The ancients considered undigested matter to be the basic material that, after it builds up in the body, disrupts normal processes and accelerates the disease process. The ancients used fire as a metaphor to encapsulate lots of healthy eating wisdom. As we move into the holiday season, try using the metaphor of fire to aid you in making food choices. A few gentle adjustments to our eating habits over the next two months can lead to fewer bouts of indigestion.
To keep our fire healthy, we should eat in such a way that we burn (digest) all our food with as minimal ash (bathroom waste) left over as possible. Then, we want to dispose of the ash as fast as possible so it doesn’t accelerate the disease process. We do this by keeping our fire pit (stomach) clean, choosing cleaner wood (food) to burn, and tending to the flame (acids and enzymes) so that it stays at a consistent burn. This last bit happens in the short term, meal per meal, and over the long term as we nurture digestive system function and vitality.
While the advice encapsulated in the metaphor of fire can fill a whole weekend seminar, here are two gems to think about that help us avoid creating a smokey digestive fire this holiday season.
1: The stomach is a single pot. – Think of cooking rice. What would happen if you added a second serving of rice to the pot about half way through cooking? If you were to serve the rice when the first half finished cooking, you would have a whole bunch of crunchy rice ruining the meal. If you were to keep cooking until everything finished cooking, half of the pot would be pure mush. It means we should fully digest each meal before we eat again.
The stomach empties fully in four hours, so hold off on snacks for a while after your meals to decrease indigestion.
2: Water puts out fire. – Water douses a flame, and the same is true for your digestive fire. Stomach acids and digestive enzymes work better in stronger concentration and with elevated temperature. By diluting your digestive chemicals you slow down the speed and effectiveness of your digestive fire. The result is a poorer performing digestive process that results in increased indigestion. Basically the advice is to drink fewer liquids with meals, and when possible switch the liquids you drink closest to meals from cold to hot beverages.
Remember: Eating poorly over the holidays is a tradition! Enjoy the special moments and times with loved ones fully. Do what you can to keep your digestion happy and your heart.
Caution: Feast day meals are not the real problem, no matter how bloated and rough you may feel from your indulgences. The long term habits that dim our digestive flame are the ones that lead to the deepest problems down the road.