TCM on Intermittent Fasting: Merging Ancient Practices with Modern Trends


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Dr. Gene Wei DOM

Dr. Gene Wei DOM, AP is a Primary Care Provider and Board Certified Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture Physician in the state of Florida (NCCAOM).

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What does TCM say about intermittent fasting?

Balance is central to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It signifies not just the absence of illness but a harmonious equilibrium within the body. This harmony is tied to the flow of energy, or “Qi.”

TCM and intermittent fasting work together. They offer a holistic approach to both physical and energetic health. When Qi flows without hindrance, optimal health is achieved. However, blockages or imbalances can lead to health issues. Intermittent fasting can regulate this energy flow. By pausing digestion, the body uses stored fats for energy, promoting a balanced Qi flow.

Dr. Gene Wei spoke about the effectiveness of combining TCM and intermittent fasting. He said, “The combination of TCM principles and intermittent fasting has impacted weight loss. It simplifies calorie control, and TCM techniques further aid appetite management.”

Benefits of intermittent fasting in TCM

  • Nutritional Balance and Longevity:
    • TCM emphasizes the importance of balance for a harmonious body.
    • Intermittent fasting can improve nutritional balance, potentially leading to a longer life.
  • Blood Sugar and Body Composition:
    • Stable energy levels are vital in TCM.
    • Intermittent fasting can help regulate blood sugar, preventing energy fluctuations.
    • This practice can also promote the use of stored fats, leading to better body composition.
  • Chronic Disease Markers:
    • TCM-inspired intermittent fasting might reduce markers for diseases like diabetes and cancer.
    • Fasting can shift the body’s focus to burning fats, promoting a balanced energy flow.

Considerations in Practice:

  • Extended fasts can weaken the Spleen Qi in TCM, leading to deficiencies.
  • For women, intermittent fasting can be a stressor, potentially suppressing fertility. When done correctly, fasting for women’s weight loss is effective. It’s especially beneficial for women with conditions like PCOS or insulin resistance.
  • It’s important to consult a TCM practitioner before starting intermittent fasting. Individual needs should also be considered.

Different Approaches to Fasting

There are many methods of fasting. However, the best fasting schedule for weight loss depends on individual needs, goals, and health conditions. Integrating intermittent fasting into TCM offers distinct approaches with important implications.

  • Time-Restricted Feeding:
    • This method, often referred to as the 16/8 method, aligns eating patterns with daylight hours.
    • TCM underscores the importance of morning meals, suggesting our energy is most vibrant then.
    • Eating harmoniously with our natural circadian rhythm can enhance digestion and energy use.
  • Intermittent Calorie Restriction:
    • Here, individuals periodically limit their calorie intake.
    • This strategy can yield benefits like enhanced metabolic health and weight loss.
    • It offers flexibility, allowing individuals to select the days they restrict their intake.
  • Period Fasting:
    • This involves longer fasting intervals, sometimes spanning several days.
    • While it can result in rapid weight loss, TCM advises caution.
    • Prolonged fasts might disrupt the body’s energy equilibrium, potentially leading to deficiencies.

Dr. Gene Wei provides insights into selecting the right fasting method based on TCM principles. For someone with spleen qi deficiency and a slower metabolism, he suggests daily intermittent fasting for a 16-hour window. However, fasting every other day might be more suitable for those without metabolic concerns. He mentions that current science shows alternate day fasting has minimal impact on metabolism. However, some people see better results with daily intermittent fasting.

In TCM and intermittent fasting, tailoring the approach to individual needs is crucial. Respecting the body’s natural rhythms is also vital.

Supportive TCM Practices for Intermittent Fasting

TCM and intermittent fasting together offer a holistic strategy for weight management. Specific TCM practices further enhance the benefits of fasting.:

  • Herbal Formulas:
    • A TCM diet for weight loss goes beyond just intermittent fasting. It often incorporates herbal formulas tailored to each individual’s constitution. These can aid in appetite suppression and energy enhancement.
    • Dr. Gene Wei mentions using appetite suppressant herbs like Huo Xian for many people. Additionally, Huang Qi can boost energy, potentially promoting more physical activity. It’s essential to test and see how one’s body reacts.
  • Acupuncture and Acupressure:
    • These techniques can help manage hunger and cravings during fasting periods.
    • Stimulating specific acupuncture points can suppress appetite. This affects the nervous system and might also influence hunger-related hormones.
    • Notable acupoints include Stomach 36, Spleen 6, and ear points like the stomach, spleen, and appetite control. Shen Men on the ear can benefit those more prone to emotional eating.
    • Dr. Gene Wei emphasizes the benefits of ear seeds for weight loss. He particularly values their application on points like the stomach, spleen, and appetite control.
  • Movement Therapies:
    • TCM movement therapies like Qi Gong and Tai Chi can complement intermittent fasting.
    • Dr. Gene Wei shares that many of his patients have benefited from these therapies alongside fasting. Staying gently active is ideal during fasting, and Qi Gong or Tai Chi offers a perfect way to achieve this.
  • Stress Management and Relaxation:
    • Stress can be a significant hindrance to weight loss. Dr. Gene Wei recommends applying ear seeds to stress points and Shen Men to help manage stress and ensure a balanced fasting experience.
  • Integrating with Other Weight Loss Strategies:
    • When combining TCM practices and intermittent fasting with other weight loss strategies, it’s crucial to identify the primary challenges one faces, such as emotional eating, lack of exercise, or sluggish metabolism. These challenges can be addressed from a TCM perspective.
    • Regular reassessment is essential. Dr. Gene Wei suggests logging calorie intake and tracking weight daily, focusing on weekly averages, and reassessing the approach monthly.

Incorporating these TCM practices can make the journey of intermittent fasting more effective and holistic, ensuring a balanced and health-focused approach.

Author: P. Sze

P. Sze P. Sze is the founder of TCM Tips and Dragon Acupuncture®. She graduated from the National University of Singapore with a first-class honor in Civil Engineering. S he also holds a master’s degree in Engineering and is the brain behind the innovative TCM products of Dragon Acupuncture®. She is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Auricular Therapy: Application of Ear Seeds (ISBN 978-1520451398) and Facial Gua Sha - Fight the Signs of Aging Naturally and Inexpensively (ISBN 978-1980678922). She has dedicated her life to ensuring that the complex theories behind oriental medicine and the seemingly dangerous techniques that involve needles and fire do not scare you from trying oriental medicine. This is why she writes endlessly about acupressure and its countless health and wellness benefits.

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