Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc
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Proper digestion is key to your reproductive health.
When our digestion is working well, we break down and absorb nutrients from our diet and those nutrients make blood. Blood circulates and nourishes all systems in our bodies, particularly our reproductive system.
If you have a weak digestion, it’s so important to work on your diet and lifestyle in order to improve your digestive function.
Digestion is the center of your body’s systems. A healthy digestion means that you’re maximizing the absorption of nutrients from the foods you eat which maximizes the amount of Qi (energy) and blood you create.
Why is Qi (energy) & Blood so Important?
Qi is the force that pushes blood through the body.
Blood is needed to nourish the organs, tissues, muscles and brain.
In women’s health & fertility, it’s vital that sufficient blood reaches the ovaries & uterus.
When there’s sufficient blood, there will be sufficient hormones, oxygen and nutrients circulating to the ovaries & uterus. This ensures good egg quality, a good quality uterine lining, regular periods & ovulation. These are all key ingredients to a fertile body.
Digestion in Chinese Medicine: The Spleen & Stomach
Chinese medicine calls the STOMACH the cooking pot. When we eat, the food is warmed & broken down in the stomach to create a “mush” or a “warm soup”.
In order to do this, the cooking pot has to have enough heat (fire) underneath. We call this digestive fire.
This is why I recommend that the diet consist of mainly warm cooked foods. Cold raw foods will essentially put out the digestive fire and weaken our digestion. This can lead to bloating, stomach pain, irregular bowel movements, feeling heavy and tired after meals and weight gain.
On the other hand, if we eat warm cooked foods, the stomach will very easily break down our foods and we’ll have a strong healthy digestive system, feel great and our other organ systems will be healthy as a result.
In Chinese medicine, a lot of emphasis is put on the SPLEEN organ system.
The spleen transforms and transports food and drink and then sends the clear (useful) Qi out to be used by the whole body and the turbid or unwanted Qi downwards to the intestines to be removed from the body.
The spleen supplies the stomach (the cooking pot) with digestive fire. This means that if we eat cold raw foods, we’re essentially damaging the spleen and the stomach won’t receive enough warmth to do its job correctly.
When it comes to fertility, the spleen plays a central role as it produces Qi and blood. If the spleen is weak and doesn’t produce enough blood, we would experience delayed or no menstrual cycles or very light periods.
The spleen also holds the blood in the vessels and prevents blood from spilling out. When we experience spotting or very heavy bleeding, this is commonly a result of the spleen not holding the blood in the vessels.
The liver is in charge of moving Qi and blood throughout the body.
If the liver isn’t functioning properly, the Qi doesn’t flow smoothly through the body and becomes stuck. Since the Qi moves the blood, if the Qi gets stuck the blood will also get stuck. This can manifest in conditions such as fibroids, endometriosis and cysts, menstrual cramps, PMS, or irregular periods.
The biggest thing that can impact the liver’s smooth flow of Qi is stress.
The liver also stores the blood so it’s referred to as the “woman’s organ”. This is why the liver is so often involved in the menstrual cycle.
In regards to digestion, the liver and spleen are so closely connected because any blockage of Liver Qi will affect the spleen function. This is why stress can really weaken our digestive system. If you’re someone who gets diarrhea, bloating, nausea or poor appetite when anxious or stressed out, know that your liver and spleen may need some nourishing.
Tips to Improve Your Digestion
- Eat a diet of warm cooked foods primarily and balance cold raw foods with warming foods
- Drink hot water and herbal teas throughout the day
- Avoid iced beverages
- Eat plenty of good fats like coconut oil, avocado, eggs & butter
- Try to have protein with most meals
- Have a warm breakfast
- Begin your day with hot water (and lemon if you like)
- Have fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut in your diet to help your gut
- High quality probiotics daily
- Don’t drink liquids during meals
- Eat regularly and don’t overeat
- No late night eating
Wishing you the best in your journey to good digestion.🙂