15 Ways to Strengthen Digestion from a Classical Chinese Perspective (with some modern touches).
1. Limit Water intake with your Meal– liquids dilute your stomach acid making it more difficult to digest your meal, it can even encourage heart burn. Have a small glass of water or tea during meal times and drink more water in between meals.
2. Eat Cooked Foods– they don’t have to be over cooked, even a light steam will make veggies easier to digest. Our stomach is our “digestive fire” and too much raw or cold food can slowly put out or damage our fire, making us less likely to absorb and process all of the nutrients in our food. Morning is the most important time to be eating a warm meal.
3. Eating is Sacred– only recently has food been so abundant and easy to acquire. We eat watching TV, while driving, while working, while walking. Instead of the body focusing on digestion and sending all of its blood and signals to the stomach we are scattering the focus. Also, if we are “meal multi-tasking” you probably won’t be properly chewing and you’ll probably over eat. Slow down and enjoy your food, be grateful.
4. Incorporate Fermented Foods– lacto-fermented foods naturally contain enzymes and healthy bacteria to help us digest and maintain healthy intestinal flora. Small amounts of sauerkraut, unprocessed vinegar, miso, soy sauce and un-homogonized yogurt are just a few options.
5. Incorporate more Fat– It’s important to make sure we are eating enough healthy fat in our diets because it actually assists in the breakdown of food as well as stimulating bile release. There’s a reason why people but dressings on salad- oil assists in the breakdown of the raw food and the unprocessed vinegar contains enzymes.
6. Avoid Inflammatory Foods– Avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation in the intestines, like wheat, non-fermented dairy, non-fermented soy products, corn, large amounts of poor quality meat, poor quality oils.
7. Avoid Powdered Dairy– You probably don’t think that you even eat powdered milk products. Chances are if you’re eating yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese or cream cheese it will contain powdered milk. It thickens without adding fat (which in our culture we think will make us fat), makes it seem, oh so creamy and delicious. Powdered milk is extremely difficult to digest and clogs up the intestines not to mention that it’s usually spray dried and irradiated.
8. Avoid Foods which contain Enzyme Inhibitors – Foods that contain enzyme inhibitors not only make the food more difficult to digest but also encourage other nutrients to bond to it. That means by eating that food, not only will you not absorb it’s nutrients but it will dredge other nutrients from your body too. Fermenting or sprouting is the best way to breakdown the enzyme inhibitors so only eat fermented soy products, sprouted nuts and seeds and make sure you soak and rinse your grains and legumes before cooking.
9. Avoid Food with added White Vinegar– Large amounts of processed vinegar is very hard on the stomach and the intestines as well as the blood. It can cause anemia as well as ulcers. Limit your intake of pickles, potato chips, packaged sauces like mayonnaise, dressings, dips etc. 10. Marinate your Meat– Marinades have more purpose than just making it taste better, it also helps to break down the molecules making it easier to digest. Just like a salad dressing, oil and un-processed vinegar will help to pre-digest your meat making it easier for you.
11. Take a Probiotic – a multi-strain pro-biotic will help to balance the bacteria in your intestines and keep healthy flora.
12. Avoid eating fruit right after your Meal – fruit is digested very quickly and if you eat it right after a meal, it will sit on top of the rest of your food waiting to be digested. The sugar in the fruit will cause it to ferment and cause bloating and nausea.
13. Avoid Coffee – If you have a sensitive digestive system, coffee can be very harmful for the stomach and intestines. It can over-relax the esophagus and cause heart burn. It also irritates the linings of the intestines. Since it is a laxative it often encourages a bowel movement before your body can absorb the nutrients in your food.
14. Be Calm and Carry On – eating while worrying or feeling angry “knots the stomach energy”. It causes stagnation of energy, especially in the stomach. Try to use meal time as a time to let go of what is bothering you or stressing you out and just focus on the texture, the color, the taste, the smell of your food.
15. Plan your meals – studies have showed that by thinking and planning about your next meal, you will naturally start to create enzymes and release the appropriate amount of bile to aid in digestion!