Bloating and sluggish digestion getting you down? Try this.

January 30, 2024

Digestive upset is very uncommon and brings many people into an acupuncturist’s office.  In East Asian medicine we see good digestion as a foundational aspect of health and well-being.

What can throw digestion off?

  • ​Overeating or under-eating
  • Eating while rushed (driving, standing up, primarily looking at a screen/iPhone while eating)
  • Not chewing enough before swallowing
  • A diet heavy in processed foods
  • A low fiber diet (lacking fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans)
  • Chronic stress, worry, anxiety, relationship challenges
  • Any kind of major life change or transition (both good and not-so-good ones)

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help bring digestive processes back into balance:

  • They help to restore healthy motility (movement) to the digestive organs – because good digestion really is all about keeping things moving well.
  • They can help to calm inflammatory processes in the gut.
  • They support the health of the digestive mucosa which is responsible for nutrient absorption.
  • They can help the digestive sphincters to operate more optimally

Here are a few of the nutritional and lifestyle recommendations I regularly give to patients to help support digestive health:

  • Avoid over-relying on cold or uncooked foods. Our lifeforce is warm. Our physical bodies rely on physiological warmth to keep our body functioning well. An over-reliance on cold or uncooked foods such as salads, smoothies, iced beverages, raw fruits and vegetables, and yogurt asks our body to expend more energy in order to help  properly breakdown, digest, and assimilate these cooler temperature foods. Soups, stews, cooked vegetables, and warm or room temperature beverages are much easier for the body to digest.
  • Avoid over-consuming meat in one sitting. It can take up to two days for the body to fully break down and assimilate meat and fish. Treat meat more as a side dish instead of a main course.
  • Certain food combinations can be harder to digest together. Think of a typical restaurant burrito: carbs (tortilla, rice), protein (meat, beans), dairy (cheese, sour cream), vegetables (salsa, peppers). Patients sometimes find that when they only pair proteins with non-starchy vegetables in a meal, or have a meal of carbohydrates paired with non-starchy vegetables, they end up feeling better. It’s something to experiment with.

If the craziness of life has gotten your digestion all out of balance, I encourage patients to keep herbal teas such as ginger and peppermint on hand to drink in-between or after meals, keep a bottle of digestive enzymes nearby, and to start on an herbal formula that can be taken daily and in-between acupuncture appointments. Oftentimes we can deal with acute issues right away and get things nicely back on track before they turn into a chronic issue to deal with.