Yi Dao Blog

Chinese Medicine and Diet – look for quality, variety, enjoyment!

posted by conny on September 22, 2017



As Chinese medicine practitioners, Zarig and I are often asked about dietary advice. Our response may come as a surprise to some of our patients. Here are some pointers that we regularly give: 

There are 3 important aspects to a healthy diet: quality, variety and enjoyment.

Quality. Foodstuffs vary greatly in quality. As a general rule, go for the best quality of food you can afford, both money- and time-wise. Freshly cooked meals, with natural ingredients, are best.

Variety. Having different foods every day, with a great variety of grains, vegetables, meats, etc, will ensure you get a range of nutrients.

Enjoyment. Food should taste good! It is one of the great pleasures of life, important for your mental as well as your physical well-being.



Beyond that, we do not believe that there are any isolated foods that must be included or avoided in a healthy diet. The idea of a “superfood” is mostly a marketing term, and is not something we recognise in our experience. While there are aspects of diet that will depend on a person’s constitution and a person’s diet can be skewed towards their health, fundamental dietary rules apply to everybody.

Meat – to eat or not to eat?

In Chinese medicine we are not big fans of a vegetarian diet, as meat is full of nutrients which are important for good health. We usually recommend to regularly include some good quality, i.e. free-range, organic, meat in the diet, although we also appreciate that people may object to consuming meat for ethical or religious reasons.

How about food sensitivities and intolerances?

We regularly treat people who exclude a range of foodstuffs from their diet as these have caused problems in the past. While this alleviates the problem in the immediacy, over time it can become more and more restrictive. Apart from medical allergies, a healthy digestion should be able to process the full range of available foods. In other words, a food sensitivity is a sign that the digestion is not working optimally. We always recommend improving the digestion and then trying to reintroduce the foods to rebuild the body’s digestive ability.

Tips for a better digestion

Important factors to improve the digestion relate to looking at all the circumstances relating to eating, not just the diet itself. Restricting the quantity of food by having smaller meals is a great way of taking the pressure off the digestion. Also taking the time to eat, sitting properly, chewing well, not being hunched, will physically allow the digestive organs to work better.

Emotions are very important – for example in periods of stress, many people find that digestive problems can flare up. Learning to manage emotional triggers will have a direct impact on the digestion.

Water consumption is another important point – many people nowadays worry about being dehydrated, to the point that they are actually flooding their system with water by drinking a set number of litres every day. This dilutes digestive juices and can cause bloating and poor digestion. It is much better to drink to your thirst, and particularly to avoid too much fluid with a meal.

With thanks to JulieAnn Nugent-Head for initially introducing us to her Chinese Medicine perspective on diet. 


The Music of Massage – Rhythms and Soundscapes

posted by conny on December 10, 2013

Since conception, we have always been aware of rhythm. The beat of the human heart is part of our subliminal awareness every day. We hear it in the quiet morning; when we exercise; in the silence of the night. Tribal dance lay at the heart of early cultures; the pounding of rhythm marked important rituals of everyday life.

Today, our lives are rather different. Music has transformed into a more informal, individual experience – but it still forms one of the central elements to modern life. Everyone has a musical taste – things they listen to when they want to dance, or when they are driving, or when they want to relax.

I have always been unimpressed by the music collections for massage;

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The Anatomy of the Golf Swing

posted by zarig on September 3, 2013

About the author: Zarig Cooper is a director at the Yi Dao Clinic in West Hampstead and is a TPI certified medical professional (Titleist Performance Institute) and a single figure golfer.  He works as a Tui Na physical therapy specialist alongside physiotherapists and osteopaths. 

You cannot play consistent and good golf if your body is hindering you. The first thing to recognise is the fact that the most important piece of golf equipment you own is your body!

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Acupuncture and Pregnancy

posted by conny on June 17, 2013

Women in the UK benefit from regular, well-organised antenatal care, with midwives fulfilling a crucial role in screening for potentially dangerous conditions for a pregnant woman and/or her baby.

Where there might be a gap in healthcare, however, is for so-called “minor ailments” of pregnancy. These are not life-threatening conditions that are expected to resolve after the birth, and therefore warrant somewhat less attention from the antenatal team – although they can sometimes have a significant impact on a woman’s life.

For most pregnancy ailments, from morning sickness to birth induction, acupuncture can be a safe and effective treatment with no side-effects for the woman or the baby.

What is acupuncture used for in pregnancy?


Musculo-skeletal conditions
Pain in the lower back, sciatica, symphysis pubis pain are all very common during pregnancy, as are neck pain, rib pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Gentle movement is usually useful – as a general rule, women are recommended to carry on with any exercise they were doing before getting pregnant (avoiding anything where there is a risk of falls). If this doesn’t help, all of the above conditions can be treated effectively – sometimes a single treatment may relieve the pain considerably, other times regular treatment throughout the pregnancy is needed.

Nausea (morning sickness), vomiting, heartburn
Severe morning sickness can be a debilitating experience in early pregnancy. Rest and relaxation often improve the situation, as well as eating regular snacks such as fruit or crackers. It is important for the woman to stay well-hydrated, and drinking small sips of water throughout the day may be useful for this. Acupuncture can be used to significantly relieve both nausea and heartburn and also to reduce vomiting.

Hormone-related problems
Changing hormone levels during pregnancy may have an effect on various body parts: for example the mucous membranes around the nose, leading to sinusitis, the digestive system, leading to constipation, the skin, leading to severe itching (though this may also be caused by other factors, please check with your midwife). Acupuncture may be used without side-effects to alleviate all these symptoms.


   Acupuncture and childbirth

Acupuncture has been used for centuries in the East to prepare women for labour and promote a smooth birth. These are some of the ways in which it can help:

Turning a breech baby
Ideally around week 35, though later treatments can still be successful. This is a simple procedure done using moxa sticks (provided). A single treatment is needed, with the woman doing follow-up treatments by herself every day for another 9 days.

Birth preparation treatments
Birth preparation treatments may be used weekly from week 37 onwards to help promote a safe and natural labour.

Induction (from the due date onwards) & promotion of labour
Acupuncture can be used for either inducing labour or for promoting it when it is not progressing as planned. If the labour doesn’t start after a first induction treatment, it is possible to do a second one a couple of days later. After that, even if the labour doesn’t start naturally and a medical induction is needed, the acupuncture induction treatments have been shown to lead to easier births which overall needed less medical intervention.


Insomnia – Acupuncture for peaceful sleep

posted by conny on February 22, 2013

Insomnia is a common problem. Sleeping tablets, which are the main conventional way of treating sleep disturbances, are only meant as a short-term solution as they are very likely to cause drowsiness/lethargy and to create dependency. Unfortunately, the vast majority of insomnia is chronic, whereby sufferers may be affected for weeks, months, or even years.

In these cases a more fundamental approach is needed: acupuncture, by affecting the nervous system and regulating stress hormones, can be a very effective way of treating sleep disturbances with no side-effects. A course of treatments ensures that effects are lasting, as the body is returned to a naturally balanced state and learns to sleep again peacefully.

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Idiopathic neuropathy – is pain in the body or in the mind…?

posted by conny on January 7, 2013

The dreaded diagnosis: “it’s all in your mind”

Neurological disorders are disorders of the body’s nervous system. While some have obvious causes, there is a category of neurological disorder that cannot be readily explained: a patient may describe severe pins and needles, numbness, pain, muscle weakness or spasm, but all diagnostic tests are negative.

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Esther Galfalvi on the value of Holistic Massage

posted by zarig on December 2, 2012
Holistic massage: the whole story

The word “holistic” has accumulated a bad reputation from overuse by pop-culture and pseudo-health advertising; it has become a hackneyed phrase, associated with faith-healing and dream-catchers.  This article is here to untie the word from its negative connotations and give a truer picture of what “holistic” means.

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What is soft tissue…? How do soft tissue problems lead to pain…?

posted by zarig on November 22, 2012
What are soft tissues of the body?

The soft tissues of the body (in the sense that we refer to them) are made up of :

  • muscles – moves and supports bones
  • tendons – connects muscles to bones
  • ligaments – connects bone to bone
  • fascia – surrounds all muscles and bones
  • cartilage / synovial tissue – material that makes up the joint capsules

These tissues are collectively responsible for holding the skeleton together in the correct place, and maintaining the body in an upright position against the constant pull of gravity.

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The value of Yielding

posted by conny on November 3, 2012

An important quality in Chinese philosophy is the ability to yield. Think of the image of water – soft and ungraspable, it shapes itself to whatever terrain it is in. When water flows down a hillside and there is an obstacle in its path, it simply flows around it and carries on with its course. The same is true with people: in Chinese thought, the ability to yield, to work with people and events and carry on unperturbed when having to accommodate something unexpected, is seen as a very high quality in a person.

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