How well you digest and process food is an important determinant of your overall health. In Chinese medicine the digestive organs (Stomach and Spleen) digest, absorb, transport and transform food into Qi, our vital energy, and Blood. In turn, Qi and Blood nourish the body and support all other bodily functions.
Most people are used to living with some bloating, indigestion or irregular bowel movements. These symptoms are indicative of an imbalance in your digestive system and should be remedied to help you experience full health and vitality.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help to heal your digestive system and restore it to good working order. There are also a number of things you can do to support optimal digestive health.
~ Eat mindfully. We’re all guilty of scoffing a snack at work or eating in front of the tv, but eating when distracted can lead to poor food choices and overeating. Concentrating on one thing at a time allows us to fully appreciate our meal and recognise when we’ve had enough.
~ Practice Hara Hachi Bu, or “eat until you are 8 parts full”. The people of Okinawa in Japan practice this philosophy, and are some of the most long-lived people on Earth. Stopping before you’re stuffed allows your digestive system to extract the goodness from food without being overwhelmed and overworked.
~ Eat a healthy diet. Emphasise nutrient dense foods such as vegetables and fruit, eggs, meat and wholegrains.
~ Eat for the season. The body is warm, and too much raw or cold food can increase the burden on your digestive system. Avoid salads and cold drinks when the weather is cold. Lightly stir-fried or blanched vegetables are great for Spring. Add some pungent spices such as fennel, rosemary, bay and dill to regulate the Qi and enhance digestion.
~ Reduce and manage stress. Stress and unresolved emotions stagnate the Qi of the body, which in turn blocks the function of the digestive system. Regular physical activity moves and invigorates the Qi and can help with stress management. I’ve written about the stress-reducing benefits of meditation here.