East Asian Medicine: 5 Ways to Improve Digestion Right Now
One path to health and wellness is through a happy belly. Here are five ways to improve digestion right now. From the East Asian Medicine (EAM) perspective, a focus on healthy digestion was the central tenet of a whole school within the medicine. They felt poor diet and/or digestion held significant influence in all disease. Here are some recommendations to strengthen and maintain optimal digestion, prevent disease, and feel better!
1. Ditch the ice.
If you are from the southern region of the US like me, I never met a drink that doesn’t taste better with a couple of ice cubes in it. EAM theory says cold and uncooked foods undermine your digestion’s efficiency. Choose warm or room temperature foods and drink hot or room temperature beverages over refrigerated, cold, or icy foods and/or drinks. Before there was modern research to confirm this, Chinese physicians observed that over time, consuming icy or refrigerated foods and drinks impaired digestion so much that it lead to other weakness or disease.
2. Cooked over raw.
This one always causes my students and patients to balk, and with good reason. There is a huge raw food movement in the US. However, EAM theory recommends cooked vegetables and foods over raw. This is because, like cold and icy drinks or foods, it takes more resources to digest raw foods. This flies straight in the face of the raw food movement. But, I can see how for a temporary period, raw food might make someone feel better. However, over the long term, it is not recommended. If you love salads, try grilling your romaine or warm salads.
3. Limit sugar.
This is surprising to no one. While it tastes so sweet, eating too much sugar is not healthy as it promotes inflammation and can lead to increased pain in chronic pain sufferers. It also undermines the digestive process and negatively affects how your metabolizes insulin, leading to insulin insensitivity, and eventually setting the stage for diabetes. Sugar comes in many forms, so it is important to read labels and limit excess simple carbohydrates and excessive amounts of complex carbs. Eat real food, not food that is processed, comes ready to eat out of a box, plastic container, or can.
4. No fourth meal.
Rich, heavy meals, especially fast food or fried foods late at night, undermine digestion. They overwhelm the digestion with a glut of difficult to assimilate nutrients, as well as cause reflux and heartburn. From an EAM perspective, they also cause the digestion to weaken, leading to poor appetite, sugar cravings, feelings of fullness, and inefficient digestion when one does eat.
5. Spirits in moderation.
Alcohol in moderation is actually good for the joints and heart health, but like all things, moderation is the key to supporting health and wellness. You may notice when you drink too much alcohol that you feel warm at night or don’t sleep as well. As to digestion, too much alcohol can lead to loose stools and abdominal discomfort. Over the long term, this limits your nutrient absorption and affects overall health and wellness.
Try these recommendations for seven days, and let me know how you feel.