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Sensitive Stomachs 4: The Yin and Yang of Nutrition


By Dr. Al Townshend

Digestive problems that occur relatively infrequently (once a month), such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, excessive gas, growling stomach, and depressed appetite, are often referred to as signs of a sensitive stomach. Most of the time, the issues are frustrating but not dangerous or life-threatening. 

In light of this, many Guardians have found the nutritional concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have offered effective solutions for minor sensitive stomach signs and symptoms.

The Yin and Yang Concept

Yin and Yang theory — considered the most fundamental concept in TCM — drives the understanding of health and wellness among practitioners of this ancient system of health care. The theory informs how diagnoses are made, and underpins the physiology, pathology and treatment of illness. It is an important part of the study of TCM.[1]

Yin and Yang differentiate in many ways, but some simple underlying definitions include:

  1. The Yin sign represents cooling and rest.
  2. The Yang sign represents warming and active.

Animals, like people, can trend to one sign or another. Knowing how to recognize these traits may help identify and support your pets needs.

Signs Attributed to a Yin, or Cool Animal

  1. Cool animals tend to be older, overweight, sluggish, and more laid back. They prefer warmer areas and are reluctant to go out on cold days. 
  2. Cool pets may show signs of fatigue, stiffness, fecal incontinence, loss of appetite. 
  3. When sensitive stomach symptoms are present, feeding warming (Yang) foods containing lamb, chicken, oats, white rice, and turmeric can help restore balance.

Signs Attributed to a Yang, or Warm Animal  

  1. Warm pets are generally younger, outgoing, active; they often pant excessively and seek cooler places.
  2. These dogs may also be more prone to allergies and sensitivities. Many conditions our pets experience involve inflammation. Infection, irritation, and many primary problems that cause secondary sensitive stomach issues are warming and can benefit from cooling (Yin) foods.
  3. Cooling (Yin) foods such as duck, eggs, rabbit, fish, barley, brown rice, and flaxseed oil can help to restore their balance in a Yang pet.

Neutral Foods

Neutral foods are considered to not have either Yin or Yang characteristics and would be suitable for any animal to consume to help balance, harmonize, and improve palatability. Some examples of neutral foods are:

  • Neutral Proteins: Beef, Pork, Bison, Carp, Catfish, Herring, Mackerel, Goat’s Milk, Kidney Beans.
  • Neutral Vegetables: Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Green beans, Peas, Red Beans, String Beans, Pumpkin, Potato, Shitake Mushroom, and Yams.

Seasonal Variations

TCM views the world as a harmonious entity. So, all creatures are viewed in relation to the environment. The TCM philosophy subscribes to a rotational feeding, according to the seasons of the year. As the changing seasons alter the environment, it is believed that to remain in harmony with the universe we should nourish the Yang in the spring and summer and nourish the Yin in the fall and winter.

Taking a rotational feeding approach with your pet can help to not only create harmony, according to the philosophies of TCM, but can work to create interest at feeding time, can help to offer a more balanced and complete diet and can support a sensitive stomach.

TCM is a very comprehensive philosophy that goes well beyond feeding methodologies. However, TCM believes food is the foundation for health and that finding balance in the diet can have long lasting health benefits for ourselves and our pets.

[1]  Hailin Wu, OM Clinical / Faculty Supervisor, Program Director  https://www.amcollege.edu/blog/what-are-yin-and-yang

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