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Dietary Recommendations for Lung Disorders

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Dietary Recommendations for the Lung


Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective on the Lungs

Any word denoting a TCM Organ System is capitalized to make it clear that a system, not a single organ, is being referenced.

  • The Lungs are said to “open” into the nose, including the sinuses, bronchials, and air passageways.
  • The health of the skin, as well as the mucous membranes and their inherent immunity, are a reflection of Lung health.
  • The amount and quality of mucus are related to the Lungs.
  • The Lungs can be affected by the emotions of grief and sadness.
  • The Lungs have a strong connection to the Large Intestines; they are considered to be paired in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Healthy Lungs maintain a light, moist, protective coating on all mucous membranes, in conjunction with well-nourished and energized skin. This wards off extreme weather influences as well as viruses and pathogens.

Causes of Lung dysfunction

  • Unresolved grief
  • Sedentary lifestyle – lack of activity causes poor respiration and elimination
  • Faulty diet, such as overeating; not enough roughage; consuming too much meat, dairy, and other congesting foods; processed foods
  • Smoking, drugs
  • Chronic use of antibiotics
  • Chronic Illness, such as sinus problems, bronchitis, asthma

Syndromes of Lung dysfunction

It is possible for a person to present with a combination of the patterns described below. If you do, you may find that a particular food item is recommended in one and to be avoided in another. Play it safe and just avoid the item.

1. Heat in the Lungs

Symptoms: Fever/chills, red tongue with dry yellow coat. Dry cough, shortness of breath, and painful sore throat. There may also be thick, yellow-green sputum with pus, or rank bloody pus; and yellow nasal discharge.

Treatment involves adding foods and herbs that cool the heat and transform sputum in the lungs.

Useful foods: Watercress, cantaloupe, apple, persimmon, peach, pear, strawberry, citrus, seaweeds, mushroom, daikon radish, radish, carrot, pumpkin, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, chard, papaya, white fungus, dandelion green, mung beans, and honeysuckle flowers.

The majority of the diet should be in the form of soups. Congee with millet, barley, or rice are cooling and soothing to lung heat.

Avoid: Warming foods, including coffee, alcohol, lamb, chicken, beef, fish (trout, salmon, anchovy), onion family, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, spicy foods.

2. Phlegm in the Lungs

Commonly due to a weak digestion that causes mucus and “dampness.” Certain foods are known to cause mucus (not just the ones you are allergic to).

Symptoms: Cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, or asthma accompanied by sticky phlegm, greasy tongue coat. If the phlegm is white = cold phlegm, if the phlegm is green/yellow= phlegm heat.

General diet should consist of easily-digested foods. These include vegetables (cooked), fruits (either cooked or room temp), small amounts of legumes, rice, oatmeal, almonds, fish, stevia sweetener, citrus peel, kumquats,

Useful foods: Watercress, flaxseed, turnip, radish, daikon radish, mushroom, and seaweeds

Cold phlegm: Fennel, fenugreek, flaxseed, cayenne, garlic and onions, horseradish, turnip, mushroom, seaweeds

Avoid: All dairy foods, red meat, pork, chicken (unless broth), peanuts, tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, wheat, grains (unless quinoa), sugar, known allergens.

3. Lung Yin deficiency

Attributed to chronic lack of yin (good fluids) to cool and nourish the lungs. Conditions include chronic lung infection, inflammation, or other long-term lung disease.

Symptoms: Dry unproductive cough with little or no sputum, periodic fever, frequent thirst, fresh-red cheeks and tongue, hot palms and soles, night sweats, thin and fast radial pulse.

Deficient yin requires consistent effort to cure completely.

Useful foods: Seaweeds, spirulina and chlorella micro-algae, orange, peach, pear, apple, asian pear, watermelon, tomato, banana, string bean, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, mung bean, sugar cane (and unrefined cane-juice powder), rice syrup, flaxseed, egg, oyster, clam, pork, marshmallow root, slippery elm bark.

Avoid: Spicy foods, bitter flavors (like coffee), avoid dandelion, echinacea, and burdock. Avoid raw foods

4. Lung Qi deficiency

Chronic, often debilitating condition. This patient has a tendency to get sick easily. The protective qi is weak. The qi energy is rooted in the Kidneys, which in turn is dependent on the qi derived from food (which is dependent upon the energy from the Spleen/Stomach in order to properly digest the food).

Symptoms: Weakness; fatigue; weak voice and limited speech; coughing; shortness of breath; spontaneous sweating with any physical activity; poor immunity.

Useful foods: Rice, sweet rice, oats, carrot, mustard green, sweet potato, yam, potato, fresh ginger, garlic, molasses, rice syrup, herring

Diet should primarily consist of cooked foods.

Avoid: Mucus forming foods such as citrus (except peel), salt, milk and dairy products, grains, and sugar.

Limit: Spinach, chard, seaweeds, micro-algae (chlorella is acceptable).

Reference book: Pitchford, P., Healing With Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books, 2002, pp.348-351

About the author

Teri Calandra

Teri Calandra Dipl.Acu, MSTOM, L.Ac., LMT, RMT

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health & Wellness in Schaumburg, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

One thought on “Dietary Recommendations for Lung Disorders

  1. I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.

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