Starting with your digestive health is, I believe the simplest and most effective way to go about restoring your health and then maintaining it long term.
Having good digestive health doesn’t have to involve the latest ‘super food’, diet or shakes (this may work for you and that’s great) but it does need to be something that’s relatively easy and something you can sustain past February.
Here is a very brief explanation of what digestion involves in Chinese Med and why so many schools of Chinese Med sees digestion as the starting point of good health and energy:
Food comes in, gets processed by the Stomach (Capital letters denotes the Chinese Med organ function, not always the same as the Western Med function), the Spleen takes the nutrients from the food, turns it into Qi and blood, separates the unwanted waste and sends it down to the intestines to be disposed of. Meanwhile, the Qi and blood get sent around the body so our other Organs can do their job and so we can feel great!
It makes sense then, that you need a happy functioning Spleen and digestive organs for the rest of the body to do its job right??
Foods to avoid for a happy Spleen, good digestion and overall health include:
- COLD food straight from the fridge (the Spleen has to add the extra step of warming it up to body temp before it can be processed)
- RAW food like salads (a little is ok in summer but otherwise this is an extra step of breaking it down that cooking would normally do)
- SWEET food (including a large amount of fruit and honey, as well as the usual culprits)
- DAIRY (ok in small amounts but too much creates mucus and that impairs the digestive process)
What happens when we consistently indulge in too much of the above foods?
The Spleen and digestive system slow, the sludgy waste isn’t being eliminated as much and starts to build up in the body (we call this Dampness) which makes it even harder for the Spleen to do its work. – It’s like someone trying to go for a run in a swamp – difficult! – This means that much less Qi and blood are being made, digestion gets out of whack, our energy is low and our bodies are feeling very ordinary!
What to do?!
- LIMIT food & drinks, even in summer, switch to room temp water, leave refrigerated food on the bench for at least 10 mins before eating
- COOK your veggies! Wilt your spinach, steam your snow peas, have cooked and cooled pumpkin. The occasional salad on really hot days is ok, otherwise its just hard work for the body
- ELIMINATE sugar, (as much as possible!) forgo the tim tams and read labels in the supermarket. There’s an ASTONISHING amount of sugar added to packaged foods! Fruit is great, just not to overindulge on
- And dairy, you delicious thing! REDUCE it for a little while and see how you feel. Has that phlegm in your nose throat or chest eased up? Everyone is different in terms of how much they can tolerate. Up your calcium intake from canned fish, kale, broccoli, almonds, nut milk, just please no soy milk!
These are the things that can make your Spleen, digestive system and whole body either very happy or very unhappy. Sometimes simple really is best and if it can mean better digestion, more energy and a healthier you then I’d say its well worth the effort!
Like any changes, start small, be kind to yourself about your progress, keep going and take note of how you feel. It’s your health and it starts here!