By Susan Shields, R.Ac. and Veronica Palmer-Jones, R.Ac, your friendly neighbourhood community acupuncturists
One of the most common things that we treat at Heart & Hands is digestion. Irregular digestion can show up in many different ways, including gas, irregular appetite, nausea, bloating, pain, acid reflux, IBS, loose stool, constipation, etc. Poor digestion can affect energy levels, moods, hormones, immunity, and sleep, among other things, so a smoothly functioning digestive system is a key piece in feeling good. Acupuncture is a great way to address these symptoms, and there are also other things you can do to support healthy digestion in between treatments. We know there is a lot of information available about what to eat, so we won’t delve into that now, but instead we have compiled a few suggestions for how to eat and prepare your food that won’t cost you any extra money.
Cook your veggies
We spend a lot of time thinking about what we eat, but how we prepare our food is also important. When we cook veggies like broccoli or carrots they become easier to digest, so our bodies don’t have to work so hard to break them down (think less bloating, gas and firmer stools) and we can absorb more of the nutrients from them.
A lot of us tend to multitask while we are eating. We eat while we are getting ready to go out, scrolling through our phones, walking or driving. Eating while distracted can lead to swallowing air, not chewing properly, and overeating, which can all upset our bellies. Additionally, stress can negatively affect digestion, so when you find yourself in times of higher stress, try to take some deep breaths and set aside a bit of time to eat your food mindfully.
For a lot of people, raw cold food over an extended period of time can lead to loose stools, sometimes with undigested food in them. It takes less energy to digest cooked, warm food, so if you’ve been dealing with low energy or digestive discomfort, try starting your day with a cooked warm breakfast, such as eggs, oatmeal or toast.
Watch your water consumption
Drinking too much water at meal times can disrupt your digestion and cause discomfort. We recommend drinking small sips throughout your meal. While we are talking about water, it is most beneficial for your digestive fire to avoid ice cold water, especially in the winter.
Chew your food
A lot of us don’t take the time to properly chew our food. How would your stomach do with digesting an apple whole? Now how about if you chewed it thoroughly into tiny pieces? Digestion begins in the mouth, so thoroughly chewing your food will help to break it down and initiate the excretion of salivary enzymes. This helps the digestive process and makes the nutrients more easily absorbable. One way to help you take the time to chew is to pay attention to the whole sensory experience of eating. Notice the smells, tastes, and textures of your food.
Pay attention to how food makes you feel
For example, do certain foods make you bloated or feel tired? Does drinking coffee make your heart race, make you feel jittery, or increase your anxiety? Does spicy food give you heartburn? We are all unique, so there is no one right way of eating. Paying attention to how certain foods make you feel will help you figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
If you are dealing with any digestive discomfort or irregularity, try implementing some or all of these suggestions and come in to Heart & Hands for regular acupuncture treatments to help your digestive system function the best that it can!