lot from it. I clicked on the link to spleen chi deficiency and the only syptom that rings true is occasional loose stools, which is not all that surprising considering the volume of grains, vegetables and other fibrous foods we consume. It seldom remains loose for more than a couple of days, and generally is quite good consistency and very regular. Also, my tongue definitely does not go towards pale, if anything it is a bit on the pinkish side, with sometimes a bit of redish tinge around the edges, maybe heat signs, as I have a high metabolism rate. Also, I don&#39t show weakness in the limbs, they are quite sturdy and I do a lot of physical work in season here in Vermont and even in winter i walk, do yoga, chi gong. No lack of energy. Hmmmmmm. It seems an unlikely fit, the spleen chi deficiency, unless there are other signs I don&#39t know of.


In my experience, it is more important on HOW we eat rather than WHAT/WHEN/How much... we eat.

I would suggest simple 5 principles

To decide whether you can eat food or not, ask yourself 2 questions

<li>Am I feeling hungry? If not do not go to the dining table. If yes then you can eat.</li>
<li>Have I taken water in last 30 min? If yes, wait until it is 30 min and then start eating food</li>

Once you decide to start eating food, then while eating follow 3 principles

<li>Chew until all the taste is totally digested from the food by your tongue and then swallow. Do not send the taste to your stomach because only tongue can digest the taste and not the stomach.</li>
<li>While chewing ensure your lips are closed so that air does not enter your mouth and restricts your saliva to mix with food properly. Saliva mixing with food is very important as this is the first digestion process of food. If this digestion is proper then all other digestion process will be carried out properly. While swallowing the food should be in liquid state mixed properly with saliva, then your stomach will happily digest it.</li>
<li>While eating, focus or think only on food that you are eating. If you look at the food your body secretes necessary enzymes and fluids to do the digestion.</li>

Follow these principles every time you eat food along with Chad&#39s advice you will be fine always.


Yes, this is excellent advice. Thank you. I do make and effort to be mindful in my eating, but your advice is a reminder of how much I can improve in this area of health, especially the thorough chewing and mixing with the saliva. I have no doubt that paying more and deeper attention to this aspect of eating will yield positive results.

I know a man in our town who had stomach cancer and had his stomach removed. I was wonering how in the world he would be able to continue eating solid foods. in fact, he can do so, basically by following your advice. The digestion occurs in the mouth and then the contents go directly to the small intestine. It works OK.

I prefer to keep my stomach intact, and to let it have its turn in the process. But I agree that we overload the stomach as far as its share of the work, and tend to neglect the part of the process that belongs to the mouth.

Thanks to you, Boopathi, and to Chad for the excellent advice.


I am glad that I can be of some help to you. It is very hard to imagine that a man&#39s stomach is removed. See what the mankind has done to themselves. Mankind was not affected by cancer this much some 100 or 200 years before. In today&#39s world this has become normal. People started believing that if someone has to die he or she has to die because of some disease and not naturally becoming old. Human or any living being is created to live healthy and to die healthy. I believe that this is all because we are going away from nature. The moment a child is born, we vaccinate, for even common cold and head ache and fever we treat with medicines, we avoid exposing ourselves to rain, sun, we rarely touch our bare feet with the ground and so on.

Like we have energy meridians that carry chi all over the body, the taste is also digested in tongue and is sent to different organs in our body. There are six different types of tastes that each supplying energy to specific organs. Like for example sweet taste gives energy to Stomach and Spleen. Say you are chewing your food and digesting all the taste of food in the tongue and then spitting it out (not swallowing the food). If you do your whole meal like this in your lunch you will not feel hungry until you are ready for your dinner. Taste is very important for us, similarly it is the root cause of all the problems only if you send the taste to your stomach. Stomach cannot handle the taste. Another important aspect is, we always drink plain water or cold water (or cold soft drinks or ice cream etc) along with our meal. Anything cold along with the food is the starting point of any cancer. So do not take anything cold along with the food.

How can we find out whether we can eat a food or not? I will give you simple method to find it. Any food if you keep it in the open air for certain period of time it will start decaying or will rotten. For example, if you keep the apple in open air, it will start decaying after a week or 10 days. These are the food that we should consume when it is in good condition. Take a soft drink or any preserved food or any medicine, if you keep it in open air nothing happens to it for months. This shows that there are chemicals added to it to keep them as it is, but our body cannot understand these chemicals. This is another important reason for Cancer.

Finally, listen to your body and do what it says. If your body brings in hungry then eat, otherwise do not. If your body brings in thirsty then drink water, otherwise do not. If your body brings in tiredness then take rest. If your body brings in fever then allow it to heal. We will not allow all these to happen because our knowledge and the belief that we learnt from our society enforces us to follow certain things and we just ignore what our body says.

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