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Yin, The Ultimate Nourisher

By: Dr. Dalite Sancic, LAC, MS

Have you heard of the term Yin?

It is the opposite of Yang. These words come from Eastern cultures to explain a concept which represent a duality that are at the same time inextricable and interconnected. Yin is often described as soft, dark, liquid, quiet, cold and feminine in nature while yang is hard, dry, bright, loud, hot and masculine. It’s important to keep in mind that everything in the natural world has both yin and yang. For example, a rock has cold and hard qualities, a tree has soft and hard qualities, a blueberry has liquid and bright attributes.

This concept also translates to the quality of our lives, in the things that we do. Resting, sleeping, meditating, connecting with nature are considered yin activities where working, cleaning, producing, hard physical activities are considered yang in nature. As a society, we reward yang activities and say things like, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead,’ which produces an unhealthy relationship to yin. Self care is an important way to nourish oneself and should be something practiced multiple times per day. This means our definition of self care must change in order to accommodate the depletion, over-exertion and yin deficiency that we face. Simple nourishing activities include a cup of herbal tea, yoga, baths, gentle walks, being in nature, stretching, breath work, healthy food choices, enjoyment of food, being sufficiently hydrated, meditation, reading a book, listening to music, napping, tai chi, facial cupping/gua sha, practicing gratitude and yes, receiving bodywork. Coveting your yin and replenishing your stores may be the most important way to support your health and well-being. By slowing down the nervous system, you are allowing for deep cellular repair of oxidative stress.

How would I know if I have less yin than I should?

Symptoms include dry skin/hair/nails, tendon and ligament tightness or flaccidity, lack of breast milk production, low libido, insomnia, feeling low, scanty menstruation, hot hands and feet, constipation, dull headaches or anxiety, night sweating and hot flashes.

Yin can become imbalanced through a variety of mechanisms including genetics, age, stress on the body, trauma, blood loss, excess sexual activity, recreational drug use, too many yang hot foods, poor diet and lifestyle.

Nutrition is a simple and effective way to balance yin and yang. Yang foods are warm and contracting. Yin building foods have a tendency to congest the digestive organs and promote stagnation if large amounts are consumed. It is therefore important to consume small quantities frequently rather than large helpings irregularly. Such as a large portion of a fish coconut curry late at night is not ideal as it will sit in your stomach and not digest properly before bed. Thus a small portion between 5-6 p.m. is more ideal as there is more time to digest it.

Note that yang foods you already consume such as roast chicken, other types of fish, coffee, tea, black pepper, etc., are to be completely avoided. Remember yin and yang should balance each other and are interdependent.

Foods that nourish yin:

— Grains: barley, millet

— Vegetables: alfalfa sprout, artichoke, asparagus, kelp, mung bean sprout, pea, potato, seaweed, string bean, sweet potato, tomato, water chestnut, yam, zucchini

— Fruit: apple, apricot, avocado, banana, lemon, lime, mango, mulberry, pear, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon

— Beans: adzuki, black beans, black soya, kidney, lima, mung

— Tofu

— Nuts and seeds: coconut milk, sesame seed, black sesame seed, walnut

— Fish: fish in general but especially clam, fresh water clam, crab, cuttlefish, oyster, octopus, sardine

— Meat: beef, duck, goose, pork, pork kidney, rabbit

— Dairy: (organic) cheese, chicken egg, cow’s milk, duck egg

— Herbs and spices: marjoram, nettle

— Oils and condiments: honey, malt

— Common supplements: ginseng, royal jelly

Examples of every day foods that can be used to build yin, include:

— Fruit smoothies with honey and banana or a fruit salad

— Fish dishes with coconut milk

— Omelettes with cheese

— Asparagus and egg salads with sesame seeds

— Tacos made with kidney beans and topped with a small amount of cheese

— Baked potato stuffed with tofu with soya sauce and sesame seeds

— Pork and apple dishes

— Miso soup with tofu and seaweed

Foods to avoid —

Stimulating foods such as the following will only further deplete yin:

Caffeine, alcohol, sugar and hot and pungent spices.

Dalite Sancic is the doctor of Eastern medicine at Moon Brook Medicine

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