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The 5 Elements TCM Theory (5 Phases of TCM) is Vital for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Diagnosis. The 5 Tastes of Food and the 5 Tastes Buds of the Tongue are Integral to Acupuncture Diagnosis & Treatment. Recent Organoleptic Research Confirms 5 Element Theory Chart Pertaining to Food Flavours is Scientific.

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  How is the 5 Elements TCM Theory (5 Phases of TCM) Vital for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Diagnosis? How are the 5 Tastes of Food and the 5 Taste Buds of the Tongue Integral to Acupuncture Diagnosis & Treatment? Recent Organoleptic Research Confirms 5 Element Theory Chart Pertaining to Food Flavours is Scientific. 

The foundational work of Chinese Medicine, the Su-wen states “the stomach transforms the taste of food into influences which are transmitted from here upward to the lung’ (emphasis is mine). In the commentaries on the 14th Difficult Issue on page 190 of Unschuld’s (1) translation of the Nan Ching, Yü Shu states, ‘The spleen takes in the five tastes. It transforms them to produce the five influences [for the] depots and palaces, and to make flesh and skin grow. Here now because of the injury, the tastes are not transformed and, hence, the flesh becomes emaciated.’ Thus, it can be seen that the Spleen processes the five tastes and transforms them into biological influences to allow the organs of the body (depots and palaces) to manage their portfolio as Yü Shu shows here the Spleen’s portfolio is ‘to make flesh and skin grow’.

All TCM practitioners are aware that the TCM medical classics teach that the five flavours, namely sweet, bitter, sour, spicy and salty, resonate with and affect the organs, namely spleen, heart, liver, lungs and kidneys respectively. Most TCM practitioner probably do not realise that recent scientific research is once again confirming that ancient TCM practitioners were aeons ahead of their time in knowledge and understanding of bodily function. How so?

Sweet receptors, traditionally associated with just the mouth, are also present in the gut and essentially “tasting” the sugar a second time,’ says Anthony Sclafani, a behavioural neuroscientist at the City University of New York. And when the Su-wen states ‘the stomach transforms the taste of food into influences which are transmitted from here upward to the lung’, recent research confirms ‘taste receptors are also present in the airways, where they have an impact on respiration’. Research performed in 2007 by Robert Margolskee, professor of neuroscience, showed that the five known taste sensors have been found throughout the body away from the tongue. Amazingly, every taste-signalling receptor that is present in the tongue is also found in the gut enteroendocrine cells.

Many unanswered questions are finally being answered since 2007 now that scientists and doctors have come up to speed with what TCM practitioners were aware of thousands of years ago. Now that biomedical researchers are aware that the ‘the spleen takes in the five tastes’ and ‘transforms them to produce the five influences for the depots and palaces’, what other ‘constructive influences that emerge from the central burner’ will be elucidated?

This easy-reading enlightening book is indispensable for everyone wishing to know all about ancient TCM concepts that seemed to be unbelievable and fanciful, and yet are now being verified and vindicated by modern scientific research. This enlightening book can be securely purchased by clicking the ‘BUY NOW’ button at the bottom of this page.

 

40.3 Taste Cells and Receptors Have Been Found in the Small Intestine and the Pancreas

In the 2011 article ‘Can the Stomach Taste?’ (156), it was noted that because the taste of food is a major cause of food ingestion, it follows that taste is a pertinent factor in the study of obesity. Due to this fact, for the last twenty years, the tongue has been the principal focus of organoleptic research. However, at the Obesity 2011 symposium, the focus was on nonoral sensory receptors, specifically sweet and bitter taste receptors that have recently been found much further down the gastrointestinal tract than the taste receptors known to be present on the tongue. For example, the molecular biologist from Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Dr Robert Margolskee, presented an overview of known taste receptors present in the tongue. He reported that the average human tongue and oral cavity houses 2,000 to 8,000 taste buds. Each of these taste buds is composed of 50 to 100 taste receptor cells. As is well known, these taste cells on the tongue are the initial chemosensors of all food types entering the alimentary tract. Different taste receptors in the cells on the tongue discern the five different taste qualities. Dr Margolskee advised that the five diverse tastes and their associated receptors are salty (ENaC/ Deg receptors), sour (several receptors), umami or savory (T1R1 + T1R3), sweet (T1R2 + T1R3), and bitter (T2R).

40.5 Taste Receptors Are Intertwined with Metabolic Processes in Very Interesting Ways

He has further confirmed that bitter substances stimulate the secretion of gut peptides, including glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and cholecystokinin (CCK). It is proposed that the bitter-tasting receptors present in the gut may be a protective mechanism to prevent the absorption of toxic bitter molecules if they do happen to get past the tongue and are swallowed. The presence of bitter substances in the gut stimulates the release of CCK and GLP-1. These substances induce vomiting, delay the emptying of gastric contents, and decrease the feeling of hunger. These effects would cause less bitter (and potentially toxic) substance to be consumed. The article continued: In addition to taste cells existing lower down the gastrointestinal tract than previously thought, Margolskee also presented data showing that there are also endocrine cells in the tongue, which secrete a variety of gut hormones including glucagon, GLP-1 and PYY. He is now starting to study these gut taste receptors in bariatric surgery models in mice.

40.6 Taste Receptors Can Trigger Memories, Impact Respiration and Affect Sperm

Eating a food that we enjoy can trigger powerful memories of pleasure, lust, and even love. However, all it takes is one bad oyster in a meal and a night over the toilet bowl to make you avoid eating oysters for the rest of your life. Neuroscientists who specialize in the study of taste are only now just beginning to comprehend how and why the interaction of a few chemical molecules that stimulated taste buds on your tongue can trigger instinctive behaviors or intense memories.

In the commentaries on the 23rd difficult issue on page 293 of Unschuld’s (1) translation of the Nan Ching, Yü Shu states, ‘When [the text states: “blood and influences”] start from the central burner, that refers to [a location] directly between the two breasts, called the tan-chung hole. . . . The Su-wen states: “The tan-chung is the emissary among the officials.” That is to say, the stomach transforms the taste [of food] into influences which are transmitted from here upward to the lung’ (emphasis is mine).  According to the 2012 Nature journal article entitled ‘Neuroscience: Hardwired for Taste’ (157), researchers have recently developed a ‘gustotopic map’ based on the idea that there are regions of the brain that are similarly dedicated to taste perception of the taste buds on our tongue, which can differentiate the basic tastes, including sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami, and arguably, a few others. A recent research revelation in organoleptic research is that the taste receptors that detect bitter, sweet and umami are not only restricted to the tongue. Amazingly, they are distributed throughout the stomach, intestine, and pancreas, where they assist various digestive processes—for example, by influencing the appetite and regulating insulin production. These taste receptors are also present in the airways, where they have an impact on respiration. Note what Yü Shu stated above, namely, ‘The stomach transforms the taste of food into influences which are transmitted from here upward to the lung.’ Compare that with what recent research has elucidated: ‘These taste receptors are also present in the airways, where they have an impact on respiration’ (emphasis is mine).

Even more surprising, the taste receptors have been detected on the sperm, where they affect maturation. The article stated, ‘A better understanding of what they [i.e. the taste receptors throughout the body] do and how they work could have implications for treating conditions ranging from diabetes to infertility.’

40.7 Sperm Can Carry the Memory of a Father’s Environment and Lifestyle Patterns to an Embryo

It is very well known that an expectant mother’s diet can affect her unborn offspring. A 2013 Canadian study led by Dr Sarah Kimmins at McGill University found significant findings regarding the impact of the father’s nutritional status on his unborn child. The research, involving mice, revealed that dad’s folate levels (vitamin B9) may likely be just as significant as the mom’s to the future health and development of their offspring. The article (158) reporting Kimmins’ findings stated:

Sperm carry a ‘memory’ of the father’s environment and possibly even of his diet and lifestyle choices to the embryo. Researchers were surprised to witness an almost 30 percent increase in birth defects in the offspring sired by fathers whose levels of folates were low, including severe skeletal abnormalities that included cranio-facial and spinal deformities.

It is well known that folate is critical for brain and overall neurological health, the development of memory, learning, and other cognitive processes. Dr Kimmins has very sound advice for all males wishing to become a father. She says, ‘Our research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke, and what they drink—and remember they are caretakers of generations to come.’

40.8 Taste Receptors in the Intestine Detect Glucose and Trigger the Release of Hormones

This recent finding enlightens physiologists who have been mystified for more than 50 years regarding the fact that swallowing glucose triggers a significantly higher insulin release compared to injecting glucose directly into the bloodstream. This phenomenon is called the incretin effect. In 2007, neuroscientist Robert Margolskee of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, confirmed his hypothesis that sweet receptors on L cells in the human duodenum actually detect glucose and trigger the release of gastrointestinal incretin hormone GLP-1, which stimulates the production of insulin and sends a satiety signal to the brain. If these sweet receptors are blocked, the amount of insulin release is reduced.

40.9 The Stomach Contains T1R3 Receptors, Which Detect Sugars and Amino Acids and Taste Sweet a Second Time

While experimenting with mice alongside a group from the University of Liverpool, UK, Margolskee showed that the sweet receptors that detect glucose in the intestines also react to artificial sweeteners and trigger a spike in insulin. The article (157) continues:

Sweet receptors, traditionally associated with just the mouth, were in the gut and essentially “tasting” the sugar a second time,’ says Anthony Sclafani, a behavioural neuroscientist at the City University of New York. This ‘second tasting’ triggers glucose transport into the cells and bloodstream, and the faster this happens, the more insulin will be released. ‘It’s an incredibly important finding for the control of blood sugar,’ he says, adding that it was surprising that artificial sweeteners, which were thought to influence only the tongue, also trigger changes in the gut.

It is a known fact that the Romans drank wine infused with bitter herbs to prime the appetite and prevent overeating. The authors speculate, ‘Stimulating bitter receptors in the gut could potentially be used to treat certain eating disorders.’

40.10 Nutrient Sensors in the Stomach that Are Separate from Taste Buds Can Detect Nutrients

There have been several other recent studies that have proven that mice, rats, and fruit flies all have sensors that are separate from taste buds and are capable of detecting nutrients. It isn’t simply that the sensation of satiety is reached, according to de Araujo. There is something more that is occurring as the animals are not reacting to the stomach stretching or to the release of hormones, including insulin, or to any other negative satiety indicators that signal the animals that they are full and should stop eating. The article states, ‘Rather, the signals that de Araujo and others in his field are studying seem to be positive, rewarding messages that help the animals learn to repeatedly choose nutritive options.’ The presence of the nutrient sensors in the stomach may help animals detect what’s nutritionally beneficial to eat even if the taste buds don’t quite get the message. Tony Sclafani, who directs the Feeding Behavior and Nutrition Laboratory at Brooklyn College said, ‘For example, the sensors could work for certain starches that don’t have strong flavors, but still offer useful calories for the body.’ But he cautions that ‘we’re still trying to figure out the mechanisms, let alone evolutionary meaning.’

40.12 Taste Buds in the Stomach Ensure Constructive Influences Occur Directly in the Gut

Dr Simpson (160) proceeds to explain that the taste buds in the stomach act to ensure that beneficial and constructive influences occur directly in the neighborhood of the gut without input from the cranial brain. The gut is acting as the local brain without relying on the cranial brain to make decisions. Regarding this, he explains further:

The taste buds present in the stomach and the first part of the intestine (duodenum), don’t provide a ‘taste’ sensation to the brain, but help prepare the body for the glucose that is coming. Glucose is the most important fuel of the body every cell uses it, every cell is dependent upon it. Because of that, there is an evolutionary advantage to absorbing glucose as rapidly as possible. The intestinal taste buds facilitate the transport of glucose from the intestine into the blood stream. There are cells that actively transport glucose into the bloodstream.

40.13 Artificial Sweeteners Cause Metabolic Confusion because No Calories Arrive

Artificial sweeteners do not help you lose weight because your body is not fooled by sweet taste without the accompanying calories. The 2014 article titled ‘How Artificial Sweeteners Confuse Your Body into Storing Fat and Inducing Diabetes’ (161) states:

When you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which activates your brain’s reward center. The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are ‘full’ once a certain amount of calories have been ingested. However, when you consume something that tastes sweet but doesn’t contain any calories, your brain’s pleasure pathway still gets activated by the sweet taste, but there’s nothing to deactivate it, since the calories never arrive.

Artificial sweeteners basically trick your body into thinking that it’s going to receive sugar (calories), but when the sugar doesn’t come, your body continues to signal that it needs more, which results in carb cravings.

Besides worsening insulin sensitivity and promoting weight gain, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners also promote other health problems associated with excessive sugar consumption, including: cardiovascular disease and stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Summary of Chapter 40

With reference to the 25th Difficult Issue of the Nan Ching, Ting Chin states, ‘It was said further that “the constructive [influences] emerge from the central burner”.’ Yü Shu states, ‘The stomach transforms the taste of food into influences which are transmitted from here upward to the lung.’ Research performed in 2007 by Robert Margolskee, professor of neuroscience, showed that the five known taste sensors have been found throughout the body away from the tongue. Amazingly, every taste-signalling receptor that is present in the tongue is also found in the gut enteroendocrine cells. The body cannot be tricked by industrial chemists, and it is now known that the taste receptors that sense sugar and artificial sweeteners are not limited to the tongue and that artificial sweeteners may not help with weight loss at all as they initiate the same biochemical responses as sugar does in the gut.

So what has modern science elucidated about ‘the constructive influences [that] emerge from the central burner’? The non-oral sensory receptors have been found in the Stomach and the Spleen (in the central burner). Interestingly, these taste receptors don’t provide a conscious sense of taste to the brain. Dr Osborne emphasized that taste receptors are intertwined with metabolic processes in very interesting ways that are only now beginning to be understood. Dr Osborne has shown that bitter substances stimulate secretion of gut peptides, such as cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon like peptide 1 (GLP-1). The bitter-stimulated release of CCK and GLP-1 induces vomiting, delays gastric emptying, and decreases hunger. This mechanism may prevent the ingestion of toxic food. These taste-signaling receptors are certainly performing a multipronged functional role, including integrating physiologic responses to digestion, regulating endocrine function, and regulating the secretion of insulin and hormones that regulate appetite. These taste receptors help prepare the body for the glucose that is coming. Glucose is the most important fuel of the body as every cell uses it and every cell is dependent upon it. In the Stomach, dedicated cells carrying the T1R3 receptor aids detection of both sugars and amino acids and secrete the hunger hormone ghrelin when they encounter carbohydrates and protein, encouraging eating when important nutrients are available.

Strangely, these taste receptors are also present in the airways, where they have an impact on respiration. The taste-influences of the grains certainly are determined by the nonoral sensory receptors, whereby the constructive influences occur. Subsequently, the stomach determines what proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are required to manufacture the blood or the Ying qi, reinforce the bones, or nourish the flesh and muscles, etc.

In the commentaries on the 14th Difficult Issue on page 190 of Unschuld’s (1) translation of the Nan Ching, Yü Shu states, ‘The spleen takes in the five tastes. It transforms them to produce the five influences [for the] depots and palaces, and to make flesh and skin grow. Here now because of the injury, the tastes are not transformed and, hence, the flesh becomes emaciated.’ Thus, it can be seen that the Spleen processes the five tastes and transforms them into biological influences to allow the organs of the body (depots and palaces) to manage their portfolio as Yü Shu shows here the Spleen’s portfolio is ‘to make flesh and skin grow’. Dr Simpson (160) mentioned above explained that ‘people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery for obesity . . . have bypassed these taste buds in the duodenum’ and lose large amounts of weight so that, in place of their former obesity, ‘the flesh becomes emaciated’.

This new scientific research is an important advance for the newly discovered and rapidly developing field of gastrointestinal chemosensation, a process whereby the cells of the gut detect and respond to sugars and numerous other nutrients derived from the drinks and the grains. Many unanswered questions are finally being answered since 2007 now that scientists and doctors have come up to speed with what TCM was aware of thousands of years ago. Now that biomedical researchers are aware that the ‘the spleen takes in the five tastes’ and ‘transforms them to produce the five influences for the depots and palaces’, what other ‘constructive influences that emerge from the central burner’ will be elucidated? In the next Chapter, I will discuss this matter further.

REFERENCES:

(1) Unschuld, P. U., Nan Ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues (e-book edn, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986), 771. With commentaries by Chinese and Japanese authors from the third through the twentieth century.

(156) Anonymous, ‘Can the Stomach Taste?’ (2011). Available from <http://doctorsofweightloss.com/can-the-stomach-taste-5122>

(157) Trivedi, B. P., ‘Neuroscience: Hardwired for Taste’, Nature, 486/7403 (2012).

(158) Mercola, J., ‘Studies Show Diet and Lifestyle Choices of Both Parents Have Multigenerational Health Effects’ (2014). Available from <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/12/29/parents-lifestyle-children-health.aspx?e_cid=20141229Z3_DNL_art_1&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20141229Z3&et_cid=DM63362&et_rid=780813295>.

(160) Simpson, T., ‘Taste Buds: In Your Tongue & Gut—Cats Can’t Taste Sweets’ (13 February 2013). Available from <http://www.yourdoctorsorders.com/2013/02/taste-buds-trigger-food-cravings/>.

(161) Mercola, J., ‘How Artificial Sweeteners Confuse Your Body into Storing Fat and Inducing Diabetes’ (2014). Available from <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/12/23/artificial-sweeteners-confuse-body.aspx?e_cid=20141223Z3_DNL_art_1&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20141223Z3&et_cid=DM62968&et_rid=773867334>.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

I wish to sincerely thank Dr Paul U. Unschuld for the selfless and tireless work he has committed to make many ancient Chinese medical classics available in English for study and research. My book is based predominantly around his scholarly work ‘Nan-Ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues’. I also wish to sincerely thank Professor Unschuld for permission to use citations of his translation in my book. His translation of ‘Nan-Ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues’ can be purchased from the following link: https://www.amazon.com/Nan-ching_The-Classic-Difficult-Comparative-Studies/dp/0520053729

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