TCM Food Therapy Spotlight: Yin Deficiency
Updated: Feb 6
Yin Deficiency is a condition in which the Yin fluids in the body become depleted and the body begins to show signs of overheating. You can think of it as a car that has run out of oil and its engine begins to give off plumes of smoke. These fluids include blood, sweat, saliva, lymph, hormones, intracellular fluid, and fluid between joints (bursa). When our level of Yin gets low, we can start to “burn up”, and the body begins taking resources from our Jing (Essence) that cannot be replenished. Our Essence is the constitution that we are born with, which is inherited from our parents. I'd like to think of Essence as the battery pack that powers us our whole life.
Yin Deficiency is often brought on by stress, overwork, poor diet, cigarettes, some pharmaceuticals, and recreational drugs.
Diseases most often associated with Yin deficiency include diabetes, hypoglycemia, anxiety, and chronic inflammation. Many women experience a deficiency of Yin fluids as they get older and may begin to have symptoms such as headaches, hot flashes, night sweats, and perhaps thirst that is stronger in the evening. Diagnostically, I find a patient with Yin deficiency will have a red tongue with no coating and a thready, rapid pulse. Many patients with chronic degenerative disease will typically show these distinct signs.
Replenishing this vital substance takes time and requires rest…something we all find quite difficult to do with our modern lifestyles! Also by using food as medicine, we can bring the body back into balance. Yin-nourishing foods have moistening and cooling properties that quench an overheating system. Here is a list of foods that nourish Yin, which are energetically sweet and cool in nature:
Apple, Mango, Mulberry, Tomato, Pear, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Watermelon
Asparagus, Peas, Sweet Potato, Yam, Spinach, String Beans, Kidney Beans
Clam, Crab, Oysters, White Fish, Duck, Pork, Rabbit, Eggs
Malt, Spelt, Wheat, Tofu
Sesame, Seaweed, Nettle, Royal Jelly
Avoid foods that stimulate the body to use up energy, which includes coffee, refined sugar, alcohol, white vinegar (apple-cider vinegar is OK), lamb, veal, and the over-consumption of spicy foods. Use care not to consume too much of the cooling foods if you are sensitive to cold and tend to feel cold easily. If so, you can opt for cooking methods that will add warmth to your foods such as soups, stews, and stir-frying.