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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fuzzy-Brain Medicine

Beliefnet.net conglomerates a series of public blogs that anyone can post to, on a variety of subjects. "Fresh Living is a natural health and holistic blog for people like you, who care about what you eat, how you feel, and how to be more alive, connected, and in-the-moment. We wade through the latest in mind-body-spirit wellness and plumb ancient wisdom to bring you tools, tips, ideas, and inspiration. Plus, you get to hang out with us as we journey on our paths, one breath at a time."

I care about how we eat and how we feel. As a historian I find it increasingly more urgent for us to know something about the context of our existence than on being "in-the-moment," but we can let that pass.

I put my foot down when it comes to placing history, medicine, dairy, and holistic sludge into a blunder and sipping from the result.

As Holly Leibowitz Rossi does in her post, Fuzzy Brain--Is Dairy at Fault?

I'm wondering if this complete brain-fuzz attack (there have been others so far today, but none as visible as the first) has something to do with dairy. Yes, dairy. Yesterday my acupuncturist told me to stay away from the milky stuff for awhile--and I ignored her because my id wanted a chocolate ice cream sandwich last night. Bad id!

The result was a weird night's sleep, not to mention the complete fuzzy brain situation. Chinese medicine practitioners would wag their needles at me because dairy in TCM is believed to cause "damp heat," which at this hot, humid time of year is bad news for chi flow, smooth thinking, and a well-behaved body.

I honestly don't know if TCM - Traditional Chinese Medicine - considers dairy to cause "damp heat." I do know, being a historian and having studied the subject, that the Chinese mix of cultures (except for the Mongolian) did not traditionally include dairy. This, as anthropologist Marvin Harris has shown, is largely due to the traditional farm unit in China not being friendly to large milkable domesticatable animals. Foods that are outside the norm in a culture are disposed to being cast either as exotic and luxurious, as dairy was for the privileged classes, or vile and injurious, as dairy became.

Who doesn't believe in dairy causing "damp heat," being bad for chi flow, and needing to be avoided? The Chinese, for a starter. They are adding huge quantities of milk to their diets, now that dairying herds have become common. Although most ethnic Chinese are genetically lactose intolerant, many can have small amounts of lactose without symptoms, as is true for most of the LI people in the world.

I'm sure some traditionalist Chinese still adhere to TCM beliefs about dairy. For a modern American to throw over all modern understanding of history, culture, medicine, and plain common sense to do so sends my senses to reeling. I now have a bad case of fuzzy brain as a result. But I won't be talking to acupuncturist to find out what to do about it.

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