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Ancient Dietary Principles For Health And Fertility
Written by Dr. Spence Pentland   

While the fundamental base for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that everyone is an individual, there are some general diagnostic patterns that are used to determine what is going on with each patient in order to provide an outline for treatment.

Finding the right combination of acupuncture, exercise, herbal medicine, counselling and stress management are treatment options for fertility, but perhaps above all else is diet. The wrong food can be poison, but the right food is medicine.

Read on to learn a little about TCM pattern identification and dietary recommendations that will help. It should be noted that it is common to have overlapping patterns in different parts of the body and to always be mindful of your personal reaction to certain foods.


Someone exhibiting this pattern may feel as though it were a summer day in the middle of February. They will thirst for cold drinks, have a red face, or experience skin conditions such as eczema, rashes and acne. Personality-wise, they are easily agitated and quick to anger. Other symptoms include: high stress levels, constipation or dry stool, anxiety, a red tongue with yellow coating, rapid pulse rate, restlessness, allergies, high blood pressure, a red face, bleeding from the nose or anus, bad breath, canker sores, fevers, inflammation and dark yellow urine.

Heat can manifest as short menstrual cycles (26 days or less) with thicker blood consistency that is bright or dark red in colour and more copious in quantity. Bleeding may occur outside regular times, as in premenstrual spotting or mid-cycle spotting around ovulation. There may also be a lack of cervical fluid. An excess of male hormones which can cause PCOS may also present.

Avoid: Alcohol, spicy and greasy foods, dairy, lamb, beef, curries, fats, alcohol, coffee, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and shellfish, especially in summer.

Emphasize: Lots of room temperature liquids as dehydration is often an issue. Fruit, sprouts, mung beans, seaweed, lettuce, cucumber, radish, celery, asparagus, chard, spinach, bok choy, cauliflower, sweet corn, zucchini, apple, asian pears, watermelon and citrus. Cook lightly and include plenty of raw food.


A person showing dampness is prone to being overweight, low in energy and generally fatigued, particularly after eating. They are likely to have digestive issues and fall victim to gassiness, water retention and bloating, loose bowels, candida, yeast infections and achy joints. Craving starchy carbohydrates and sweets is common, as is emotional eating.

An accumulation of dampness can manifest as long cycles (i.e. 35 days) and watery discoloured blood. Painful ovulation and stringy mucus in menstrual blood are also signs of dampness.

Avoid: Dairy, alcohol, sweets, deep fried foods, roasted peanuts, concentrated juices, wheat, banana and saturated fats. Limit raw food intake.

Emphasize: Legumes, black pepper, relaxation and thorough chewing of food. Reduce the amount of food eaten at one sitting; instead, eat many smaller meals throughout the day.


Someone with a Yin deficiency may be a light sleeper. They can experience night sweats and hot flashes and have general restlessness. Character wise, these people tend to be quite rigid and have a hard time relaxing. A thin body, flushed cheeks and gnawing hunger also plague the Yin deficient.

Light volume of menstrual blood and cervical mucus are the accompanying gynecological signs here.

Avoid: Spicy food and legumes, especially in summer and fall.

Emphasize: Hydration, micro-algae like chlorella, spirulina and wild blue-green, fish, bone marrow, milk, ghee, eggs, root vegetables, dark leafy greens, dates, liver, nettle tea, royal jelly, black sesame seed and nuts. Should typically eat larger portions.


If you are experiencing a Yang deficiency, your whole body will feel cold. Low back pain and/or knee pain that is relieved by heat is common, as is a low libido, a puffy pale or bright complexion, water retention, a lack of energy and a tendency toward being overweight.

Yang deficiency can cause heavy bleeding and copious cervical mucous of watery consistency. Painful periods with light bleeding are to be expected.

Avoid: Raw, uncooked or cold foods (straight from the fridge or freezer) especially in winter.

Emphasize: Onion, leeks, chives, garlic, scallions, black beans, Brussels sprouts, capers, oats, spelt, quinoa, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, cashews, fennel, dill, anise, caraway, cumin, cherries, date, anchovies, lobster, mussels, trout, salmon, shrimp, chicken, beef, lamb, pepper, mustard, garlic, cayenne, chillies, coconut, cumin, rosemary.


The Qi deficient person will feel fatigued, experience poor digestion including gas and bloating, loose stool, weak immune function and be filled with worry and pensiveness.

It can cause heavy bleeding and copious cervical mucus of watery consistency. Menstrual cycles may be short with bleeding having heavy volume and a watery consistency. Bleeding may also happen outside regular times as in premenstrual spotting.

Avoid: Large portions; instead, eat many smaller meals throughout the day and no business at mealtime.

Emphasize: Chia seeds, congee, oats, quinoa, rice, beef, chicken, herring, lamb, mussels, shrimp, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, watercress and winter squash.


With blood deficiency a pale complexion and nails can be expected, as can overall dryness including skin, nose, throat, eyes, hair and nails. This person can be excessively emotional and have poor digestion, which results in not enough blood production that can cause anemia.

A menstrual cycle that comes late and is scanty, pale or diluted in colour with a watery consistency can be an indication of blood deficiency.

Avoid: Large portions; instead, eat many smaller meals throughout the day.

Emphasize: Aduki and kidney beans, beef, beets, bone marrow, eggs, dark leafy greens, apricots, dates, figs, grapes, liver, micro-algae, nettle leaf, oysters, sardines. Stay well hydrated and adhere also to the ‘Qi deficiency’ guidelines.


Blood Stasis is almost always the result of other patterns of disharmony that have been present for an extended period. If left untreated, the condition of blood stasis typically leads to heat and/or blood deficiency. Common manifestations are fixed, stabbing or severe pain, spider veins, dusky complexion, and darkening patches of skin.

Gynecological features include clotted menstrual bleeding that is brown, purple, or black. Periods will often be severely painful.

Avoid: Deep-fried food and large portions.

Emphasize: Greens, turmeric, scallions, nutmeg, spearmint, chives, garlic, vinegar, basil, ginger, chestnuts, rosemary and cayenne. Stay well hydrated.


Qi stagnation will often result in feeling emotionally stuck, irritable, angry, impatient, frustrated, stressed out and unfulfilled along with an irregular menstrual cycle, period bleeding that starts and stops, and neck tension.

The length of menstrual cycle will often be irregular, fluctuating between periods that come early or late, with mild to moderate pain. PMS symptoms such as moodiness, breast tenderness, nausea, bloating are prominent.

Avoid: Sour foods like vinegar, pickles etc., caffeine and refined sugars.

Emphasize: Relaxation and thorough chewing, spearmint, orange peel tea, rosemary, scallions, garlic, onion, black and white pepper, fennel, anise, dill, mustard greens, horseradish, basil, nutmeg, peppermint, marjoram, elder flowers, radish and its leaves, taro and turnip.

A healthy woman’s menstrual cycle should be between 26-30 days with 3-5 days of moderate flow that tapers to spotting. A fresh red color with minimal clotting or pain is ideal. During ovulation, look for changes in cervical fluid, a twingy sensation and raised libido. If this isn’t you, then finding where you fit in these TCM patterns and following the dietary advice will help restore balance and optimize fertility.

Dr. Spence Pentland -

Dr. Spence Pentland is a board licensed Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and certified Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. Since 2004 he has focused exclusively on the treatment of reproductive disorders in both men and women. To book an appointment call 604.742.8383. For more info visit


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