Dear Ellie - Ask An Acupuncturist
I LOVE ice cream! I'm an ice cream specialist! If I could retire from marketing and sample ice cream for "quality control," I would. But I'm unhappy to say: this summer I had a hard time eating ice cream. I noticed some sharp pains immediately after a Klondike bar, but I blamed it on an old salad I had at lunch. Then it happened again, and this time with a little nausea. So then I started buying anti-acid tablets, and things were fine again. I could eat my evening ice cream, as long as I had some Tums nearby. I didn't put two-and-two together until my husband said something about how I should just use the tablets as a topping, and I laughed but... he was right. Now I'm worried. Do I have to completely give up my frozen joy? Thanks for your help.
-Erin S., Denver CO
I'm sorry to hear about your trouble! First: you won't have to completely give up your ice cream treats, but I think you should give them a break. There are a number of possible reasons for your symptoms, but I'll share with you a different perspective. In Oriental medicine, not only do we understand your discomfort from a modern Western standpoint, but we look at patterns of disharmony using a vocabulary that is missing from Western diagnosis. When we are talking about foods, in particular, we categorize them by basic - yet important! - energetic principles. We notice the nature of the food's temperature: hot or cold or neutral. We consider the food's flavor: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, or bitter. Ice cream, for example, is cold and sweet - but dairy, in general, is considered cold and sweet - see what I mean? So even a melted pot of gruyere cheese has - as it's
inherent nature - cold, sweet (and salty) components. So, then, if foods are given these properties, so is our stomach! The acid in our stomach is considered hot, and it's needed to quickly break down foods so that the small intestine can do its job of absorbing nutrients. By now you're asking: but if that's the case, why can't I just eat ice cream all day? The other organs involved in digestion are not as hot - if at all - and actually prefer warm and dry foods. So in order to benefit the most from our food, we need to consider the whole digestive team of organs, and how they work synergistically. If we're not careful about maintaining
a dietary balance, over time, our resources for digesting (stomach acid, bile, small intestine lining - for a few) become taxed and stripped bare. The balance is disrupted, and we can develop a host of signs and symptoms from acid reflux, to diarrhea, to sluggish digestion, constipation, gas, bloating, and more.
So my dear Erin, while your spirit has been delighting in years of ice cream habit, it sounds like your stomach is needing a more considerate approach. I would suggest weaning yourself from ice cream - and if you can manage it, all dairy - and see how you feel. If having a replacement would help, try making (or warming) some applesauce instead - use a pinch of cinnamon to soothe your spirit and your stomach! And when your stomach health is back to normal, you might be able to enjoy a little bit of ice cream - but make it a really special treat.