Digestion, in Chinese medicine, is vital for good health and immunity. We should remember that it’s just not the kinds of food we eat, but what we digest that matters for well-being. Imagine, for a moment, that your stomach is a boiling kettle generating heat from below in order to breakdown food to absorb all the essential nutrients from the food. The intensity of the fire strength determines how well this metabolic process functions. A weak digestive fire will not be able to fully derive the full benefits that we need from food. Moreover, in Chinese medicine, metabolic waste in the form of phlegm or dampness can arise due to incomplete or poor digestion.
Here are some helpful tips to consider:
• Organic, fresh steamed or lightly cooked vegetables are recommended to improve digestive fire. Animal based proteins such as lean meat and legumes should be thoroughly cooked in soups or stews. You also can consider adequate amounts of whole grains for fiber. These include oats, millet, quinoa or brown rice.
• Eliminate or at least limit intake of known allergic-causing and hard-to-digest foods. They can include wheat products, sweeteners, dairy products, and refined oils and sugars. It may take a bit of searching and adjustments to discover and get used to eating really good alternatives seeing that the above foods are what actually comprise the standard American diet. Sources for good and healthy sugars include raw natural can juice sugar, maple syrup in small amounts, barley malt extract, rice syrup, and Stevia extract, that you can purchase in your local health food stores. Instead of wheat products, try brown rice pasta, corn, millet, oats, rice cakes, or rye bread. Instead of dairy products, try sheep or goat cheese and dairy, almond milk, rice milk, and organic soy.
• Do not take late night meals and do not over eat. Eat until you’re about 67% full. You may feel sluggish or sleepy if you eat beyond this point. The digestive is at its weakest point at this time according to Chinese Medicine. Your last meal should be three hours before you sleep.
• In winter, it’s recommended that you not eat raw foods. The reason for this is that raw food is very cooling and can extinguish the digestive fire when it’s eaten in huge amounts in winter. To preserve the natural enzymes, cook or lightly steam your veggies. The foods easiest to digest are the ones served as soups, gruels, and stews.
• Prior to and after eating, tune into how you are feeling. Doing so can help make you become more aware of the right food choices. When you do this on a regular basis, it will eventually develop in you a natural craving for foods that make you truly nourished. Food choices are usually dictated by your subconscious which often seeks food for gratification rather than for nourishment.
• When it’s time to eat, focus only on eating and do not get distracted by other factors such as arguments, work, or TV. Enjoy the company you are with and on your eating.
Some important notes to add: During meal times, keep proteins separate from fruits and sugar. The harder it will be to digest your meal when it’s more complex and loaded with various kinds of proteins and ingredients. Emphasis on proteins derived from lean meat or legumes and fresh organic veggies.
• In the morning, it’s important to activate your gastrointestinal system. Thirty minutes before breakfast or first thing in the morning, drink a cup of warm lemon water. This will help prepare your digestive system for the coming daily meals.
• Go out and exercise. The digestive process, circulation and peristalsis can improve vastly with light physical exercise, especially walking.
Green Super Foods – These types of foods can cleanse the body of toxins and balance body acidity. Green super foods are very rich in essential nutrition that nourish and restore normal cell function. They can be combined with meals one to two times a day. Spirulina, wild blue-green algae, alfalfa, barley grass, and chlorella are some examples of these useful greens.
Digestive enzymes – These enzymes can decrease metabolic wastes and boost the assimilation of nutrients. A full spectrum digestive enzyme is recommended to be taken with each meal.
Probiotics –Probiotic products are important in assimilating nutrients from our food and can create good intestinal flora. The last part is very important especially after you’ve been given antibiotics. Spore based probiotics such as L Sporogenes and B. laterosporus as well as Acidophilus can help destroy parasites and yeasts. Take probiotics first thing in the morning or before going to bed.