HOW POOR DIGESTION CAN AFFECT MENTAL HEALTH| AN EASTERN MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE

The foods that we put into our bodies can either nourish or deplete us of our energy. Make no mistakes. What we feed our bodies can have a huge affect on how well we feel in our minds. I can’t count how many times eating too much junk foods has led to a depressive episode for me. And it wasn’t just because of the guilt of my poor food choices, but because junk foods actually have a negative physiological impact on the body. This impact in Eastern Medicine is known as energy stagnation. Firstly, good health always begins with good digestion. Under optimal conditions our bodies are great at digesting real foods found in nature that contain real nutrition. On the other hand, junk foods that contain excess sugar and unhealthy ingredients like propylene glycol, sodium nitrates, high fructose corn syrup, msg, artificial colors, and other harmful chemicals, are hard for our bodies to digest, if they even digest them at all. 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE BODY CANNOT PROCESS SOMETHING, AND IT’S STILL BEING FED MORE AND MORE STUFF THAT IT CANT PROCESS?

Well, let’s ask ourselves what happens when a drain gets clogged, and we’ve got our answer. Too much junk gets backed up in the drain and it begins to impede the proper flow of liquid throughout the drain. Likewise, when toxins build up in the body, they begin to impede the proper flow of energy throughout the body. This blockage of energy also extends to the mind since the mind and the body are both intricately connected. Energy stagnation is ultimately the root cause behind all illness in the body and in the mind. In other words, if our energy was allowed to flow freely like how it was meant to, we would be free from all pain and disease. Unfortunately, most people today suffer from energy stagnation to one degree or another. The most common cause of energy stagnation, and the most simplest one to fix, is poor digestion.

The experts were really onto something when they said that good health begins with good digestion. They also weren’t far off when they figured out that gut health has a lot to do with brain health. So much so that some experts have now dubbed our gut as our second brain. I can’t even count how many times I’ve spiraled into a depression, seemingly out of nowhere, only to realize that prior to my downfall my digestion was impaired because I was eating the wrong types of foods. I’m sure we’ve all felt down before, with no apparent rhyme or reason as to the cause of our blues. The next time we feel this way, we should think back to what we’ve been putting into our bodies, and maybe we’ll begin to realize a connection. There have actually been studies done on mentally ill people that have proven that eating certain foods like wheat, dairy, too much sugar, and junk foods have produced a worsening in their symptoms. It’s no coincidence!

Eastern Medicine has a vastly different view of our digestive system as opposed to Western medicine. In particular, in Eastern medicine, our spleen system is responsible for our digestion. But since Eastern Medicine recognizes the connection between the mind and the body,  they’ve realized that not only is the spleen responsible for the digestion of our foods, but also the digestion of our emotions, and in fact, our digestive organs are responsible for digesting ALL stimulus that we take in from our environment. In other words, when we eat foods that are hard for our bodies to process, we also make it harder for our minds to digest and process our emotions. This is one reason why Eastern Medicine strongly discourages eating while having strong emotions like anger, sadness, and anxiety. Our bodies simply cannot process the foods and the strong emotions at the same time, and so digestion will inevitably become impaired.

If we want our energy to flow, if we want to digest our emotions well by letting in the good thoughts that nourish us, while letting go of the thoughts that do not, then we must implore that same attitude to our bodies by allowing in whats nourishing for our bodies and keeping out what’s not. It’s that simple. Eating foods that promote digestion instead of hindering it, in addition to practicing good eating habits, will have a positive effect on not only the body but also the mind. Ultimately, digestion is digestion. Whether we’re trying to digest our food or our emotions. Likewise, indigestion in one system (the body) is indigestion in another system (the mind). If we want free free flowing energy and better health in mind, body, and spirit, then a good place to start is by eating the right types of foods for our bodies. And let’s be honest, junk foods or foods with suspect ingredients are rarely ever the right types of foods. Just saying! We are what we eat! Or better yet, we are what we digest. 

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THE ENERGETICS OF FOOD| STAYING WARM IN THE COOLER SEASONS WITH FOOD

This is the really cool thing about Eastern Medicine. Nothing is one size fits all, and if something is in excess, there are things that we can do to remove the excess out and make it more balanced. Just like everything else in this entire universe, all foods have energetic properties. It’s not all about macro and micro nutrients. The energetic properties of the foods that we eat can have a tremendous impact on our health. In case this sounds crazy to you, let me give you a few examples of what I mean and I think you just might begin to understand a little bit better the energy of the foods that we eat. The energy of cucumbers is cooling. By that I mean that after they’re metabolized by the body, they have a cooling effect on the body. When cucumbers are eaten they physically remove excess heat from out of the body, which is why they are such a great food to eat in the summer and/or whenever a person is feeling too hot. Tomatoes are a cooling food too, as well as lemons, limes, celery, zucchini, and plenty of other raw fruits and veggies.

On the flip side I think we can all attest to the fact that foods like chili, ginger, garlic, and cinnamon are warming. In other words, when consumed they warm the body up, which is why they are great foods to eat in the cooler seasons of fall and winter. Here’s the cool thing about Eastern Medicine though. Even though foods that are energetically cold in nature should be limited in the cooler months, if you do choose to eat them, you can balance them out and make them warmer by doing a few simple things. 

COOKED FOODS 

1. Cooking foods that are cold in nature are the simplest way to increase their warmth. Cooking foods not only heats up the food physically, but energetically as well. Example. Cooked tomatoes and cucumbers are warmer than raw tomatoes and cucumbers.

INCREASED COOKING TIMES FOR INCREASED WARMTH 

2. Take advantage of different cooking methods to increase warmth. Stir frying increases warmth just a bit but not as much as baking or slow cooking would. The increased cooking times called for baking, roasting, and slow cooking adds a lot more warmth to the food vs shorter cooking methods like stir frying or steaming.

USE WARMING SPICES LIBERALLY

3. Use warming spices liberally in the cooler months. Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, chili, black pepper, are all spices that warm the body up. They can be added to cooling foods to help increase their warmth. Example. Toss your cucumber and tomato salad with garlic and black pepper. Add some cinnamon to your oatmeal (a cooling food) to help warm it up. Drinking ginger tea daily will help to keep you warmer in the cooler months. 

Remember that the actual temperature of the foods may or may not have anything to do with whether they have cold or hot energetic properties. When I talk about cooling and warming foods I’m usually not talking about whether a food is cold or hot to the touch. Instead, I’m talking about the energetic effect that consuming said food has on our bodies own energy. In other words, whether they cool our bodies down or heat our bodies up. In the end, there really are no hard or fast rules when it comes to what we eat. Everybody is different and with a bit of tweaking most things can be balanced out to make it more appropriate for our physical constitution. By nature, some people are warmer (yang) than others and so they can handle more cooler foods like raw fruits and veggies. On the other hand, some people like me are cooler (yin) by nature and they need more warmer foods to balance their energy out and feel their best. If your hands and feet are usually cold, if you crave warmth, if you’re prone to sadness and laziness (stagnation) during the cooler months, if you have loose stools in the cooler months (sign of excess cold and/or dampness in the body) than you should probably start eating foods that will warm your body up and/or incorporate some of the tips above and see how you feel!

As always, I’m not a doctor and these are just general tips. The amount of cold or hot foods that a person can handle ultimately depends on their physical constitution or Dosha. If you run hot already (predominant pitta dosha) then adding in too many hot spices and such could aggravate your dosha and make you too hot. This can manifest itself physically as hot flashes, anger, constipation, and more. Its always best to speak with a licensed practitioner and/or do your own due diligence to find out your own Dosha. Experiment! But if something is quite working well with your Dosha then tweak as necessary. 

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HEALING EMBARRASSING BLADDER ISSUES USING THE MIRACLE MOVEMENTS OF QIGONG

Healing with energy is simple, powerful, and amazing. At the start of winter I began having some problems with my bladder. Camping was pretty much a nightmare because I had to get up upwards of 3-4 times in the night to go pee. It wasn’t just a regular urge to “go” either. The urge would come on very fast and it was very strong. So strong that it was really uncomfortable to hold it in, and honestly I had a few close calls where I almost didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. For a second there, I was beginning to feel like I was an 80 year old grandmother. It sucked… Frequent high volumes of urination (especially urine thats clear like how mine was) is a sign of a possible kidney deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine. So, at the start of the new year I began incorporating a daily kidney/bladder Qigong flow to target those organs and hopefully resolve the very annoying issues that I was having. Well, I’m nearly three weeks into the new year and after doing that one video everyday for three weeks, I’m pleased to say that all of those issues have now been resolved!

Now, when I have the urge to “go” it’s a normal urge. The urge isn’t intense and it doesn’t come on quickly like how it use to. I also don’t get up a million times in the night to use the bathroom anymore. These days I get up maybe once in the night and sometimes not at all. It truly is amazing! And it was all done simply by doing one video everyday for three weeks. No doctors. No meds. No invasive procedures. Just all natural healing that I did myself by shifting my own energy and healing my own organs through the tremendous healing power of Qigong. Qigong in Chinese literally translates to life force energy cultivation. The slow repetitive movements involved in Qigong are targeted to help tonify, circulate, and harmonize a person’s Qi (pronounced chi) or life force energy. I’ve added a link below to one of the many free videos that my Qigong teacher Marissa has on her YouTube channel. It’s not exactly the one that I used to heal my bladder issues (those require a paid subscription to her on demand video library) but it does have some of the same moves that can be found in the paid version.

I’d highly recommend getting a paid subscription if you can, but in the meantime she has plenty of free videos on her YouTube channel that can help get you started with using Qigong to heal your life. 

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WHY A HIGH FAT DIET ISN’T FOR EVERYONE| AN EASTERN MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE

The other day someone asked me why I prefer to go low fat when it comes to a lot my food choices. I wrote them a detailed explanation why and I’d like to share my reply here. Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that fat seems to be all of the rage these days. Plenty of people are into eating styles like paleo and the ketogenic diet, and these diets pretty much encourage a moderate to high fat diet. The thing is, a high fat diet isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for me. The reality is, healthy fats are fine in moderation or in very limited quantities depending on one thing. Your physical constitution. My physical constitution or what’s called a Dosha (in Ayurveda) is kapha or a damp constitution. Kapha comprises the elements of both earth and water. It’s a very yin (cooling) constitution. The other doshas ( there are three of them) are called pitta and vata. Pitta comprises the elements of heat and fire aka yang (heating) whereas vata comprises the elements of wind and air. In Ayurveda, each person is made up of a mixture of all three doshas, but one dosha is particularly prominent in every person. My prominent dosha is kapha. While being of a Kapha dosha does have its many positives when in balanced, like being very nurturing, loving, grounded, and having a lot of physical strength and stamina, being an out of balanced Kapha is a complete nightmare. Trust me, I’ve been there!

For one thing, kaphas are particularly prone to retaining water and fat, especially in the cooler months without the heat from the summer to burn off the extra water. In addition to being prone to obesity, this excess water can also manifest itself physically in an imbalanced kapha as too much mucus production in the body. Think of someone who talks with a low deep gargled voice like their nose is always stuffy. That’s me! Since, by nature, kaphas are also comprised of structure and stability, another sign of an imbalanced kapha is rigidity and inflexibility. A kapha out of balance is extremely stubborn and almost impossible to move both physically and mentally. This also means that in the cooler months, like water that freezes on the ground and turns into ice, kaphas are more prone than other doshas to stagnation (stuck energy), less movement/laziness, and feeling stuck in life. This stagnation can manifest itself mentally as depression if not properly addressed quickly with the right food and lifestyle choices. 

Ayurveda and Traditional Medicine work on the principle that like attracts more like and that opposites balance each other out. This means that since my prominent dosha is kapha, which is a cool yin restful constitution, naturally I’d lean more towards things that are kapha or yin like. For instance, laziness, inactivity, and procrastination. Likewise, if I had a more yang constitution (yang is hot, active, expansive) I’d lean more towards movement and actually getting things done. We’ve all seen those yin people. These people usually feel cold to the touch, especially their hands and feet. They also naturally walk slower, talk slower, and they carry more weight because of their slower metabolisms. Likewise, we’ve all met those people who embody more yang energy. Their bodies are warmer to the touch. They talk faster, move faster, and are sometimes prone to hyperactivity. They also have faster metabolisms so they naturally have slimmer builds than kapha.

According to the principles of like attracts like and opposites balance each other out, doing more yin things would quickly make me too yin and throw a kapha person like me out of balance, eventually leading to things like stagnation, overeating, more stubbornness, laziness, etc. On the flip side, doing more yang things would balance out the yin and make a kapha dosha feel balanced and complete in mind, body, and spirit. Getting to the meat (pun intended) of this blog post, foods also have yin and yang properties. In fact, every single thing in the universe is made up of yin and yang! By nature yin is heavy and dense and yang is light. Just as well, some foods have heavy/dense properties and some foods are light. Not only is it important for a kapha like me to stay active to help burn off excess water and stave off weight gain (especially in the cooler months), it’s also important for me to eat less heavy/dense foods so that I can feel lighter in mind, body, and spirit. 

An example of foods that are heavy and dense would be too much meats, too much fats, and too much cold foods as these are all things that can easily stagnate ones energy (especially a kapha) if eaten in excess. On the flip side, it’s best for kaphas to favor lighter warmer foods like cooked fruits and veggies, properly prepared grains and legumes, warming spices, and limited quantities of meats and fats to help balance out the already heavy/dense nature of kapha. Basically, when I eat more cooked fruits and veggies, grains, beans, warming spices, and less fats, meats, and cold foods, I feel a lot more energized and in balanced overall. The difference in my energy levels and in my overall health really is night and day when I eat for my predominant dosha. This is why I choose to go low – moderate fat. It’s not really a choice that I have, but a must if I want feel my best.

Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are two truly amazing ways to reach our optimal physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, and I believe that everyone should learn more about them if they truly want to live this life as their best and healthiest self. Eastern medicine in general is a million miles ahead of western medicine in just about every way, and all it is in a nutshell, is healing with nature and with the power of our own energy. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda recognize that everything that happens in nature also manifest itself within the human body in different people and in different ways. They’re both a form of holistic health that takes into account not only a persons body but their mind, spirit, and emotions in the quest for optimal health and wellness.

Eastern medicine really is all about total wellness rather than picking apart the body and separating it from the mind and emotions like how western medicine often does. They’ve both helped me tremendously in my journey towards optimal health and I know that one day energy healing and holistic health will be the standard form of healing in our world.

If you’re interested in holistic health, eastern medicine, and healing with energy than I’d suggest you start by finding out your dosha (in Ayurveda) or your physical constitution (in Traditional Chinese Medicine). Some people are hot natured, cool natured, damp natured, etc,. Some people are more vata, pitta, or more kapha and that will end up determining the best food and lifestyle choices for their health. There’s no one size fits all approach in Eastern medicine and that’s one of the things that I love about it. Some people’s health can thrive off of one thing while another person’s health can decline off of the same thing. 

So find out your dosha and begin empowering yourself and your health today. There are plenty of free quizzes online to help you find out your prominent dosha. As always though, I’m not a licensed professional and neither is a quiz, so it’s always best to consult with a Doctor of oriental medicine, a licensed acupuncturist, an Ayurveda practitioner, or a doctor of holistic medicine for the best results. Besides that, I strongly believe in self empowerment so do your own due diligence and research research research. By comparing your symptoms and natural tendencies to the research you find, you’ll eventually realize your predominant dosha.

 

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