Do certain foods cause you grief?
Headache, fatigue, stomach pain, gas, irritability, or maybe just the blahs?
A typical investigation into these issues covers food sensitivities and allergies. Maybe even leaky gut, food processing, and GMOs.
All worthy lines of inquiry, but they often don't lead to complete solutions.
That's why a lot of people end up on our doorstep. They want to find out what modern medicine is missing about their physiology and eating habits.
Dimes to donuts, it boils down to one thing: They've been violating the Ginger Principle.
Let's back up a bit.
There's an old-school idea that has been forgotten by modern medicine and conventional food-science:
Food has thermal properties.
I'm not talking about measurable temperature (160 degrees F) and whether a food is hot or cold to the touch.
I'm talking about the capacity of each food to produce either a warming, cooling, or neutral effect in the body. Cayenne pepper, for instance, is warming. Eat a lot of it, and you get hot and flushed. Cucumber and mint are cooling (in cultures wise to these ideas, cucumber and mint are often served alongside spicy foods in order to ameliorate the spicy foods' heating effects).
A baseline diet for a balanced human should contain equal portions warming and cooling foods, so its overall effect is neutral. If it doesn't - if it relies too heavily on either warming or cooling foods - it will heat things up or cool things down (respectively) internally, causing a thermal imbalance that disrupts normal function and results in symptoms.
Notice the italicized, bolded, and underlined word above: balanced. A balanced human can (and should) partake equally of warming and cooling foods with no problem.
What of an imbalanced human? And what does "balanced" mean anyway?
This is another old-school idea. Within the range of human, internal-body temperatures that is necessary to sustain life, there is variability. Some humans run warmer (in Chinese medicine we would say they have internal heat), some humans run cooler (in Chinese medicine we would say they have internal cold), and some humans are in the middle.
The latter we call "balanced."
Most modern humans are not balanced. As a result of the modern lifestyle, eating habits, and food choices, most of us have developed heat or cold on the inside (or both, but that is a layer of complexity unwelcome in this article). The ones who have heat tend to experience more headaches, irritability, thirst, dryness, and constipation. The ones who have cold tend to experience more body pain, fatigue, weight gain, poor appetite, and loose stool.
If you fit into either of these imbalanced categories, foods with the thermal property similar to your own thermal nature won't agree with you. If you have internal cold, cooling foods will make your body pain, your fatigue, your appetite, your loose stool worse. Whatever your issue is, it will probably get worse. It certainly won't get better.
So true with warming foods if you have heat. If you are someone who feels warm-to-hot a lot of the time, you're thirsty, you’re flushed, you’re sweaty at night time, maybe you have headaches and irritability (symptoms of internal heat), cayenne pepper isn’t for you.
Neither is ginger...
Which leads me to the inspiration for this article. A rant, if I may.
Ginger is a popular remedy for upset stomach. It is a favorite recommendation of physicians, nutritionists, bloggers, etc. for morning sickness during pregnancy.
Ginger is warming! If you're someone who has heat already, how's ginger going to make you feel??
Worse! It'll make your upset stomach or your morning sickness worse.
People really don’t appreciate that!
I can't tell you how many of our Turtles read somewhere that ginger is helpful, so they start eating it and they feel worse. Now you know why. Ginger isn’t for them. They would be better off with a cooling, mint tea.
Watch out for one-size-fits-all remedies. This is the first point of the Ginger Principle.
The second point is, you must consider the thermal properties of foods and your own thermal nature when choosing what to eat.
If you're someone who has heat or cold (most people have one or the other), it's important that you know what foods to limit and what foods to emphasize in order to avoid further imbalance (and hopefully to restore balance). This is a fairly nuanced process, but we've gotten the ball rolling for you.
Start with balance - equal portions warming and cooling foods (or just go to town on the neutral list).
Then try to imagine which category of modern human you are by looking at your body condition and any symptoms.
Do you tend to run warm and have headaches, irritability, thirst, dryness, constipation? Then you probably have heat.
Do you tend to run cold and have body pain, fatigue, poor appetite, loose stool? Then you probably have cold.
Notice which foods make you feel not quite right. Do warming foods make symptoms worse and/or give you the blahs? You probably have heat.
Do cooling foods make you feel not quite yourself? You probably have cold.
If you have heat, gently emphasize cooling foods and limit warming foods. Try the opposite plan if you have cold.
Don't go to the extreme. If you have heat, and you eat a ton of cold/cooling foods, you will wind up with internal cold. Fail.
Try to gently find middle.
Enjoy. Give us a shout if you run into difficulties (a quick feel of your pulse and a look at your tongue will tell us if you have heat or cold).
And the next time someone recommends something like ginger to you without a thorough diagnostic work-up, you tell them about the Ginger Principle and the thermal properties of foods.