Your digestion and your sense of well-being are more closely connected than you may think
What exactly is digestion? In scientific terms it is the process of ingesting food and breaking it down. However digestion also pertains to life. How do we understand and process our life experiences mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Your digestion easily gets disturbed by stress, travel, work pressures, infrequent meals, over eating, and hormonal shifts. Almost everyone at some point of their life has experienced digestive disorders and problems, even if they were short-lived.
Many people today experience sensitivity to gluten and dairy. Some people find that they must completely eliminate certain types of food from their diet, while others find that they have to moderate their intake of foods which irritate their system. Each individual must discover through trial and error what diet is most appropriate for them. You need to study your own needs and digestive response so that you can feel better, enjoy life more, and stay connected with the people you love because when your digestion is functioning well you have higher levels of energy.
Here are some simple and general ways to boost your digestion
- Stay hydrated with water or your favourite herbal teas; Adding lemon or orange slices gives water a refreshing, cost-effective makeover
- Eat the colours of the rainbow and sometimes you do need to supplement; For example, you can exchange white potatoes for purple ones; add beetroot to your diet or try exotic vegetables and fruits
- Make sure you have enough fibre and exercise in your diet; walking is great for centering, but you should also include higher intensity workouts to stimulate your system
- Eat regular meals at reasonable intervals; (this varies between individuals, so find your ideal)
- Consider adding probiotics and turmeric
- Pay attention to your response to different foods and most importantly monitor your levels of stress. Sometimes people believe that they have certain food intolerances, but it often has more to do with the stress that they are experiencing in their life at that moment.
Chinese Medicine and Digestion
Most of us turn to over the counter remedies when we are in a slump, whether for heartburn, constipation, diarrhoea, or bloating. While these provide immediate relief and have their place, it is important to understand why your digestive disorders and problems originate in the first place. Inflammation often contributes to conditions such as food poisoning, IBS, bloating, constipation, ulcerative colitis, or gas.
Some common symptoms related to digestive disorders include:
- Sleep disturbances
- PMS and PMDD
- Partial immobility due to injury
- Mental health and well being
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) affirms that food is medicine, as well as lifestyle. Simply waking up an hour earlier than you normally do, taking time to drink your morning coffee, chai tea, or chia seed smoothie can set the tone for your entire day. Incorporating a Qi Gong, yoga, or dance practice, or playing fetch with your labrador can do wonders for your digestion. Set health goals within the context of community and enlist the help of your friends or family to eat more consciously and exercise more regularly.
Your practitioner can also work with you to help you achieve your goals. Within the framework of holistic medicine it is always important to remember that you are not the sum and total of your problems. Difficult digestion and digestive disorders are just one facet of your health. With our tools of herbal medicine and acupuncture we can help you achieve optimal health.
Nelly, a solicitor, was 32 when she came to our clinic. For the last few years she had been bothered by her levels of stress and the effect on her digestion. She had IBS and was prone to constipation. We discussed her diet which was mostly takeaway soups, salads and grilled meat… and her eating habits where she usually ate quickly between meetings or when she remembered to eat. We talked about varying her diet, increasing her fibre, including more seeds in her diet and eating more regularly. She also started taking a customised herbal formula for her stress and constipation. Over a three month period these changes, plus acupuncture helped her digestion improve dramatically. Nelly still comes in for occasional treatments and continues to work on her diet. She has recently taken a keen interest in gardening and cooking.
Fred and Anita are in their early 60’s and own a restaurant. They have five children, eight grandchildren and food is a central theme in their personal and professional lives. The couple expressed the desire to lose weight. Fred had recently had bypass surgery so Anita had taken an interest in healthy low fat cooking, and encouraged Fred to exercise with her. Because the couple had an extremely busy work schedule they decided to rely on Chinese Herbal Medicine and come to the clinic only when they needed to modify their herbal formulas. However, over the course of the year, Fred and Anita’s dedication began to show in their healthier weight, reduced cholesterol levels and more active lifestyle.
While these results cannot be generalised or exactly reproduced, this example gives readers an idea of what Chinese Medicine can do.