2016 is flying by- it’s already March in a week, and autumn is just around the corner. It’s hard to believe, since this summer’s felt never-ending with the incredibly hot and humid days and nights here in Sydney.
The past few weeks, compromised digestive health has been a chief complaint for many of my clients, including signs and symptoms which may initially appear unrelated.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) late summers are governed by the Earth element, which is connected to the Stomach and Spleen in our body. It is during this time that our digestive system can get overwhelmed with the ongoing damp and humid weather, possibly making us feel foggy and slow, in body and mind.
The health of the stomach and spleen determines how we nourish and nurture ourselves, and helps us transform food and drink into Qi (life force) for mental and physical vitality. If the stomach and spleen are upset we may feel off food altogether, interpreting our hunger as nausea. Or we may obsess over it, never attaining satisfaction- either losing so much weight that we become anaemic and look almost emaciated, or retaining fluids and bloating up like a balloon, for no apparent reason at all.
On a mental and emotional level, when the functions of the stomach and spleen are compromised, we can feel completely stuck. We may go round and round in our minds overanalysing, or feeling like we are drowning in quicksand. In the end, our overthinking usually only adds to our feeling paralysed, heavy and foggy.
The ancient Chinese Medicine practitioners thousands of years ago were wise to call the spleen “The Palace of Thought”. Theyshutterstock_133686962 knew then that our clarity of thought depended on a well functioning digestive system.
On a spiritual level, this organ pair system helps us digest life’s experiences and absorb and assimilate valuable lessons, transforming our food and our thoughts into nutritious energy for body and mind.
If you see yourself in any of this, it’s important to keep in mind that the stomach and spleen are especially reliant upon our ‘digestive fire’ to help break down and transform whatever we need to digest.
Here are some tips to maintain your digestive fire- to fuel you with plenty of energy and clarity for the day:
Keep your meals at regular and consistent times as much as possible and avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast!
The stomach is at peak performance between 7-9am every day. This is the best time to have your breakfast, and a warm meal to start the day is best. Avoid cold smoothies or raw fruit juices in the morning.
If your digestion is very poor (ie you are often bloated, experience tiredness and fogginess, or have diarrhoea and/or constipation regularly), try to cut out all raw and cold foods and drinks. For a couple of weeks at least try eating and drinking only warm foods and drinks and see how you feel!
Try to avoid specific foods and drinks that the stomach and spleen do not generally enjoy: dairy foods besides butter, most fruit especially citrus, white flour products, beer, processed foods and unnatural sweets.
Try to stick to what the stomach and spleen enjoy: most beans and legumes especially if prepared well (soaked overnight and cooked with seaweed to facilitate digestibility- and yes do avoid canned beans), pumpkin, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric, chicken, apples and pears (especially when cooked/stewed).
If you feel stuck it’s good to move- though don’t overanalyse how! Go for a run, do yoga, pilates or simply jump up and down for a bit; the ‘Chicken Walk’ especially promotes qi and blood flow to the spleen and stomach meridians- but if you feel too silly doing that you can do squats instead 😉
These are of course only a few broad suggestions. Remember they’re just guidelines and may not be tailored perfectly for your specific needs. There is no harm in trying them but if you find your symptoms persist I do recommend getting to the bottom of it with your health practitioner.
If you have any questions, please ask in the comments section or feel free to contact me directly.