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Five Tips for Healthy Digestion (TCM)

1. Eat More Cooked Foods

In Chinese medicine, there is an understanding that cold-natured and cooling foods will cool your digestive fire and therefore bog down your metabolism.

Here is why: All food that enters our mouths has to be broken down in order for our bodies to use it. This digestive Qi (enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bacteria, bile), has to do so much more work when we consume raw and cold foods. Eating foods that are at body temperature or higher puts less stress on your Spleen and Stomach, which in turn helps your body to better use the nutrients in the food you've eaten.

By initiating the process of breaking down raw food, cooking aids our bodies in assimilating the nutrients in our food.

2. Eat with the Seasons

It's almost as if the Creator of your body also designed the foods that grow in each season to be best for your digestion at the time of harvest. Salads and fruits are cooling and best eaten during warm seasons. Root vegetables and warming/heating herbs such as onion, ginger, and garlic are best when it's cold outside and our bodies are longing for warmth.

Letting the seasons guide your food choices is an excellent way to support healthy digestion.

3. Drink Warm Drinks!

I know some of you are cringing at this, and others of you are thinking of a time you've laughed at my microwaved glass of drinking water. I've done this for ages, long before I began studying the ancient healing systems of the world. I'll admit that I felt vindicated when I learned that those healing systems (TCM, Ayurveda) discourage drinking iced and cold drinks, with the understanding that they dampen our digestive fires.

Can't stand the thought of heating your beverages? Consider room-temperature drinks instead. You'll still be doing your Digestive Qi a favor.

4. Limit Damp Foods

This is really the first rule of Digestion Club. And yes, we can talk about it. Foods that fall into the "Damp" (or Damp-Producing) category will cause Qi to stagnate. Stagnate Qi means slower and reduced digestive energy. Slower and reduced digestive energy is boggy. It will leave you feeling heavy and lethargic. It can cause bloating and constipation. Over time, it can actually contribute to a person being overweight.

Examples of Damp-producing foods? Cold, raw vegetables and fruits, juices, iced drinks, ice cream and frozen yogurt, conventional dairy (including yogurt), salads, smoothies, processed carbohydrates (packaged foods), sugar, fried foods.

Did I just steal your joy? Think on this: Pasture-raised proteins and cooked vegetables are very easy on the digestive system, preserving Digestive Qi (energy) and aiding in the body's assimilation of nutrients. This is, after all, the purpose of eating: to provide the body with nutrients, which then in turn, become energy.

5. Move Your Qi

When we lived in Germany, we adopted the local tradition of taking a walk after our evening meal. This habit has stayed with us throughout the many years and moves since. (Having dogs helps!)

There is a connection between digestive health and gentle movement. Work with me here: In TCM one of the Liver's main jobs is to "ensure the smooth and regular flow of Qi (energy)." When Liver Qi is stagnant, it works negatively against the Qi of the Spleen and the Stomach, both of which are necessary for healthy digestion. Regular, gentle exercise helps spread Liver Qi and protects against a cascade of unwanted consequences, both digestive and emotional.

In short, gentle movement after eating helps spread Liver Qi. Happier Liver Qi makes for a happier digestive system. As a bonus, free-flowing Liver Qi helps us regulate our emotions and moods.

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