The age-old philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offer some interesting insights into how our digestive system works and how we can keep it functioning well.
I’m a big believer in using many of the different health theories out there and adapting them to suit each person individually.
TCM theory is such that our stomach and spleen drive our digestive function and that gastrointestinal problems are from disharmony in these organs. This disharmony include symptoms of indigestion, nausea, bloating, burping, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
In TCM, these problems are traditionally treated with herbal tonics from TCM brands, which work together to improve function and harmonize the stomach and spleen. They improve our breaking down of food and also then our absorption of vital nutrients.
Don’t Forget Your Liver & Gall Bladder
The liver and gall bladder are especially important to keep digestion working smoothly. In Western Medicine, we consider these organs as where fats are processed in our body. However in TCM, the liver is also vital to digestive function and a weak liver has a knock-on effect throughout our digestion such as indigestion and nausea.
Similarly our gall bladder transports bile, and any disharmony here ( or if you’ve had it removed,) can cause bad effects on the small intestine which needs bile to digest fats properly.
TCM Liver & Gall Bladder Tonics
In TCM, Liver disharmony is often treated by Chinese herbs, that help to regulate the flow of Qi and Blood, stimulate the production of bile, and enhance the body’s processes of waste elimination. In a nutshell some of these tend to be ‘bitter herbs’ and we can achieve the same thing by eating bitter foods in our Western diet.
Sadly, many people don’t know about the importance of eating bitter foods and never associate this ‘bitter taste’ with better digestion. In reality, this is magic for our health!
So What Are Bitter Foods & How Do You Eat Them?
Bitter foods include:
Rocket, dandelion, amaranth greens, arugula, kale, mustard greens, watercress, chicory, chard, artichokes, green tea, apple cider vinegar, cranberries, lemon juice, grapefruit juice.
Now obviously these taste bitter, which for some can be… well too bitter! So increase slowly and know that if your palette is accustomed to sweet foods, sugar, carbs and a processed diet, it will be a case of ‘re-training- your taste buds to enjoy bitters. Won’t take long though, your taste buds have just been spoilt on a poor diet.
Try this universal recipe to start adding bitter greens to your meals.
Lightly sauté greens with a small amount of salt and fat. Adding sea salt and high quality oil when cooking reduces bitterness, enhances digestibility, and even releases nutrients for easy absorption. Eat this side with a piece of Salmon, organic pasture ‘fed’ roast or grilled chicken or even have with an omelette.
Do You Know About Body ‘Dampness?’
‘Dampness’ is a traditional term used in TCM, for when our body’s environment goes off balance. Body ‘dampness’ can cause thriving yeast or candida, fungal nail, diarrhea and tiredness and weight gain among other symptoms. The other side of the coin TCM talks about is body ‘heat’ but that’s for another post.
So bitter foods have a cooling effect on the body and help to dry ‘Dampness’ within the body. Bitters work by helping to stimulate the gut and may be particularly beneficial when liver function is sluggish and this is often the case given the processed foods and stress of our Western lifestyles.
A Great Motivation To Eat Bitter Greens
They’ll balance your taste buds and reduce cravings.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, we need to eat foods which include all tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. Our Western diet slips are here though, focusing on sweet and salty tastes only. When we eat bitter food though we activate all of our taste buds and this helps to reduce cravings and helps with weight loss.
Don’t Forget About Probiotics, Which Also Help To Normalize Healthy Bowel Function
Many gastrointestinal issues are caused or accompanied by disruption of the population of healthy bacteria that are naturally present in the human bowel. Taking a probiotic supplement may help to support healthy intestinal function, including helping to normalize the frequency and characteristics of bowel motions.
I hope this helps you, please don’t hesitate to ask question and share this post to help others too 🙂
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