The uncomfortable feeling one gets with bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea can make getting through the day a challenge. The daily schedule of a person who is on the go can cause high levels of stress, improper diet, and indigestion from food. But with a few tips from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the digestion process can move smoother.
In TCM perspective, different from Western perspective, the stomach and spleen are considered the major players in digestion and have a role in how food is assimilated. We want these organs to be working at their best. Below are a few pointers from TCM theory that one can incorporate into their day-to-day routines.
1) Warm foods & more fiber
Warm foods help the stomach and the spleen to work less during the digestion process, allowing assimilation of energy and nutrients where they are needed. Foods such as soups, congee (rice porridge), and steamed vegetables are a great way to nourish the tummy!
Fiber acts as the bristle pad for the intestines. Adding more fiber from whole foods helps to move the bowels as well as freeing them from extra toxins.
Congee is traditionally eaten as a breakfast food. It is commonly made with rice but can be made with millet, spelt or other grains. This porridge is easily digested and harmonizes the digestive system. There are a variety of foods that can be added depending on what therapeutic effect is needed.
Below is a congee recipe to strengthen the stomach.
Congee with Taro Root:
200g Taro Root
Makes 1 batch / 2-3 servings
*Carrots, coconut oil/milk, or dates may be added
Peel the taro root and cut it into small cubes. Place the rice, taro root, and water in a medium pot or slow cooker. Bring to a boil then reduce to lowest level on the stove. Cook for 2-6 hours. The longer the congee cooks the stronger the therapeutic effect. Then enjoy!
2) Warm water with lemon
Warm water with a squeeze or slice of lemon first thing in the morning is a gentle way to activate the digestion system. The water helps to detox the liver, where as the lemon starts the proper production of bile and stomach acid. The warm water is a calm hello to the stomach, allowing it to wake up to its full potential for the rest of the day.
Some herbal teas are great to strengthen the two organs. Licorice root, chamomile, red raspberry leaf, and marshmallow root are helpful teas to sip on during the day. Chamomile is beneficial for calming abdominal cramps. Ginger and peppermint teas are also useful, especially during times of bloating or indigestion.
4) Avoid or limit cold, greasy, and spicy foods
Cold or raw foods such as raw vegetables and salads, when in excess put a strain on the stomach and spleen; making it difficult to break down the food. Indulging in greasy or spicy foods will add to the strain that will slow the process, causing gas and discomfort. Over time, the build up of greasy or spicy foods will damage the organs and impair the function to digest properly. This ends up in indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.
5) Be present
Take time to be present while eating. Before eating try breathing in deeply through the nose, hold the breath for five seconds then exhale out of the mouth allowing the body to relax. The stomach and spleen work best when not being rushed or in a hurry. Thoroughly chew the food and try to sit in a calm area to allow the brain to prepare for the beginning of the digestion process.