Digestion: The Boiling Pot

“Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea!” -Pepto Bismol

Do you find yourself reaching for that bottle of pink liquid that tastes of sadness? Do you find yourself popping so many Tums that you might one day poop chalk? If you said yes to either of these questions, then this is the article for you!

Most Americans suffer from heartburn, gas, bloating and indigestion because of the aptly named SAD diet. SAD stands for Standard American Diet. This unhealthy diet consists of high fats, low fiber, and a lot, and I mean A LOT of processed foods.  The human body is a great and highly efficient machine. But you throw enough junk into a machine, it will grind to a halt and make a great mess of noise (yes, I am making a farting reference) in the process. Not only are you feeling gassy and bloated, you may have constipation or diarrhea, bad breath, bad body odor, acne, etc.

Now you find yourself asking, “Well, should I be a vegan then? Should I go on a raw diet?” Before answering that question, we must look at how digestion works under the scope of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine views digestion like a boiling pot of water with a steady fire heating it underneath. The boiling pot of water is the stomach and the steady fire underneath is the Spleen. Digestion is optimal when the pot is in a constant rolling boil and the fire is consistent and strong. But when you mess with either, you end up reaching for the pink bottle of sadness.

First, lets look at how we could end up messing with the boiling pot, the stomach. Have you ever brought a pot of water to a boil and then accidentally kill that boil when you added a cold vegetable? Not only did that cold vegetable kill the boil, but it also took time to bring the water back to a boil. That is what happens in the stomach when you eat cold and/or raw foods. Examples of such foods would be salads, ice cream, uncooked veggies, slurpies, etc. Why did fruits and vegetables get thrown in to this list? Not because of the nutritional value (we love fruits and veggies) but for the temperature of the foods. They’re all cold.

[Before I press on, let me first explain what I mean by cold. All foods have a temperature. Temperature is not only based on how it feels in your mouth or hands but its affect on the body. For instance, ginger can be cold coming out of the fridge, but within the body, ginger has a warming effect. Another example would be the watermelon. It is great for summer, not only because you chilled it in the fridge, but because watermelon has a cooling effect within the body.]

When you eat foods that cool the stomach, your digestion slows and becomes sluggish. Then at the same time the fire, or spleen, has to increase its fire to bring the pot back to a boil, which takes energy away from the rest of the body to concentrate on the digestion. At this point, you feel sluggish and exhausted and have a lack energy after eating.

Cold foods are not the only culprit. Foods that are too hot or too spicy can also have a harmful effect. Examples of such foods would be fries, coffee, lamb, hot sauce, etc. When you consume an abundance of warm or hot foods, this action is similar to making the water in the pot boil over, making a big mess. Just imagine, you had placed all the ingredients into the pot and stepped away to come back to a messy stove with food stuck all over because some of it got burnt on the way down. And as the water boiled over, it also killed the stove’s fire. Now place what is happening in this scenario and translate it into your body. In this scenario, you now have heart burn, burps, and maybe even sluggishness. Sluggish, again?!? Yes, because the boiled over pot of water killed the fire, the body is struggling to start a new fire with a damp flint. And if you tax the body over and over again in a similar fashion, it will no longer have the strength to clean the mess and build the fire, which can later then result in other health problems (weight gain, body aches, headaches, eczema, and more).

Sometimes, the digestion may be poor due to other things rather than a diet consisting of bad foods. It could be genetic. You may have been born with a small fire to begin with (hypothyroidism possibly). Or you may not be eating enough to produce the fire (poor appetite, anorexia nervosa). Or you may be stressing your body out so much that you drain it from being able to do anything, let alone digest.

Since we have gone over what can make digestion go wrong, you’re asking, “What do I do?”

First of all, eat whole foods. Eat a well rounded meal. Eat a naturally colorful meal (not fruit loops), such as a medley of vegetables. Eat foods that have been cooked by means of steaming, boiling, baking, slow cooking, stir frying (but with a moderate amount of oil). Stay away from processed foods. Try to cook more often so that you are aware of what you put in your body and feel more grateful for the food that you are eating. So to answer your question at the beginning of the article, no, do not go vegan. TCM practitioners (acupuncturists, East Asian Medicine Doctors, etc.) strongly believe that eating a well balanced diet, that includes all foods (meat is allowed) in moderation as long as it supports the healthy function of the body.

If you are eating a well balanced diet and exercising regularly but still have issues with digestion, see an acupuncturist. There may be things that need to be addressed, such as eating the wrong diet for your body type or being unable to deal with the stress in your life that your body doesn’t function properly. Whatever the cause, a visit with an acupuncturist will address these issues to ensure proper digestion. Acupuncturist do not only stick needles into the body but prescribe herbs and teach their patients to live a healthy lifestyle.

For more information, come to Graceful Points for a free consultation.

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