The Middle Burner
The Chinese Medicine Digestion
What is the middle burner?
The middle burner in Chinese Medicine is the heart of the digestive system. A vivid image of the middle burner is a wood-burning stove that heats a house. Digestion is the stove, and food is the fuel. The quality of the fuel determines the efficiency of the stove and therefore the warmth of the house, i.e., the health and energy of the body.
Is there a Western equivalent?
The equivalent to an efficient middle-burner in Western medicine is an effective metabolism. Good metabolism will “burn” the food cleanly, utilizing calories, burning fat, and assimilating vitamins and nutrients, giving the body energy for living. If your metabolism is appropriate for your activities and food intake, you will naturally maintain your optimal weight.
What benefits the digestive fire?
When you wake up in the morning the fire in your stove has reduced to embers. The fire must be stoked to carry out its digestive function.
Breakfast: To build a strong fire, the day begins with breakfast, which acts as kindling. In Chinese medicine, hot, whole grain cereal, congee, is an ideal meal to gently start your digestive metabolism for clean, efficient, warm burning.
Lunch: The digestive fire is the strongest at lunchtime. Lunch should therefore be the biggest meal of the day, with the most variety. It should contain concentrated protein such as animal products, legumes, nuts, seeds.
Dinner: The last meal should ideally be the smallest. It’s the best if the meal is eaten before 7p.m., and that the meal is cooked, such as steamed vegetables and a grain.
What injures the middle burner?
A large, heavy breakfast would be like throwing a big oak log on a struggling, flickering flame; it might be snuffed. Cold cereal and milk would be like throwing wet, soggy leaves on a tender little fire. Friend eggs and hash browns would be like green wood; it burns poorly and produces thick, noxious smoke. Not eating breakfast would certainly put the fire out for the day. Ice-cold drinks and foods like ice cream also destroy the digestive fire.
In summary, if you tend to your middle burner as if you were tending a fire you will be able to achieve and maintain your health and ideal body weight.
One consequence of damaging the middle burner is that a byproduct called dampness is often created.