This is the first in a 2-part series on the evils of drinking cold soda, namely ice cold Coca-Cola. See the second part.
This week’s acupuncture lecture was on XiaoKe, literally ‘wasting thirst’ syndrome, but now most commonly used to refer to Diabetes in traditional Chinese medicine. During this class, the doctor told a story of his 9-year old niece.
This young Chinese girl would come home everyday from school, open the fridge, grab the cold coke, and pour herself a glass. She continued for nearly a year, during which time she got heavier, fatter, and less energetic. Until 1 week she suddenly got very thin. So her parents took her to see the Western doctor and her uncle, the TCM doctor.
The Western doctor found her blood sugar spiked and suggested she take insulin for diabetes. The TCM doctor, using Chinese medicine diagnostic principles, found symptoms of internal heat and Yin deficiency, specifically lack of essential bodily fluids.
He explained that when she drank the cold coke everyday, her body had to raise the temperature of the liquid from ~4C to normal body temperature of ~37C. The daily effort required of her stomach to raise the temperature had, in effect, raised her internal (especially stomach) temperature, leading to ‘heat syndrome.’ And the heat had burned off all of her essential fluids. It is also this heat burning the internal liquids that caused her to suddenly become thin. (In Chinese medicine, people with heat/fire constitution tend to be thin and are more susceptible to Yin deficiency.) When her Yin fluids had been burnt off, she had XiaoKe (wasting thirst) or diabetes.
The TCM doctor’s conclusion was thus, the cold nature of the coca-cola caused her internal heat, resulting in Yin deficiency, and XiaoKe.
Following his analysis, I asked whether drinking cold water would have the same effect, and he said according to the principles and analysis of Chinese medicine, theoretically yes. And conversely, if the coke is warm, there’s no problem, right? He wasn’t as sure about that one.
While I follow his analysis and reasoning of the cold coke consumption by a child causing her health problems, I’m not sure I would pinpoint the temperature as the culprit. Speaking of myself, I grew up drinking ice water constantly and have no issues with diabetes. Then again, the body type and strength (constitution) of Europeans and Chinese is arguably different.
To be clear, not all TCM doctors have this view. My other doctor/teacher explained that the fake sugar and other chemicals in soda harm our spleen and stomach Qi. The spleen and stomach Qi are overworked trying to process and separate the chemicals, far more so than for natural sugar like honey. This extra effort causes deficiency of spleen and stomach Qi and essence (manifesting as thirst and hunger), which in the longer term leads to Yin deficiency. Although the symptoms of diabetes have already started appearing, the complete exhaustion and consumption of the organs’ energies and fluids is how we get diabetes.
Nonetheless, I think we can all agree cold soda should not be our first choice beverage, especially for children.
If you’re interested in the rest of the story of the 9-year old: Using acupuncture, and herbal concoctions, the TCM doctor treated her by reducing internal heat and nourishing Yin bodily fluids. He stabilized her weight and she again became a happy, normal girl. After his treatment she had no remaining signs of diabetes, XiaoKe, heat, or Yin deficiency, nor weight problems.
But the mother was still worried and took her to get her blood sugar tested again. And when the blood sugar results came back high, not surprisingly, the Western doctor put the girl on insulin even though she had no other symptoms. Therefore, unfortunately, while the girl could have been relatively normal with only the need to monitor her health more closely, she is now insulin-dependent for the rest of her life.
And thus the conclusion for today: 1) don’t give kids cold soda!, 2) drink less cold drinks (same goes for ice cream), 3) see an expert Chinese medicine doctor for pre-diabetic or diabetes conditions BEFORE you take insulin, and 4) Chinese medicine can offer an alternative to a life of insulin dependence, if attended to early enough.