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Digestion: It's not just about what you eat

In Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM for short), your digestive organs play a huge role in your overall health. If they aren’t happy and in proper working order, you will most likely have some other issues. It might be something seemingly insignificant like bruising easily or seasonal allergies, or it could be something more impactful on your life like IBS or migraines.

On the surface, some of these things may not seem to be connected to the state of your digestive system, but in TEAM we view all the systems of your body working together. When one piece of the puzzle isn't working properly, other pieces are affected. 

TEAM is all about creating balance in the body. When there is not enough of something, you add to it. When there is too much, you reduce. If it’s too warm, cool it down. If it’s too cold, warm it up. To keep our bodies healthy we need to find balance, and we can do that not only with the foods we eat, but HOW we eat. That is what I’m going to focus on in this post.

So let’s get back to the inner workings of the digestive system for a moment. Just like most of us, our digestive system is happiest when it has to do the least amount of work. The more work it has to do to break down the foods you eat, the more energy is taken away from other things your body needs to do. Your digestive system likes warm things, and it likes them a little broken down so that it can easily turn that food into fuel for your body without doing a lot of extra work. 

Here are some things you can do to support your digestion:

  • Chew your food thoroughly. One simple way that you can help kick-start the digestion process is to chew your food well. Not only are you physically breaking up the food when you chew it, there are also enzymes in your saliva that chemically break down food into smaller pieces that are more easily digested in your gut. 
  • Keep the ice out of your drinks. Extremely cold things can be damaging to your digestive system. Even on hot summer days, stick to room temperature water/beverages. (This goes for food too, but I will talk more about that in the next post!)
  • Be mindful when you eat. Sit down, make a plate for yourself, and enjoy your food. When your body is relaxed, there is adequate blood flow to your gut and your body will have more energy to focus on properly digesting your food. Eating on the run, or eating in a highly charged emotional state (such as fear or anger) prevents that from happening.

We can receive more nourishment from our food when we focus on how we eat, as well as what we eat. By incorporating some of the above tips in your life, you may notice less bloating or heartburn after eating. In the long run, you will absorb more nutrients from the food you eat and your digestive system will be happier because it is less stressed.

In the next post, I will talk more about what to eat (and avoid) to keep your digestion happy and in optimum health.

Until then, be mindful at mealtime. Notice how you feel before, during, and after you eat. Are you eating slowly and enjoying your food? Are you eating in a calm emotional state? Are you chewing thoroughly? Simply check in without judgement, and enjoy every bite!