A friend of mine for some mysterious reason found that every winter her daily poop quota fell short, most particularly on the weekends. She eventually discovered that nixing her energy bars on the weekend, she could get the job done! Such a simple thing, yet one that caused severe discomfort year after year. Most energy bars contain a combination of dried fruits, dry oatmeal, dry chia seeds, dry roasted nuts all baked together – you get the picture? Desert dry Internal conditions can come from the foods we eat.
Fortunately for those of us seeking tummy and gut comfort after months or years of system malfunction, we can return to Food as Medicine. This is the idea that you can begin to add in more helpful foods and let go of the less helpful foods that are plaguing your tummy and plugging, or, overflowing your pipes.
The following information is a picture of what a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner looks at when considering a course of food therapy for YOU, You may be doing A LOT of these things already. Don’t be discouraged! This is where the system of TCM food therapy shows its worth. TCM providers look at your tongue and read your pulses to discern where YOUR underlying disharmony is coming from. You may be surprised to find out how a few small changes can make a huge difference!
What takes place during a Traditional Chinese Medicine visit?
- The nature of what you eat is discussed during your visit.
- Your tongue is looked at and read, your pulse is read in the 3 positions and 3 levels
- Your elemental nature becomes apparent with talk, channel palpation, acupressure and discussion of life patterns of gut disharmony
- A plan is made to address your particular pattern, this may include a qigong prescription, as well as herb and food recommendations
- The inherent nature of the foods prescribed help to cool heat, crack cold, disperse stagnation, drain damp and dissolve phlegm in YOUR internal environment
What is an elemental pattern?
Just as you are a living beings that interacts with the earth, so too can you take on outside elements to our insides. Living in damp/cold or damp/humid conditions for 20 years? You may have accumulated internal conditions of cold and damp or warm and damp. Live in the desert for 5 years? You may have conditions inside of dryness and heat. Live in a windy city and hate the wind? Your Liver energies may be really ticked off! Attending your kids soccer games rain or shine or snow this past spring? You may have accumulated cold in your channels. Outdoor as well as indoor elements become a part of who you are. As these energies are transformed so will you in the form of much improved digestion! These elemental patterns manifest in everyone. Food, as energy medicine therapy, nudges us towards change for improved health of our inside environment. Then we can interact in a calm, focused way with our outside world of friends, family, work and play.
We look at Earth: Stomach & Spleen
Indications that things aren’t working: cracked sore lips and gums, excess burping, heartburn, GERD, IBS, bad breath, dry mouth, constipation, diarrhea
Emotional problems: Worry
Elimination might look like: golf balls, rocks, or falls apart in toilet, explosive. Cloudy pee.
Do you need improved spleen energy? Depending on the strength of your spleen energies you may be advised to eat more soups, stews and cooked grains. Methods of cooking will be discussed as to what suits your lifestyle and you may limit consumption of cold, raw, as well as uncooked fruits and vegetables. The spleen likes to be warm and dry, so in providing mostly warm, cooked foods, you will benefit your spleen and its function of transforming the nutrients and then getting them where they need to go.
Do you need improved stomach energy? Do you eat quickly?, Do you eat on the run? Do you eat while talking, reading, working, watching TV. These lifestyle habits are discussed to see if the HOW of eating is interfering with your stomach’s ability to digest your food. Do you drink ice cold drinks with every meal? Consuming frozen foods and iced drinks is like throwing your stomach into the freezer. Your stomach becomes stupid. Your stomach can no longer tell when it is full. Yikes! The mechanism for “Hey, I am full!” has been turned off. This can lead to wasting and thirsting disorders like diabetes. The stomach likes to be cool and moist, not dry, not too hot, not too cold.
Do you need to grow some good bugs? Eat miso, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, Kim chi, (not if hot), algae, spirulina, wheat grass, probiotics.
We look at Water: Bladder & Kidney
You might be feeling: no warmth in arms and legs, have edema in legs
Emotional problem: fear, paranoia.
Elimination might look like: loose with pieces of food in it. Lots of pee, clears, copious, many times a day. Or, dark yellow and scanty.
Do you need to drink more water? The best times of the day according TCM is to drink one cup of warm water when you first wake up on an empty stomach. This will help humidify your Lungs and move the Large Intestines Qi. IE: help you to poop. Then, just as plants require a good thorough drink, watering the body once more in the late afternoon is the most beneficial. Drink 4 to 5 cups of room temperature water between 3:00 and 5:00 pm, when the Kidney energies are at their peak for proper absorption. Drink other beverages between meals as desired. Keep liquids at mealtimes to ½ cup per meal so as not to dilute your digestive enzymes.
What is your state of moisture in the body? How has your water been transformed? Foods that do not burn off efficiently in the stomach and create a quagmire of stuff rather then sending on nutrition particles of energy. These leftovers can create a situation of DAMP. Damp transforms to a more dense energy of phlegm or mucous. Are you too dry? Do you need to balance mucous? Marshmallow root, flax seeds, fenugreek, (also helps allergies and good to resolve phlegm), psylium husk, licorice root.
Drink fenugreek tea. It acts as a decongestant for the bile ducts and helps support normal bile flow. Fenugreek is a demulcent and acts to soothe the lining of the intestines with a nice slippery moist coating.
We look at Wood: Gall Bladder & Liver
Check for: depression, nausea, farting-lots, bitter taste in mouth
Emotional problem: anger, resentment
Elimination might look like: moose pellets, mouse pellets, sludge. Foamy, bubbly pee.
The body has two organs, the gallbladder and pancreas, working efficiently to properly digest and assimilate food. The functions of the gallbladder and pancreas have a huge affect on your digestive health. When the gallbladder back ups, it directly affects the pancreas, which is why that organ is listed here. Western medicine tells us there are no signs of beginning stages of pancreatic distress (think years later subsequent cancer) that happen in the body. Yes, there is! Poor digestion tells you that things are out of whack and to pay attention!
Gall Bladder and Liver: Bile is a bitter, dark green to yellow/brown fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder between meals. When we eat fats and proteins, the gallbladder expels stored bile acids into the small intestine where the bile emulsifies fat and fat-soluble vitamins. Since the liver uses bile to transport toxins to the kidneys and intestines for elimination (poop), an overburdened body can result in a sluggish liver, kidney, and gallbladder. Bile is a very powerful antioxidant, which helps to remove toxins from the liver. The liver filters toxins like bacteria, viruses, drugs or other foreign substances the body doesn’t want and sends them out via the bile.
Eat leafy greens. The cellulose in greens will attach to the toxic bile and move it on and out to the toilet quickly! The idea is to keep the bile thin and moving.
Exercise the Liver and Gallbladder: Mix 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil, flax or coconut oil, with 2 tsps. of lemon juice, add ½ to 1 cup warm water, shake well and drink every morning before your first meal for 1 month. This will support healthy bile flow in the bile and pancreatic ducts. Flax oil is by far the best choice as it is an Omega 3 essential fatty acid. Unless you are diabetic whereby olive oil is the preferred choice.
Increase foods that stimulate the gallbladder: Sour foods help to stimulate the flow of secretions like bile and digestive enzymes and include green apples, vinegar, yogurt, lemons, lime, bok choy, leeks, olives, plums, apricots, strawberries, umeboshi plums, peach, pheasant, trout, Aduki, currant, blackberries, pineapple, purslane, pickles, lemon balm, vinegar and sauerkraut as well as the spices cinnamon and turmeric.
Pancreas: The Pancreas secretes hormones as well as insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin into the bloodstream and digestive enzymes into the small intestine. The pancreas also secretes sodium bicarbonate, which protects the lining of the intestine by neutralizing acids from the stomach. The pancreas excretes the digestive enzymes Lipase, (breaks down fat molecules), Protease, (breaks down proteins) and Amylase, (breaks down carbs or, starches). Amylase is found in saliva. Just before the bile duct reaches the small intestine, it joins with the pancreatic duct to form the Ampulla of Vatar passageway. (Pronounced like “Vadar”). Thick bile will block flow of both these conduits, including the pancreatic flow. One study showed that half of all patients who had pancreatitis had thick or viscous bile as well, indicating that thick bile will affect the function of the pancreas.
Eat raw beets. Try adding fresh grated beets to your salads 3-4 times a week. The idea is to keep the bile thin and moving. Beets in any form are an excellent food for both the liver and the gallbladder. There is now beet juice that comes in a jar for easy consumption.
We look at Fire: Heart & Small Intestines
Something is up: your blood pressure, insomnia, a sore tongue, poor decision making, poor memory, loose poop, talking tummy noises
Emotional problems: anxiety, hypersensitivity
Elimination looks like: pencil thin strands. Pee that stings, possible darker yellow.
Patterns of Heart Fire mean the heart energies are always going up like fire! This is how we are have brain smarts, how we communicate with people every day. The body cannot sustain this activity 24/7. Heart Fire must go down and connect with your reservoir of energy storage- your Sea of Qi in the Dan Tien. The descending Heart also connects with the Kidneys for wisdom. Fire descends to the Kidneys to cook the Water and send it back up to the Heart in the form of mist. This controls the nature of Heart Fire and the constant feeling of being anxious, of being shy, ashamed, paranoid. The Small Intestine can go round and round – should I? shouldn’t I? We address the Heart for good function of the small intestine. Too much thinking, too much work all day and into the evening depletes the energies of the Heart. Foods that calm heart and its influence on the tummy: Wheat, high calcium foods such as black sesame, ……cool the heart fire.
We look at Metal: Lung & Large Intestines
Clues that something is awry: your skin, allergies, gut inflammation
Emotional problems: grief, no happiness
Elimination looks like: lumps of pellets, hard poop. Pee might be any of the above.
Are you a shallow breather? Do you hold your breath? Calm, deep breathing can reset the nervous system, making room for the vagus nerve and its connection to the large intestine – things moving just right! Not too quick, not too slow. Do you need roughage? Fiber is especially important for IBS, constipation, and also for those with diarrhea and loose stools. Soluble fiber should be added slowly. Flaxseed meal, chia seeds, lentils, pears, avocados, blackberries, raspberries, oatmeal, oat bran, broccoli, peas, artichokes, brussel sprouts, kale, lima beans, black beans, split peas, spinach, carrots, cauliflower. Do you need to treat the large intestine? We might tell you to spinach, banana, sesame seed and sesame oil, honey, pear, prune, peach, (not hot people), apple, apricot, walnut, pine nuts, almonds, alfalfa sprouts, soy products & whole milk dairy (not cold people), carrot, cauliflower, beets, goat milk yoghurt, seaweed, chia seeds. Do you need transport help? IE: “I would like to poop everyday please!” okra, okra, okra – 1/3 -1/2 cup per day till noticeable improvement, a very mucilaginous and fibrous vegetable all in one. Also to be considered are cabbage, papaya, peas, black sesame seed, coconut, sweet potato, yam, asparagus, fig, bran in oats, wheat, brown rice and external application of castor oil packs. Do you have allergies? When the Large intestine is working properly and not inflamed, then allergies and sinus issues can resolve. When have allergies or sinus drainage, then you can bet that the drainage leads straight to the Stomach, increasing its load of mucous and phlegm.
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How do I know if I am damp, dry, stagnant, hot, cold, or a combo? What if I don’t have a gallbladder? What do I do when I travel? The therapists at Pulse Holistic Health are trained to zero in on your particular pattern and pinpoint what approach will work best for you.