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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

The Medicinal Power of Food

May 31, 2024 09:31AM ● By Dr. Jewel Sommerville, DACM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), food is one of our sources of natural medicine. Foods, supplements and/or Chinese herbal prescriptions can aid in all aspects of health, including, but not limited to, combatting colds, flus or allergies; boosting the immune system; re-building the body after injury; promoting overall health and well-being. Eating seasonally appropriate foods also promotes body health and immunity.

Although spring is coming to an end, environmental allergies can exist in every season. Foods high in vitamin C (to boost immunity), omega-3s and antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory foods all combat the symptoms of allergies. These foods include lemons, almonds, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers and broccoli, all high in vitamin C; salmon, flax oil, pepitas and walnuts high in omega-3s; berries, green tea and turmeric high in antioxidants. All of these foods can be consumed throughout allergy season to alleviate allergy symptoms.

As we transition from spring foods (such as lentils, wheat germ, green bell pepper and lime) to summer foods, we want to consume foods that work to naturally cool the body while simultaneously replenishing water and encouraging its proper transportation out of the body as to not retain water in the humid weather. These foods include asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, sprouts, celery, shrimp, strawberry and all green vegetables. Yin-building foods (foods which build any fluid or watery-type substance in our body) include string beans, blackberries, watermelon, cucumber and seaweeds, also useful in the heat.

Summer is the season of Heart Qi (pronounced “chee”; qi is the body’s life force or energy). While heart healthy foods include all that we may think of traditionally, in TCM, they can also include small amounts of ghee (clarified butter), small amounts of good quality cow or goat milk, basil, reishi mushrooms and chia seeds.

To target cholesterol for heart health, eat foods such as oatmeal, flaxseed oil, legumes (kidney beans, cannellini beans, etc.), asparagus, poppy seeds, omega-3s, radish and green tea.

To strengthen blood vessel walls, eat the core of cabbages, some of the pulp and inner peel of citrus fruits and the white insides of peppers.

In honor of Men’s Health Month, addressing common health concerns for men is important. These concerns include greying hair, hair loss, erectile dysfunction and prostate health. Small dietary changes can yield significant benefits in long-term well-being, paving the path to wellness and vitality for men of all ages.

By harnessing the power of the following nutrient-dense foods, men can nourish their bodies and fortify their health from the inside out. When we understand the connection between nutritional choices and specific health concerns, men can harness the healing potential of food to optimize their overall well-being.

Grey hair and losing hair/retaining hair: black sesame seeds and Kidney Qi tonifying foods which will help with bone and teeth strengthening and repair, as well as head hair. These include kidney, black and mung beans, parsley, seaweeds, barley, blackberries, string beans, trout, chicken, salmon and walnuts.

Prostate Health: tomatoes, broccoli, green tea, legumes, fish, pomegranate juice and anti-inflammatory foods (see previous).

Erectile Dysfunction (ED):  foods high in omega-3s, flavonoids and flavones (the parent compound for flavones are flavonoids) and l-arginine have been shown to help ED and/or help prevent ED. These include foods and herbs such as salmon, olive oil, whole grains, leafy greens, strawberries, blueberries, artichoke heads, bell peppers, kumquats, apples, pears, citrus fruits, poultry, red meat, nuts, fish, dairy products, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, tarragon, oregano, chamomile tea and aforementioned Kidney Qi-tonifying foods.

Food is medicine. What we take into our bodies greatly impacts our day-to-day functioning, mood and health. These are simple additions or changes to one’s daily eating routine to positively affect quality of life. Happy Heart Qi season and happy eating!

Dr. Jewel Sommerville, DACM, is the owner and founder of Holistic Health Rhode Island, Ltd., located at 990 Main St., East Greenwich, RI. For more information or to make an appointment, call 401-398-2933 or visit Also, follow the business on Facebook and Instagram @HolisticHealthRhodeIsland for news and updates.