Tag Archives: IBS

There’s No Good Reason to Always Eat Sweet in the Morning

When you think about a Western diet and breakfast, you think cereal, fried meats, pancakes and waffles. These are often laden with sugars, syrups and other additives that tax the digestive system. In the east, you almost never see this style of eating in the morning. Foods are typically cooked rice with fish or vegetables. Breakfast and to be honest, most meals throughout the day are savoury, not sweet.

Sugar is a priority for the digestive system. It will happily put the digestion of fibrous/ meaty/ fatty foods on the backburner to take the sugar out of the meal. When sugar is the focus, the other foods will sit in the stomach, far longer than they should, encouraging bacterial overgrowth or pathogenic yeasts, as well as training the body to expect this style of prioritisation throughout the day. When your digestion expects sugar first, it can become reliant and expectant. This can encourage cravings which can plague you throughout the day.

So, my thought for the day, something which you can implement more easily than a radical diet overhaul, is to try and have rice with vegetables for breakfast. You could use a little sesame oil and lots of soy sauce for seasoning, but keeping it paired down and simple is best. This way, your body gets trained to expect high quality carbohydrates and nutrition in its first meal of the day, which can help offset some of the pesky sugar craving that you might expect starting with cereal.

I know from my own experience that when I start with a sugary meal, the rest of the day remains that much harder to stay on track. We should try to start our day in a way that sets us up for success, and unfortunately, for those of us who experience weak digestion or chronic pain/ illness, the Western diet teaches us all the wrong habits at breakfast time.

You’re also allowing your body to accept good nutrition first thing, which allows it to better regulate focus, concentration, and energy levels throughout the day. If you can concentrate better, you can make healthier decisions and build healthier habits. It’s in all of our interests to bear this in mind when we start the day.

As I said in my last post, something I’m finding to be a game changer is buying a rice cooker. It cooks rice perfectly every time and I don’t have to keep an eye on it at all. If you want a more tactile experience (texture is so important alongside flavour) I would urge you to try Jasmine rice, which is a little on the sticky side and have a wonderfully fluffy, chewy texture that is satisfying in and of itself. Many rice cookers also come with a steaming compartment. Steamed vegetables retain more nutrients than boiled because they are not immersed in the water which can leach nutrients. You could add fish, a soy/ garlic dressing, wilt some spinach in sesame oil with garlic, or whatever you want, but it’s a great, simple way to get healthier options with less work.

Part of healing is finding simple, easy ideas that can transform the way you live and eat. Fuelling your body with the best nutrition, not just what you’re told is good for you, is essential to a healthier and happier life. There are lots of good recipes for rice cooker rice which can be enjoyed for breakfast, and you can also do variations of porridge in it too! The opportunity for supporting your health is there for the taking.

Good health to all my readers, J

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Hot, Cold or Damp – Digestive Issues and Chinese Medicine

What we eat affects us in profound ways. It’s all the more surprising then, that what we eat is so low down on our list of priorities. Society is so fast-paced now. We’re expected to eat on the go, to pick up something quick and easy, highly processed and with very little nutritional value. This is what society teaches us, so if you feel bad about the choices you’ve made with your diet up to now, give yourself a break. Life is so complicated. There are more spinning plates than ever before. You’re bound to let a couple come crashing down, but maybe I can help you realise that what you eat is a spinning plate that should keep an eye on. Let something else go instead.

When we eat highly processed foods, with lots of sugar, dairy, refined flours and heavy fats, it taxes the digestive system. All of these foods are known as ‘warming’ and ‘wet’ in Chinese medicine. That means that they generate heat, a key factor in the onset of chronic disease. When the body generates too much heat, it leads to inflammation, which can manifest in many of the health issues which are common today. These tend to be things like lupus, fibromyalgia, arthritis, rhinitis, asthma, GERD, IBS, Chrons and multiple sclerosis (though this is by no means an exhaustive list). These are the sorts of problems which I aim to talk about here because they are largely some of the same issues which I experience myself and am on a journey of healing from every day.

Foods that cool the body can be those which are actually cold, like cold water or ice cream, for example, or raw vegetables. Anything which requires the digestive system to work hard to warm, those sapping vital heat from the system. Those who suffer from cold, tend to get ill from common colds, can be extremely thin or malnourished, and experience lethargy. Cold is less of a focus in this article, but is no doubt a very serious problem when severe.

Dampness is caused when the internal environment is both hot and wet. Again, wet foods are starchy, highly processed and sugary. When the body generates too much heat and damp, we get chronic health issues as mentioned above. Rather than experiencing just an upset stomach after a meal, returning to normal the next day, somebody who experiences damp in the digestive system, could continue to experience chronic stomach upsets, even after the discontinuation of a disruptive food type.

If you suffer from a chronic inflammatory disorder, you may be experiencing damp heat, which gives rise to longstanding conditions. As an auxiliary to whatever medications you must take to keep you healthy, it’s important to work on the foundations of good health by balancing digestion. As I have long said on my blog, digestion is the cornerstone of good health. What enters the body must be digested properly. If it isn’t, we don’t nourish the body and our other organs and systems become unbalanced to compensate.

So what is the solution? As always, I recommend small changes. We do not want to make the conditions for maintaining new habits too difficult, so we need to take baby steps. Damp is treated well by avoiding the inflammatory foods which generate damp and heat. The safest way to start getting the nutrition your body needs to heal is to eat rice and steamed/ boiled vegetables more often. These are guaranteed to be digested by the body completely and will not generate gastric pain or discomfort (brown rice may be more taxing, so try white rices, jasmine is lovely). You can essentially do a lot of good for your digestion by incorporating at least one bowl of white rice and steamed vegetables every day. I really recommend a rice cooker too, one with a steamer, which can do your veggies at the same time. It’s easy, simple and can be left unattended.

Cooked vegan meals are a good place to begin, but ideally, you want to reduce the amount of fats you mix in with your vegetable and grain dishes. Bread is almost always an inflammatory substance, so is best avoided. If you can’t avoid it, try to go for rye or less processed types. Meats can tax the digestion, especially when fatty.

You can add lots of delicious things to your rice meals. A bit of soy sauce or some chilli sauce can help lift a quick meal. For something more complex, there are loads of rice cooker recipes which can be lobbed in and produce delicious meals in next to no time.

As always, I hope the best for everyone who reads in finding health and wellbeing. Chinese medicine is just one of many ways to view health, but I like to consider it from all angles so that I can give you best information. For inflammatory disorders, eliminating culprit food types and eating a little more blandly can do wonders as a treatment and to build the strength of the digestive system. But by bland, I don’t mean tasteless. Far from it! These meals can be wonderfully sumptuous without becoming difficult to digest!

Well wishes, J

Meditation For Gut Health

Meditation has great benefits for mental health.

This is no secret at this point.

I invest at least some of my time every now and then into meditation to calm my mind, but as many who have meditated for a while may understand, the mind and the body are connected. What brings calm in the head also brings stillness to the legs, the arms, the chest, and… the gut!

Many of you are probably thinking at this point ‘how am I supposed to know when my gut is calm?’. It’s a good question and it’s tricky to answer.

The best way to tell is to go by what normal has become for you. Many people who end up researching the gut and digestion have ended up here as a result of a myriad of physical manifestations of poor digestion.

The most common of these include: cramping, bloating, heart burn and diarrhoea, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. IBS, which is often caused by emotional or psychological stress as well as poor intestinal health can encompass many of these same symptoms and can be very embarrassing for someone if they experience anxiety doing simple tasks like shopping or even just leaving the house for short periods. Further along the scale, we have full blown auto-immune diseases like MS, Lupus, Arthritis and Fibromyalgia (not technically an auto-immune disease but often just as debilitating).

Wherever you are on the scale, it’s really important to track your own sensations, flare ups and typical symptoms. Once you know what the good, bad and ugly looks like for you on a typical day, then you’re ready to know how certain treatments and techniques might help with improving your gut!

So, back to meditation.

Say I had indigestion, or I bloated often after eating, or maybe I noticed that visiting the toilet was unexpectedly more unpleasant, either suffering with constipation or diarrhoea, then I know where my baseline is (if your baseline is this, I feel for you, I really do).

One thing to try (along with as many little changes as you can make to improve your diet), is meditation, either before or after you sit down for dinner. This may be most beneficial before a large meal where your gut will be under more stress than usual.

Meditating can contribute to more relaxed digestion. When you are stressed or anxious, busy, or distracted, your gut cannot work as efficiently on the food that it receives. This is all new research. Again, I have GUT to thank for this idea.

Remember, when your mind is relaxed and calm, so is your body and your gut!

So, 10 minutes on Headspace before dinner could really significantly contribute to better digestion and nutrient absorption. And surely, all of us here, trying our best to recover from poor digestive health, might want to try anything to ensure our bodies are primed for nutrients.

Some people may find it easier to do this after eating. I can understand it being harder to concentrate when you can smell food in the other room, just on the verge of cooked, or when your mind is racing with which recipe you want to cook for dinner. So do what works for you. This is a process after all, and you need to give yourself the room to find the best method for your needs.

Give it a try!

Track your digestion over the coming weeks. Has it improved? Have the symptoms unique to you subsided, diminished or gone away altogether? If it works, maybe you can keep doing it every so often and especially at meals where you know the offerings are more plentiful than usual! Anything that aids digestion and works should be considered on the road to recovery, no matter how seemingly unrelated it is on the surface.

The gut, the brain and the heart are all connected very closely. Anything that affects one or two of these systems certainly affects the other, though the relationship may not be apparent at first. These are the three branches of the human body which grow first in the womb. We should pay very close attention to that connectedness from conception as it has very important meaning in how we address our health issues as we continue learning about our bodies.

Good focus and good digestive health!

J