Many people who come to see us at the clinic are surprised that we ask about their digestion so frequently.
"I'm coming in for back pain...why do you care what my digestion is like?"
Digestive irregularities like gas, bloating, acid reflux, heartburn, and irregular bowel movements can affect our mood, energy levels, relationships, and can be a sign of other health issues!
Here are a few TCM tips to help you de-stress your gut!
1. The MOST important rule in TCM Food Therapy: Cook your food!
Your digestive system is like a campfire. You need to supply it with the proper kindling to keep it roaring! Now that's not to say that we should be eating dry, rough sticks and twigs.. but eating raw, cold food is kind of like throwing wet leaves on that campfire. It takes more energy for your body to heat up and break down the cold, raw foods which then can make it less efficient at absorbing the nutrients. Cooking your foods (roasting, baking, sautéing) can make it easier to digest foods so that you can optimize nutrient absorption.
2. Eat what makes you feel good!
We often eat what SOUNDS good, or what we are told is "good for us" and not necessarily what FEELS good for our body. If you have noticed that eating certain types of foods always leaves you feeling bloated, gassy, or crampy afterward.. skip that food! That is your body's way of saying "Hey!!! There's something funky here... I don't want this!". That doesn't mean you can NEVER have that food again... it might just mean that there is some inflammation in your digestive tract somewhere that needs to heal before you can eat that type of food. Even some foods that are considered to be "healthy", like salads, raw vegetables, milk and yogurt, etc, can cause major discomfort in our digestive system. If you have inflammation in your stomach or intestines, you might not be absorbing the nutrients properly. This is where cooking those vegetables and avoiding raw, cold foods can be helpful. Food allergies and sensitivities should always be approached with caution, however. If a food makes you feel itchy, wheezy, or like your mouth and throat feel swollen.. definitely avoid it and get that checked out by your doctor!
3. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods if you often feel hot and irritable.
Alcohol and spicy foods like peppers, hot sauce, onions, cinnamon, ginger and clove are very warming and moving. If you find that you have hot flashes or night sweats, sudden irritability, dry skin, constipation, or trouble falling or staying asleep because your body feels too warm or restless, avoid these kinds of foods!
4. What if you tend toward looser stools?
Loose stools are also a sign that something is off in your digestive tract! Especially if you're having diarrhea with pieces of undigested food in it! In TCM we look at this as a sign of "Yang Deficiency". Your Yang side of digestion is responsible for cooking/breaking down the food and making sure that it is moving properly through your intestines, not too fast, not too slow. In these cases, neutral and warm foods are helpful, such as ginger, white rice, oats, cinnamon, chicken, sweet potato, pumpkin, root vegetables, soups, and tangerine peel tea.
6. Abdominal massage and Acupressure points!
There are several acupressure points that can help support healthy digestion!
1. Zu San Li: If you measure 4 finger widths down from your kneecap, and one finger width to the outer side of your tibia, there should be a tender spot in the muscle. This point is really great for digestive health. Press gently and massage in a circular motion. Try to make these circular motions about 100 times.
2. Qu Chi: If you put your thumb in the middle of the inner crease of your elbow, and your middle finger on the tip of your elbow, you can find the spot in the middle with your index finger. If you really dig your finger into this soft area of tissue, it might feel a little tender. This is a great point if you are feeling bloated and backed up.
3. Abdominal Massage: Place your hand half way between your pubic bone and belly button, press firmly but not so hard that it hurts, and slide your hand to your right side of your abdomen, up toward the bottom of your ribs, over to the left side of your abdomen, and down toward your left hip bone. This follows the general direction of movement through your large intestine. If you are feeling backed up, this movement can help get things going. If it feels painful, reduce pressure. As always, listen to your body! If you feel like something is off and needs to be checked out by a doctor, get it checked out!
If you have questions or need a little extra help with your digestive health, give us a call! Acupuncture, cupping, and herbal formulas can be incredibly helpful at reducing digestive discomfort and helping to heal your gut!