To be well or not…Digestion is the question.

My recent experience with “being sick” was a great reminder of this physical body’s functions and limitations. This experience also reinforced one of the first things I learned when I was in school studying Chinese Medicine.

“The digestive system is our fuel tank. It is the mechanism through which foods are transformed into energy and nutrients are processed to feed every part of body right down to the cellular level.”

I have not been sick in more than nine years. My body told me to stay in bed. I was so surprised at how agreeable I was to this suggestion. I slept more than not for a day or two. I had little energy to read or engage in much moving about. Every part of my body wanted rest. Even eating was fatiguing. Just a small amount of soup and I was ready to go back to bed. WOW! This is a clear example of how much energy is required for digestion. That in itself is what inspired me to write this in hopes of instilling the importance of the strength and integrity of our digestive system as it relates to our whole being.

I’m sure many of you already know about the importance of eating “clean and healthy foods” for Heart health, minimizing sugar and carbohydrates in monitoring blood sugar etc. But did you know that anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia (to name a few) can also be related to digestion? Not to mention chronic pain, inflammation, immune deficiencies and premature aging.

Digestion is a corner stone of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In fact, in ancient China treatment began with dietary therapy because food was not viewed differently than medicine.  Whole schools of thought were developed in the 12th century stressing “the importance of Preserving Stomach-Qi” as the most important treatment method. Zhang Jie Bin, one of the most important doctors in the history of TCM wrote, “The doctor who wants to nourish life has to tonify stomach and spleen.”

Current research has now begun to validated this ancient knowledge, verifying that diet does play a major role in our health. We now hear more often from many nutritionists and doctors that eating whole, organic, unprocessed food is the single most important thing we can do to improve our overall health. I will not dispute this. However, this is only half of the equation, digestion is the other less focused on issue.

Western science is “discovering,” what we have known for thousands of years and this science is giving us tools in the form of information to educate our patients of the critical importance of digestive health.

The condition and strength of our digestive system dictates the absorbability of nutrients from the food we eat. The source of indigestion lies in the disruption of our digestive network system.  This network system is responsible for processing the food and nutrients that form the basis of the body’s constituents and is also responsible for distributing these constituents. When this basic and essential activity is impeded or weakened by over-consumption of food, eating irregularly, eating poor quality de-natured foods, eating under stress, over use of antibiotics etc., we are left with an inefficient transformation mechanism, diminished absorption, the formation of gas, and the retention of undigested material. Without a healthy, well-functioning digestive tract, even eating the best foods and taking the best supplements will do you little good because your body, in this weakened state, struggles to process the vital nutrients locked away in your food. The fact is, that you cannot fully assimilate what you eat.

Thankfully within the body of Traditional Chinese Medicine there are very clear understandings of various digestive imbalances and health issue as well as a full range of treatment modalities including: healing cuisine, herbs, acupuncture to name a few.

“I believe that by combining the knowledge western science is discovering with the wisdom of Chinese Medicine, we have great opportunities for long term healing.”

There is so much more to say on this subject so I will leave it at this, and give you time to “Digest.

Until it’s time for another course, please feel free to write or call with any questions.

~Tamara Graf