Knowing your body constitution can help you cut through the clutter and noise of what to eat. Because you are curious, you research health information regularly. Whether your goal is to fight disease and illness, stop pain, or live a long and healthy life, you want clear and accurate information.
You have read about the latest health and nutrition trends - forks over knives, keto, paleo, vegan, raw, and more. However, at some point you notice the contradictions. You do not have a way to make sense of the different routes to get where you want to go.
You are not alone. The information is confusing. The main reason is that the support behind these diets is like a toddler first learning how to walk. The case study and longitudinal data needed to guarantee long-term health does not exist.
In contrast, Chinese medicine dietary therapy, grounded in an understanding of body constitution, is well past the toddler stage. With over 3,000 years of case studies and detailed written records, Chinese dietary therapy has a proven track record of preventing pain, disease, and early death.
What is body constitution?
Body constitution describes the baseline state of health with which you were born. An analogy might help you understand.
Firstly, think of the planets in the solar system. Mercury is small, hot, dry, and barren with only a tiny bit of ice buried deep within. Venus has a thick atmosphere that traps heat in a greenhouse effect, is hot, and also barren. Earth has liquid water on the surface, has zones of hot and cold, and can sustain life. Mars is dusty and cold with a very thin atmosphere and sparse amounts of ice. You get the idea.
Also, while the planets’ natures remain relatively constant, they go through changes as they rotate on their axes and orbit around the sun. For example, think about seasonal changes you experience wherever you live on Earth. You can even think about how temperatures change from day to night. At the same time, these changes have predictable, stable patterns.
Which "planet" are you?
Now, let’s look at the human body. People are also born with specific traits, just like the planets. Some people are born smaller and are hot and dry overall. Other people are born with an internal atmosphere that creates its own greenhouse effect. Some people are balanced like the planet Earth, able to sustain life with greater ease.
Chinese medicine doctors and philosophers observed and categorized these types of innate traits for thousands of years. The categories they developed are called body constitution types. Learn more about Chinese medicine’s holistic view of the human body in our article the Difference Between Western and Chinese Medicine.
Also, just like the planets that go through cyclical changes, the doctors paid close attention and noticed how people went through changes over the course of a day, a year, and a lifetime. They described how these cycles affected people’s innate body constitution.
Knowing your body constitution can keep you healthy
So, how does knowing your body constitution type help you? Unlike the planets that have no control and cannot change their environments, you can take action. You can make lifestyle and dietary choices that will help you move from an imbalanced and unhealthy condition to a state that will help you resist disease and pain and live a long life.
Don't know your body constitution? Take the quiz here.
To illustrate, if you are born with a phlegm-damp constitution, you are much like Venus with its thick, hot greenhouse effect. Your body tends to create phlegm that blocks the flow of blood and qi in your body, slows down lymph drainage, and makes you prone to gaining weight.
The good news is that Chinese medicine doctors developed specific food and lifestyle remedies to help you clear the phlegm, reduce the heat, and lose the weight. These remedies were also toddlers in their day, over 3,000 years ago. However, over the millennia, doctors worked with patients and identified ways to bring a person with phlegm-damp constitution into balance, so they do not suffer from their innate condition.
Better still, body constitution teaches you how to stay health during each season and stage of your life. To continue with the phlegm-damp example, you are more prone to illness during the summer and humid times of the year. You would follow Chinese dietary guidelines and eat foods that help you clear that heat and remove the dampness.
Making food choices based on your body constitution
Among other benefits of knowing your body constitution are the dietary benefits. First, look back at the latest diets. All of these diets have a one-size-fits all approach. According to these diets, everyone should eat the same foods, prepared in the same way. These diets also do not account for different seasons or times of your life.
Chinese dietary therapy looks at YOU. Based on your body constitution, age, and the season of the year, Chinese dietary therapy helps you know what to eat and why.
To help you learn more about this way of eating, we will be posting a new article each week to describe the eight major body constitution types. The articles will include a description of the personality traits, dominant emotional style, health concerns, and dietary and lifestyle recommendations for each type of body constitution. The information will serve as a road map to understand your body and how to use that information to fight disease, illness, and pain.
My Body Constitution Quiz
Don't know your TCM body constitution?