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Dietary Tools for Deficiency Health

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

A transparent cup of water with raw apple cider vinegar being poured into it and a honey bottle in the background.
Me pouring raw apple cider vinegar into a cup of water for a classic belly aid recipe.

You might find yourself wondering "Why am I always so tired?" In Traditional Chinese Medicine health afflictions are categorized broadly into either patterns of deficiency or excess, with a minority of patterns being attributed to a combination of both deficiency and excess. I'm going to show some dietary tools that will likely benefit people suffering from deficiency patterns. Most simply put, a deficiency pattern occurs when the body is missing something. The most basic example of deficiency is fatigue: if you are tired, you are lacking either sleep, nutrition, water, or a combination of these things. The following are tools that everyone with access to a kitchen, and a grocery store can utilize to get more nutrition, and therefore more energy from their food.

  • Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (my personal recipe)

4 oz of water

1 tblsp of Vinegar

1 tblsp of Honey (raw)

Apple Cider Vinegar has been on the public's radar for a while now (especially in the greater Los Angeles area and southern California). Instead of dismissing its value outright, I try to explore and deduce why this trend found legs to run on. I do this by asking a few questions: What property does apple cider vinegar have, that could affect how people feel, or function? Firstly, it is an acid, and a very strong one at that. How could the body benefit from apple cider vinegar? Well, the inside of the stomach is a highly acidic environment (#2 pg. 875), and vinegar is an acid. So if the stomach is underperforming, say because of a deficiency, and its role as the melter of food becomes compromised, adding an assist could improve the results of any given meal.

I use this tool to rule out whether or not my acid reflux is the result of not enough rest (since we need rest to digest), or too much stomach acid. If apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar for that matter is too harsh, (maybe drinking this is uncomfortable or makes your teeth feel terrible) an alternative is sour foods, like kiwi (often used to tenderize meat as a marinade). Sour is the chemical flavor of acids (#2 pg. 39). Kombucha is another popular sour flavored digestive product easily findable in Los Angeles, and southern Californian grocery stores.

Salmon and broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and lemon with steam rising
Steamed ingredients for nutrient retention
  • Eat more cooked food

Steamed is best because it retains the most nutrients from your food

Fried is last because the high heat and short cook times ruin the nutrition, especially of the cooking oils

Finally, if it isn't clear yet, raw food is very taxing for the body to digest. So if you suspect you're health to be deficient, then reduce your raw food intake.

  • More Chewing

We don't chew enough. This means two things, no. 1- we fill up rapidly and don't give our brain enough time to receive the "I'm full signals." no. 2- our meals aren't processed well enough which means bigger and less dissolved chunks of food (more unneccessary work for our stomachs and small intestines). Your saliva starts the carb digestion, and even some of your fat digestion, and your teeth begin the process of digesting proteins (#2 pg. 866).

I chose not to define any TCM patterns here because it's inadvisable to use internet resources to self diagnose health conditions. However, without self-diagnosing, I often use these tools to help me determine my overall state of health and well-being: if applying one or more of these dietary changes moves "the needle" in a positive direction, I'm likely working with a deficiency.

Classic food phrases:

"you are what you eat"

"let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food"


  1. I learned vinegar the recipe from Dr. Harvey Wong, my mentor and friend

  2. Marieb, E; Hoehn, K. Human Anatomy and Physiology. Pearson. 2016, 10th ed.

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