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August 12, 2012 / Karen R Adams

congee queen, watermelon junkie

I started studying Chinese Nutritional Medicine in January, and decided to start, you know, experimenting with it on myself.  I wanted to lose some weight, and, as we were heading into summer, I really wanted to find a way to not have swollen ankles all summer long.

I learned that the Spleen Official is, among its many jobs, responsible for the shut-off valve for what we consume, bodymindspirit.  I see patients all the time with deficient Spleen Qi, and most often the deficiency is caused by the Spleen being overwhelmed: too much food, food too difficult to digest, food that’s essentially useless, dead, or even worse, harmful to us.

So I decided to give my Spleen a break, and really, really simplify my diet.  I began eating congee, 2 – 3 times a day.

Congee is a rice porridge, rice that has been cooked in a large amount of water for a long period of time until the rice breaks down and becomes very easy to digest.  It is eaten all over Asia, and can be used by itself, or as a side dish in a meal.  It is incredibly easy to make: 1 part rice to 6-7 parts water cooked in a crock pot for about 6 hours.  It is also a versatile dish.  You can make it with any grain, with a mixture of grains, with grains and beans or chicken or fish.  You can add beans or chicken or fish or any vegetable to the base after it’s cooked.  You can season it with spices or herbs, or, as I do sometimes, with maple syrup or honey.  It is often used – and this is what really caught my eye – as food for invalids or infants because it’s nutritious and so digestible.

I became the congee queen, experimenting with all kinds of grains and beans, looking for those foods which are cooling and release Damp (internal Damp, a CM diagnosis, is a player in both the issues I was working on).  Congee became the base of my nutrition, and at the same time, became a medicine, because I was eating it often.

A few months into that process, I decided to add a juice that was specifically designed to move Damp.  I drank the juice – which I made myself – two times a day for 6 weeks.

This was fab stuff.  I started slowly but surely losing weight, and I started seeing my normal ankles, even when the humidity was high.

Then I discovered that underneath the Damp in my system, I had some internal Heat.  The two often go together because they are the body’s way of balancing.  Let’s say you are working a job that you hate, and you are often aggravated, frustrated and feel stuck.  Those emotions, when they hang around, create Heat.  It’s like your engines are over-revving.  If you don’t find a way to resolve the job stuff, your body will create Damp to cool down the Heat.  This can become a vicious cycle, with the body creating more Heat to control the Damp, more Damp to control the Heat, and so on.

By now, I was heading into summer – and a very hot summer it’s been here, so I needed some food medicine to help me get rid of Heat so I didn’t get sucked back into that cycle.  I discovered watermelon, an amazing cooling food.

I became a watermelon junkie.  I make sure to have watermelon a couple of times a day.  Sometimes I make watermelon rind tea.  And I have to tell you, this is the first time in 30 years I have ankles in hot, humid weather.  I also find that I don’t suffer nearly as much in the heat as I have in the past.  It’s astonishing – and such a relief.


ps here’s the disclaimer, and it’s really important: I live on more than congee and watermelon.  I also eat vegetables and protein and fruits that support the work I’m doing.  I’m trying for variety and nourishment in my food, with the congee and watermelon as the medicine.  So please don’t try to live on congee and watermelon to solve your problems.  You’ll just create another form of imbalance, and we can’t have that.

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