What does it mean to listen to your body, as the expression goes? What if your body is telling you to eat chocolate bars for breakfast, or that a few martinis make for an acceptable and tasty dinner? When your mind and body enjoy relative good health, the body's cravings should prove more reliable in discerning which foods to take in for maximum nutrition. Oriental medicine not only offers therapies to reduce cravings, such as acupuncture and dietary counseling, but it also explains the nature of these cravings in a simple, eloquent way.
The five-element theory is a popular school of thought embraced by many acupuncture and Oriental Medicine practitioners. This theory helps diagnose and explain why certain medical conditions exist in the body. As the name proposes, there are five elements in the model that exist, and each element is designated specific internal organs and characteristics.
What are the five elements and their associated organs, season, sense organ, taste and color?
- Wood- liver/gallbladder, spring, eyes, sour and green.
- Fire- heart/small intestine, summer, tongue, bitter and red.
- Earth- spleen/stomach, late summer, mouth, sweet and yellow.
- Metal- lung/large intestine, fall, nose, pungent and white.
- Water- kidneys/urinary bladder, winter, ear, salty and black.
What stands out amongst the information found in the five-element theory is the salty taste for water and the sweet taste associated with the earth. These two flavors represent the most commonly experienced cravings. A practitioner will place heavy importance on what type of craving you experience. Sweet cravings indicate an imbalance with the digestive organs of the spleen and stomach. The desire for sweetness may manifest in a craving for alcohol and carbohydrate-heavy foods like bread, pastries and pasta. Whereas salty cravings reflect a possible deficiency in the kidneys. Different organs may also play a role, and need addressing as well.
According to acupuncture and Oriental medicine theory, a small taste of the element's corresponding flavor will help to enhance the function of those organs. For example, sweet potato, corn or a little fruit may strengthen the stomach and spleen, whereas excessively sugary foods like cookies and candy can cause damage. When the body experiences a nutritional deficiency, there is a tendency to crave things that provide instant energy.
Whether you describe your cravings as a longing, hankering, or an urge, it all signifies a possible internal organ imbalance resulting in addictive, compulsive behavior. An acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner can provide the necessary acupuncture and lifestyle modification suggestions to help reach optimum health.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.