Diet: Where East Meets (and Greets) West

I grew up practicing Western medicine. However, I now teach <a href="
For sure, there are fundamental differences between Eastern and Western medicine. Western medicine is based on deductive reasoning or “top-down” logic in which assumed general truths lead to specific conclusions. For example, Aristotle used such reasoning when he said: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal.” On the other hand, Eastern medicine applies inductive thinking or “bottom-up” logic in which small pieces of evidence are used to generate larger conclusions. Francis Bacon, an early inductive reasoners, felt that it allowed a more unbiased view of nature, deriving laws from neutral observations. Although this may not matter to you in the least, what I can say is that I am a “hybrid” thinker who happily uses both forms of logic to deliver medical care.

Same Difference

Certain things about Eastern medicine should make great sense to Westerners. For example, Western medicine tends to separate health from disease, whereas Eastern medicine considers health and disease as a balance or imbalance. Western medicine also looks to alter the environment (e.g. take antibiotics) whereas the Eastern way tends to strengthen the individual to adapt to the environment. Think about it, there’s just not that much of a philosophical leap to make it to the other side.

Birds of a Feather

One way in which Eastern and Western Medicine are fundamentally at one is on the subject of diet. Maybe that’s because food is, well… food. It nourishes and contributes to health and well being. Although the specific roots and meats may differ slightly between cultures, what Westerner would argue with the following age old Eastern principles of diet?

  • A proper diet is an important part of health.
  • Food is a medicine that nourishes the body, mind, and spirit. Likewise medicine is also a form of “food.”
  • All foods have a “temperature” (hot, cold) and a “flavor” (pungent, spicy, sweet, bitter, sour, salty). Seek a balance of both groups in every meal.
  • Try for the “golden means,” as too much of any one type of food creates imbalances in the body.
  • Consume only up to 70% of your capacity when you eat.
  • Be mindful when you eat: eat organic, sit down, chew food well, don’t skip meals and turn off the TV or smartphone while eating.

Honestly, it’s not a huge step to adopt Eastern principles of diet into Western culture. And there are good reasons to do it. Consider this one: how healthy are we today after years of applying “science” to foodstuff and organizing it into knowable piles of vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and proteins? Given our rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, there is certainly room for improvement in the West, my good peeps! So, come join me on the other side. In the words of Nabokov: “Different people see different similarities and similar differences.”