Gut Check: Hitting the Reset Button after the Holidays
Have you been seeing the slogan “New Year, New You” everywhere? Why do we feel we need to wait until a new year makes its debut to begin making positive changes in our lives? Whether it be healthy eating, living a more environmentally conscious life, or finally kicking a bad habit to the curb, our health and wellbeing often take a back seat beginning in the fall season and some of us can feel completely out of sync by the time Christmas and New Year’s Eve have bowed out. From holiday celebrations, vacation, and family time there remains precious little time to feed our bodies and minds what they really deserve.
Add stress and a busy schedule to the sugary treats, extra alcohol, and rich holiday food and our digestive systems go into overdrive to absorb the brunt of it all! This creates a perfect storm and prevents our spleen and stomach from working in optimal condition. In Chinese medicine the spleen and stomach rule digestion and belong to the earth element. They work together to govern transportation and transformation of food and drink, turning it into qi and blood for the body.
When the spleen and stomach are working well, our appetites are strong, our digestion is working optimally and we experience good energy. When the spleen is not working well we suffer symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, loose stools, and low energy. Excessive sweets, anxiety, and stress can damage the spleen, leading to these unwanted symptoms. Do you notice when you become stressed how your digestion is often the first sign that something isn’t quite right? Our emotional well being is so directly related to our digestive system some call the digestive system our “second brain.” Queue probiotics!
The stomach controls the rotting and ripening of food. This is the fermentation of the food so that the spleen may then use it to extract the essence or nutrients to be used as qi and blood. The stomach also controls the descending of qi and when this is out of balance you may experience heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion.
The following are some best practices to support your digestion and keep your stomach and spleen happy:
- Focus on plant based foods, grass fed or organic meats, and anti-inflammatory foods
- Eat warm cooked foods, especially in winter and ideally with the season
- Consume probiotics daily to support a healthy microbiome
- Avoid eating meals too late at night
- Eat within the first hour of waking to stimulate digestion
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated but avoid ice in your beverages
- Avoid too many sweets to protect and support the spleen’s function
- Limit stress, stay calm, and chew properly
- Incorporate warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric
By focusing on these tips you will keep your digestive system humming along smoothly and bringing you back into balance for the new year. Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy 2018!