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What Is the Traditional Chinese Medicine Diet?

This Ancient Diet Is the Original "Personality Type Quiz"

Fan of the Myers-Briggs personality test and theories? Want something like that for your diet? It has existed for centuries within Chinese medicine! POPSUGAR sat down recently with clinical nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNC — a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner — who explained more about the five types in TCM and what each should be eating.

As he explained to us, "Certain people should be on certain diets," and you're predisposed for a particular diet based on your "element" within TCM. There are five elements: wood, earth, fire, water, and metal. Learning which one you are can lead you to a perfect diet, specifically for your body's makeup and your needs. It's what Dr. Axe's approach is all about: "Food is medicine." And if you're eating the right foods for your body, you can help eliminate illness, curb symptoms, and possibly even treat disease.

The TCM diet has existed for "over 4 thousand years," Dr. Axe told us, but it isn't quite mainstream in Western culture (or Western medicine), so in the US (generally), we're not as familiar with our defining element and may have absolutely no idea as to how to eat for our element.

The first step is to get your diagnosis. This is most accurately done by a acupuncturist or a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. Some nutritionists specialize in this and could also provide a diagnosis. They use a multitude of methods for diagnosis, but some tactics include looking at your tongue, checking your pulse, and asking you some medical questions.

Don't have a professional you can consult? Try a quiz (here, here, and here) — keep in mind that these may help, but may not be all that accurate.

Once you've discovered your element, you can find a "custom and personalized plan," according to Dr. Axe. He told POPSUGAR, "You should be eating for your element, but also eating seasonally," and explained that you should nourish a specific organ based on your constitution/element to help relieve symptoms and restore balance to the body. Check out which season you'll thrive in, in addition to which emotions (positive and negative) you experience most, your body type (in general, not always!), health issues to look out for, and some foods to add to your diet.


Season: Spring
Emotions: Inspiration, frustration
Typical body type: Lean
Susceptible to: Liver or gallbladder issues
Foods to eat: Sour and bitter foods; green foods (sauerkraut, dark leafy greens, fresh veggies)


Season: Late Summer/early Fall
Emotion: Compassion, worry
Typical body type: Round
Susceptible to: Candida and dampness issues, spleen and stomach issues
Foods to eat: Warm vegetables; mildly sweet foods (pumpkin, sweet potato, spaghetti squash, corn)


Season: Summer
Emotion: Joy, anxiety
Typical body type: Proportionate, with smaller hands and feet
Susceptible to: Heart issues, high cholesterol, circulatory issues
Foods to eat: Spicy foods (peppers, hot sauce)


Season: Late Fall/early Winter
Emotion: Happiness, grief
Typical body type: Strong, chiseled features; muscular
Susceptible to: Lung, colon, and immune system issues
Foods to eat: "White foods" (cauliflower, garlic, or horseradish); probiotic-rich foods (yogurt or kefir)


Season: Winter
Emotions: Courageous, fearful
Typical body type: Soft and rounded
Susceptible to: Kidney, adrenal, and thyroid issues; hormonal imbalances
Foods to eat: Dark-colored foods (cherries, beets, spinach, cranberries)

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Lexi Lambros
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