Oatmeal bolsters during exhaustion

This time of the year is hectic, and I'm noticing that many of my patients are exhausted and feeling overwhelmed or burned out. The holiday is so close yet there is so much to do to get ready for it. Starting the day with a good breakfast is essential right now, and oatmeal can be just the thing because according to TCM theory, it is considered supportive and strengthening while being gentle on the system.

According to the Neijing, “grains sustain”, and I have found that oatmeal is one of the few breakfasts that will keep me feeling satisfied the whole morning. Prepared as a porridge, oats are easy to digest and assimilate, and the possibility of adding different nuts, seeds, and fresh or dried fruit, keeps this breakfast from getting boring.

Therapeutic effect and treatment principle according to TCM

Overall this meal will supplement Qi and Blood and harmonize the Middle Jiao (digestive system). Its main effect is on the Spleen and Stomach, and somewhat on the Kidneys. It has a stabilizing and strengthening function esp. in terms of muscle, nerve and sinews.

In Chinese nutrition, all foods are assigned a thermal nature - cold, cool, warm and hot - as well as a flavor - sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, spicy, and bland. These properties determine part of the food's therapeutic action. Since the thermal nature of oatmeal is warm, and its flavor is sweet, its function is that of strengthening the Spleen.

When to turn to oatmeal:

TCM views food  not merely as fuel for our bodies, but as medicine that can be used for very specific conditions. In general, oatmeal is wonderful for treating Spleen Qi deficiency, which can manifest in some of the following ways:

  • Exhaustion, fatigue, weakness
  • Bloating, distension, gas and a general feeling that things aren't moving through the digestive tract as they should
  • Loose stools, diarrhea
  • Poor appetite, nausea

It is also great after long illness or where there is a general lack of strength and vitality. It could possibly be used for constipation, but only by adding lots of nuts and seeds, which moisten the large intestine. Adding this simple and versatile breakfast to your diet is an easy way to support your energy levels and I'd love to hear how you prepare yours.