Good Gut Feeling: Digestive Health
by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
Let’s look at our good gut feeling through the eyes of Chinese Medicine. Gut problems are awful. They can be painful, embarrassing, cause terrible bloating, ruin your confidence and worse. Severe problems cause great deterioration in health and can be life threatening. When the digestive system is upset we are unable to absorb vital nutrients and become weak and vulnerable to further imbalances and illnesses.
The best way to avoid gut problems is to eat according to your needs. It is not simply the food that we eat that affects our guts but our emotions and how we are at the time of eating and the timing of our meals.
Worry and stress really wreak our guts. In Chinese medicine worry is said to knot the spleen qi. This manifests as a sluggish uncomfortable digestive system, slow sticky bowel movements and a feeling of bloating after eating. Anger and resentment and frustration affect the liver energy and this can affect the digestion causing intermittent hard or loose stools with urgency or pain and bloating.
Relaxation and enjoyment are a key part to good digestion. A relaxed body will digest food more easily and will be open to nourishment. One of the key messages for a good gut is to slow down, stop worrying and enjoy your food.
Less is more and it is important not to overeat. The most important thing we can do to support our gut health is to limit how much we eat. An overburdened digestive system becomes sluggish. Eating good quality food is satisfying and it is easier to eat less when it tastes satisfying and nutritious.
The timing of when we eat is important. The digestive energy is strongest in the morning and weakest in the evening. It follows that we should eat most of our food earlier in the day, if this isn't easy at least eat well mid-morning and again at lunchtime. Reducing the quantity and lateness of the evening meal is pivotal in supporting our health.
According to Chinese Medicine, digestion is a warm process dependent upon the yang of the spleen. This means that too much raw or cold food weakens this fire. Mix raw and cooked foods and use warming sauces and dressings such as mustard, garlic or chilli to counter the cold nature of some foods.
When problems seem not to respond to dietary changes acupuncture is incredibly effective. It treats the symptoms and the root cause together. It has a good effect on many problems including nausea, IBS, excessive appetite, and bloating. It calms and relaxes and helps us to deal with locked-in emotions.
Your gut health is telling you what is happening to your body. Heed it and listen. Observe how you feel after certain foods or situations, you may be fine at the weekend away from work, or tired after eating late the night before. Your Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner will help you to unravel any tricky areas and support you to make changes.