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Top tips for digestive health

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Your digestive system is central to your overall well-being and may impact your mental and physical well-being, if it is imbalanced or not supported adequately, just as your mental and physical load can impact your digestive function and how it transforms and transports nutrients around the body.

Our top tips for a healthy digestive function are:

1. Eat warm nourishing whole foods; your plate should be loaded with lots of colourful fresh cooked vegetables and small amounts of meat, grains, and good fats, remember to think about the rainbow when plating your meals for a quick point of balance. In the Winter especially, we need to avoid cold, dry, and raw foods, so juicing and big salads are out! Warm broths, stews, soups and if you must do salad, try warm salads adding roasted vegetables and cooked meats. Warm meals, with texture and colour variety, normally provide your body with all of what it needs, leaving you feeling more satisfied with your meal and less inclined to lean into sweet things after your meal. Sweet food cravings after a meal are a sign your digestive function is lacking something or is overloaded and needs some more support.

2. Avoid processed foods, processed sugars, and excessive amounts of alcohol and coffee. These foods can create an accumulation of what Chinese medicine terms ‘exterior evils’, these are damp, wind, cold, heat, fire, and dryness. When these pathogenic evils accumulate in the body it can disturb our body's abilities to digest optimally, as well as clear waste, continuing the cycle of depletion.

3. Eating meals at times when our body can optimally digest our food. These are our daylight hours when our Yang energy is abundant. Avoiding eating dinner too late can ensure that your body has completed all of its Yang digestive tasks before it settles into its Yin phase of restoration in the evenings. Also, remember not to eat on the go or when we are stressed or in a busy mindset. Step away from your tasks and allow your body the space to do its digestive jobs without any other distractions.

4. Gentle daily movement keeps the qi flowing throughout our bodies, stagnant qi can mean our digestive system (Spleen and Stomach qi) isn’t having an optimal flow of qi to do its function of transforming and transporting gu qi (food qi) across the body. But we also need to be mindful of our input and output. Sometimes a heavy-duty high-impact cardio or gym workout isn’t what our body needs at the end of the day and just exhausts our qi further, rather than supporting it, especially if we have had a mentally or physically draining day. Opting for gentle walking and stretching for 30-40mins can often be more optimal for your well-being. The best stretching for the digestive function is twisting or bending through the middle of your body; your Liver will thank you for some simple twisting over the day, especially if you are stressed!

5. Managing your stress levels is really important for digestive health, when we are stressed, our body activates the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) which means it shuts down our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). This parasympathetic state is needed for our body to heal and optimise digestion.

6. Incorporate mindfulness or breath-work practices into your day. These practices are the key to winding down the sympathetic nervous system mentioned above. So, take a few deep breaths before you eat or take a little stroll outside for some fresh air to walk peacefully and mindfully, especially before you eat. And, if you can make it happen, lying down for 5-10 minutes doing some mindful breathing between 1-3 pm when our Liver energy is under its biggest strain, can support the blood flow back to the Liver and help you get through the day more mindfully and less agitated, and may even help those sleepy afternoon feelings after eating!

Give us a shout if you have any more questions about your digestive health and how acupuncture and herbs alongside lifestyle tips like this can keep your body working optimally.

If your digestive function isn't working great, or your mood feels a bit off and stress is high, making a booking with one of our acupuncturists can be a step in the right direction to get things back on track.

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