Monday, January 24, 2011

Feeling Good Starts in the Gut

Some say that our "second brain" is the digestive tract, so yes, it may be true that feeling good starts in the gut.  Now that the holiday season is past, you may notice that the last month put stress on various body systems: immune, emotional and of course digestive. Here are some easy ways to rebuild and restore your digestive process:
  • Take probiotics - Probiotics are the "good bacteria" in your gut that are essential for optimal health. Some probiotics are found naturally in our food, but most of us need an extra supplement to adequately populate the digestive tract. Good sources include: Kombucha, yogurt and probiotic supplements (best brands: Jarrow & PB8).
  • Eat cooked foods instead of raw foods - Cooking foods makes less work for your stomach - it warms food both physically and chemically. A variety of cooked vegetables should be the mainstay of your diet. This knowledge is backed by thousands of years of medicinal food knowledge (Chinese and Ayruvedic Medicine systems). Some percentage of raw foods may be appropriate for you; The greater your "digestive fire", the better you may be able to metabolize raw foods.
  • Eat room temperature and up - Your digestive organs work best when warm.  Digestive enzymes can only work in a certain temperature range, so cold foods will inactivate those enzymes. This advice goes for fluids too - try to drink room temperature or warm drinks instead of cold ones.
  • Relax while you eat - Eating any meal should involve sitting down and nothing else. Your body needs all it's energy to digest in an efficient way, so moving around, working or being involved in a highly stimulating mental activity is not ideal.
  • Chew - Many people do not chew their food! Chewing is the first part of the digestion process and is absolutely critical in the digestion of all food, especially carbohydrates. The enzymes in saliva are there for good reason as they are the first line of attack in breaking down foods.
  • Wait until you are hungry - You body knows when it it is time to eat - your chatty relatives do not.  When you feel the hunger building, this is your sign that the your gut will get the maximum benefit from a warm winter meal.
If you have chronic digestive issues, a Licensed Acupuncturist can help. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are very beneficial for strengthening digestion and reducing pain, gas, bloating or other symptoms of impaired digestion.

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