By November 7, 2022
The holidays are just around the corner, and with them comes feelings of togetherness, gratitude, and harmony. But also stress, (occasionally) conflict, and overeating. The end result, regardless of which end of the happy/stressed spectrum you end up on, is often tummy troubles. You know what I’m talking about – feeling sluggish or tired, heartburn, bloated and gas. Not to mention the dreaded holiday weight gain.
Ugh, don’t remind me.
The good news is that Traditional Chinese Medicine has opinions on this topic, and the advice it offers is not simply “don’t eat all that delicious, delicious holiday food.”
I’m in. Tell me more.
Let’s start with the mechanisms that are happening in your body to make your digestion get all out of whack this time of year:
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the spleen is the key organ for digestion. Its job is to transform nutritive essence (re: energy) from food and liquids into qi, blood, and other bodily fluids. Stress and overeating leads to food stagnation (where it’s sitting around in your body waiting to get turned into qi), which leads to qi stagnation. That qi stagnation impairs the function of your other digestive organs which leads to all those fun symptoms described on a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
Ok, I think I follow. So how do I prevent that?
The good news is that Traditional Chinese Medicine doesn’t only focus on what you’re eating, but also on how you eat as well as how your body is digesting food. You can improve how you eat by following these tips:
- Practice mindful eating. It’s really easy to get distracted while you eat, either with your phone or conversation. This can result in overeating or eating too fast. By solely focusing on what you’re eating (how it looks, feels, tastes, etc.) it causes you to slow down on your meals and recognize when you feel full.
- Be aware of stress-eating. And your stress levels in general. Cortisol increases when you’re under stress which can increase appetite and cravings for sugary or fatty foods, and slows down your digestion.
- Reduce consumption of processed foods and alcohol. These foods are digested quickly, leading to a spike in blood sugar and hunger when that blood sugar drops back down.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is one of the best things you can do on your own to help improve qi and blood circulation, as well as keep your digestion moving and increase your overall metabolism. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just try to get moving a few times a week.
- Drink warm water. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – ice water (and other cold foods and beverages) WILL mess up your digestive system. It slows everything down, and contributes to symptoms like bloating.
Cool, cool… Now let’s say that it’s too late to prevent holiday digestive issues. Any advice?
Of course! Traditional Chinese Medicine has a bunch of solutions to help you out. Obviously, it’s ideal if you can get ahead of your issues, but I recognize that that isn’t always possible. Here are some other steps we can take to help to prevent or relieve you of your symptoms:
As I mentioned before, holiday digestive issues are often caused by qi stagnation. One of the best tools we have for clearing stagnation and improving the flow of qi is acupuncture. But there are several other ways acupuncture can benefit your tummy:
- Reduces stress, which improves digestive function
- Reduces inflammation and pain
- Eliminates cravings – elevates levels of serotonin, encephalin, and dopamine (which increase feeling satisfied from eating)
- Helps to balance the gut-brain axis
In case you had not heard, a big part of your digestion is actually carried out by the bacteria that live there. When your diet ends up heavy on things like greasy foods and alcohol, it can start to impair your healthy bacteria, preventing them from properly helping to break down your food. And encourage the overgrowth of bad bacteria, which also contributes to things like bloating and diarrhea.
Probiotics are a combination of live good bacteria and yeasts naturally found in a healthy gut. They help to supplement your own bacteria when the conditions for them aren’t ideal (like when you’re stressed, not eating well, or just went through a round of antibiotics). My favorite is ProBio probiotics and I recommend it to all my patients. It provides 6 billion Colony Forming Units (CFUs) of beneficial bacteria, and come in a delayed-release capsule to ensure they end up in your small and large intestine (rather than dying in your oh-so-acidic stomach).
Herbal Medicine is a true powerhouse when it comes to treating and preventing stomach issues. The Bao He Wan formula has been used for hundreds of years to bring your digestive system back into balance by reducing food stagnation and harmonizing the Stomach. This formula includes:
- Hawthorn Fruit – assists digestion of meat and greasy foods
- Medicated Leaven – helps digestion of alcohol and food
- Radish Seed – helps digestion of grains
- Tangerine Peel – promotes the movement of qi and transforms stagnation – harmonizing the stomach
- Crow-Dipper Rhizomes – promotes movement of qi and transforms stagnation – harmonizing the stomach
- Poria-Cocos Mushrooms – strengthens the spleen and leaches out dampness
- Forsythia Fruits – clears heat and relieves toxicity
Don’t let holiday eating drag you down this year! Get started on balancing your digestive system today so that a little indulgence over the next few months doesn’t leave you feeling terrible and guilty.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to the use of this product if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or have a medical condition. Individual results may vary.