Category Archives: digestion

Diet, Eating and TCM

There are numerous types of diet aimed at weight control and better digestive function but how and when we actually eat matters too. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), not only is the nutritional content in our food important but so too is eating in a peaceful setting, away from the work station and not thinking about anything that upsets us. In TCM it is thought that whatever we are thinking when we eat is swallowed with our food, that our digestive organs are more open and sensitive to emotional upset when we eat.

There are good physiological reasons why eating on the run is not good for us too. When we ingest food our digestive organs spring into action and need more of our circulating blood to power the digestive process, if we insist on being physically and/or mentally active while we eat, our muscles and brain actively compete with our bellies for more of our precious blood flow.

This is easy to prove to oneself, try eating identical meals in two different scenarios at the same time of day, what feels better between eating in peace and quiet with no distractions or answering the phone between mouthfuls as you hurriedly walk back from the take-away? Is it possible to enjoy what you eat when you are just “filling the hole” ? Do you think you might be more susceptible to indigestion eating this way? Is it really hygeinic dropping crumbs all over your work station? Recent health studies have shown that your PC keyboard has more germs on it than toilet seats do.

The failure to chew enough before swallowing makes it harder for food to be broken down by our digestive organs, poor posture crams our stomachs for space and insufficient exercise can make us more prone to constipation- there are many factors that effect our digestion. In TCM eating late at night is not considered ideal and meals are considered best when they all contain the “5 flavours” sour, sweet, spicy, salty and bitter.

We all need the same nutrients but a person with Crohn’s disease has to avoid gluten, the lactose intolerant need to avoid dairy, if you have haemachromatosis you should go lightly with your iron intake and most of us never drink enough water. Learning about our own idiosyncrasies is helpful if we want to live long and happy lives. If you do want to take suppliments it is better to get an expert opinion rather than self-diagnose and choose products that are properly absorbed in your alimentary tract, portaloo contractors often find piles of undigested tablets in the bottom of their tanks that have passed straight through their users.

One frequent area of disagreement between medical practitioners and natural doctors is the necessity of vitamin and mineral suppliments, doctors often say that suppliments are unnecessary because there are plenty of them in our food already but naturopaths may recognize their patient’s symptoms to signs of mineral and vitamin deficiency. They may both be right if the patient’s digestive tract just isn’t extracting what it should from the food they eat.

Keep an honest record of what you eat for a while and compare it to what nutritionists recommend and see what you come up with.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional disease of the colon and is sometimes referred to as spastic colon. It has no specific known cause. It is diagnosed by exclusion, which means that there is no specific test for it as such, it is more a process of eliminating other possible diseases that leads to it’s diagnosis .

We do know that it’s main symptoms (diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and white mucous in excrement) are worsened by stress and eating fatty food though. When an IBS sufferer “gets the shits” that can be literally what happens,  IBS is a disease that is managed rather than cured.

If the above mentioned symptoms are not enough to make you serious about managing your IBS as well as you can, recent discoveries in immunology have thrown the digestive system in general, under a new and interesting spotlight. The more medical scientists have learned about the GIT (Gastro Intestinal Tract) the more convinced they are that it is a very important part of our physical immunity as well as our digestive system, pathogens are literally destroyed in a healthy gut. How this might specifically relate to IBS is not yet known but  it does give us yet another reason to eat well.

Another recent GIT study has located the presence of glial tissue in the small intestine. Previously glial tissue was thought to only exist in the brain, this discovery may well eventually lead to understanding better how and why our thoughts and feelings affect our digestion. On an intuitive level most of us suspect that stress effects digestion because how bad we can feel in the belly when we get really bad news or something important does not turn out how we envisaged.

As mentioned in other posts about stress, a sound strategy for how to control it is really helpful. Most of the quick fixes tend to have only short term value and certainly swallowing things like alcohol, drugs and comfort food into the same alimentary canal that is already under strain is not the best thing you can do to help your IBS.

If you live alone and do not see the point in cooking a decent meal just for one person (you), you are doing your guts no good.

It can be difficult to self-assess how well you cope with stress, maybe you are not as good at it as you think you are, get an unbiased opinion off someone whose judgement you trust and think about how it may be affecting your health.

IBS can be highly debilitating particularly if it’s cause cannot be readily removed or rectified, many find comforting fatty foods too hard to resist when they feel stressed and controlling stress itself is one of the great dilemmas of modern humanity. A mixture of self discipline and the ability to let go and let it all wash over you when you feel emotionally overwhelmed is a strategy worth trying if you have IBS. Please consider meditation, just the act of slowing your breathing can help your IBS by suppressing stress hormones.

Please do not overlook the possible relief that exercise and massage can make to your IBS symptoms.