Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to fix your digestion with Chinese medicine.

When a patient arrives to a Chinese Medicine clinic with signs of bloating, loose stool, gas, gurgling in their belly, foggy thinking, cold hands and feet, poor circulation, easy bruising, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, heavy menstrual periods in women, and fatigue they call it ‘Spleen Qi deficiency’.  All of these symptoms, according to Traditional Chinese medicine, relate to poor digestion.  Poor digestion can be caused by: poor eating habits, eating late at night, not eating regularly, over eating, eating too much cold or raw food, drinking with meals, worry, overwork, illness, eating inappropriate foods for your constitution, stress, food allergies and certain medications.

With a weakened digestion, you are not able to effectively absorb all the nutrients in your diet - leading to malnutrition and fatigue. Struggling to digest and process the foods you eat leads to further digestive upset such as abdominal bloating. Without the proper nutrients, your circulatory system and blood vessel integrity can also become weakened – leading to easy bruising, varicose veins and poor circulation. The key to recovery is to strengthen the digestion so that your body can be nourished once again.

Dietary advice for Spleen Qi deficiency is focused on good quality nutrition that is easily digested. Raw food in particular is difficult to digest, as the cell wall of plant material is incredibly tough to penetrate – therefore minimal nutrition is available to us and it passes through as fibre. Cooking vegetables and stewing fruit (in water only - no sugar required!) breaks the cell wall of the plant, making it easier for us to access the nutrients within. As your digestion improves, you can gradually reintroduce small amounts of raw food at the end of a meal – however it can be several months before you reach this stage.

It is also important to avoid any foods that you have an allergy or intolerance to. This reaction does not necessarily have to be an anaphylactic type reaction with throat swelling or eyes puffing up, but can also be a reaction that happens at more of a micro level. Food intolerances are immune responses that occur typically as a result of increased intestinal permeability (sometimes called “leaky gut”).  Chronic inflammation in the gut wall leads to increased permeability, essentially the gaps that would normally let through digested proteins (called amino acids) are enlarged due to the inflammation and this allows some proteins to make it through your intestine wall and into the blood stream before they have had a chance to be broken down into an acceptable format. Your body then identifies the food protein as a foreign protein substance that shouldn’t be there and launches and immune response. With repeat exposure to the same food this immune response solidifies so that your body reacts on each exposure to that food.

 It can be especially worthwhile to test for reactions to common allergens such as wheat, gluten and dairy products, this can be done by avoiding all possible sources for at least 2 weeks, and then reintroducing and checking for re-emergence of symptoms.

However the fastest and most accurate way to find out which foods your body is sensitive or intolerant to is to do an IgG Food Sensitivity Test. The IgG food sensitivity test is a blood test that detects antibodies that your body has developed against certain foods. You may have an allergen to foods like, corn, eggs, certain nuts, or yeast. It is very difficult to ascertain our allergens to these types of foods, as they are hidden in so many processed foods that we eat, and we may not know when we are eating them.

Removing foods that you have an IgG reaction to can help to alleviate symptoms associated with exposure. Common symptoms include:
-    constipation
-    loose bowels/diarrhea
-    abdominal pain/cramping
-    bloating
-    fatigue
-    low mood/fluctuating mood
-    skin conditions

This IgG food intolerance test can be ordered through practitioners at our clinic, Discover Chinese Medicine.

Anti-Candida Protocol

Going on the Anti-Candia protocol is a great way to boost digestion, even if you do not have Candida. For those with tiredness or other Candida type symptoms you should follow this diet for the next 20 days. Avoid the following foods and ingredients as strictly as possible:

•    Alcohol
•    Sugar (check labels!!)
•    Yeast
•    Cheese
•    Fermented products including miso, tofu and other soy products, vinegar etc
•    Mushrooms
•    Gluten grains (wheat, rye, oats, barley)
•    Processed foods, non-organic produce
•    Fruit

Avoiding these foods will limit the energy source for fungal overgrowths and allow the body a chance to restore balance.  At the end of the 20 day period, you can resume your normal diet. Reintroduce foods slowly, one group per day, and keep an eye out for negative reactions. It may be the case that you need to avoid these foods for longer.

Candex is a herbal formula that DiscoverTCM prescribes that combines ingredients to fight fungal infection and restore a natural balance of flora to the digestion and vaginal areas. This will help stubborn cases.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic. Good luck!

General Principles for Eating to boost digestion:

    Absolutely avoid all raw food including salads. Salads using steamed vegetables are ok in warm weather.
    All foods to be cooked and eaten warmed, long slow cooking, soups, broth & stews are idea.
    Chew all food thoroughly to help reduce the strain on your digestion
    Simple combinations of a few ingredients,
    Smaller meals more often,
    Regular meal times
    No excess fluid with meals, overeating, missing meals or eating while working.
    Avoid food that is more than one day old. 

Increase protein intake, the best source of protein is animal protein, especially organic chicken (soups and stock), and green leafy vegetables are high in Iron content.  In vegetarian diets folic acid and Vit B12 can be taken as supplements.

Beneficial foods:

Light grains especially white rice and rice porridge (congee), oats, roasted barley, sweet rice, pumpkin, sweet potato, celeriac, squash, carrot, corn, parsley, chickpeas, black beans, yam, peas, walnuts, stewed fruit, chicken, beef, lamb, liver, kidney, tuna, mackerel, anchovy.

Moderate amounts of spices:  Onion, leek, garlic, turnip, pepper, fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel and other kitchen spices.

Small amounts of natural sweeteners:  Molasses, dates, rice syrup, barley malt & palm sugar.

Restrict or avoid:
Uncooked, raw foods, salads, raw fruit (whole and juiced), wheat, sprouts, and cereal grasses, raw vegetables, tomato, spinach, tofu, millet, seaweeds, salt, too many sweet foods and concentrated sweeteners, brown rice, Vitamin C (over 1-2g per day). No yeast.

Especially avoid ice cream and dairy (except a little butter and yogurt), sugar, chocolate, nuts and seeds (except walnuts) and nut butters, spicy food, large amounts of black pepper.


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