For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with digestion.
Even as a teenager, I remember feeling the bloat and discomfort after eating a heavy carb meal.
But as an ignorant teenager, I assumed the discomfort was part of a normal process.
As a health fanatic, I ate foods touted as “healthy”. This included anything fat free, fruits, and vegetables.
So I assumed my body was one step closer to optimal health even when the discomfort was confounding my assumptions.
As I studied nutrition I realized there were so many variables when considering foods, such as physiology, metabolism, and digestion.
It is no surprise that the diet industry is successful. There’s a new “diet” that aims to help you lose weight or treat disease just about every few weeks.
Even as I was studying Functional Medicine, colleagues who have various specialty backgrounds in medicine were writing about various diets as solutions.
It’s because it’s assumed that what we eat has a profound effect on our physiology that diets sell year after year.
The Limitation of Diets
In the past, I tried every diet advertised.
From Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Intermittent Fasting, to Autoimmune, I’ve not only tried them all but also had my patients try them too.
The result was that some diets work for some and not so much for others.
As a twin, I used to envy my sister’s ability to eat just about anything without suffering the consequences.
After receiving a diagnosis with Lupus in 1999, I questioned everything I knew.
Because medication was the only solution my Doctors could offer for my Lupus, I sought out a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor for holistic options.
At the time, I was a Vegan and had completed graduate studies in Nutrition. Also, I was enrolled in a Doctoral program in Physical Therapy.
To everyone around me, I was the disciplined epitome of health. I made it very clear what I would and would not eat, especially to my immediate family and friends.
Then with my Lupus diagnosis, everyone questioned my so called “healthy” ways.
From Vegan to Carnivore
The TCM Doctor palpated and assessed me. He told me that I shouldn’t be a vegan and that I should eat meat. Not just any meat, red meat.
He educated me on my body constitution (type) and based on the yin and yang imbalances, my body desperately needed meat to support my healing.
I complied without asking any questions and within a few months, I was as healthy as my old self.
So began my journey in Traditional Chinese (Korean) Medicine and recently Ayurvedic Medicine.
Too often in Western Medicine, we take a microscopic approach to our body vs taking a holistic approach.
In Eastern Medicine, healing involves using the laws of nature, and any “imbalances” in the body resulted in disease symptoms.
What is Ayurvedic Medicine?
I am currently enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training 300 hr with Asheville Yoga Center and I just came back from studying Ayurvedic Medicine.
I was fascinated, as it was very similar to the teachings of Traditional Korean/Chinese Medicine.
For those of you who don’t know what Ayurvedic Medicine is, it’s a holistic science of healing that offers a logical approach for lifestyle interventions such as herbals, diet, and of course, movement.
Their theory is based on the elements that determine a person’s constitution. These elements are vata, pitta, and kapha.
Based on one’s dominant constitution, coupled with seasonal relevance, one must “balance” their constitution for optimal health.
Ayurvedic Medicine teaches about the importance of digestion.
There is a concept known as gastric fire (Agni), and the digestive tract is the main entry through which nutrients are absorbed to be transferred to all cells.
According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste, energy, and consequences.
While Ayurvedic Medicine believes your digestive fire determines how well you digest food, it also implies food combining is of great importance.
When we eat two or more foods with different energies, tastes, and digestive consequences together, Agni overloads. This prevents the production of digestive enzymes and has a “toxic” effect on the body.
However, when eaten separately, these foods can have a beneficial effect, stimulating Agni.
Poor food combining can result in indigestion, fermentation putrefaction, and gas which can all lead to disease.
General Principles for Food Combining
1. Healthy digestive fire is the most powerful asset to balance the body.
2. Start your day with warm or room temp lemon water to wake up the digestive fire.
3. Foods have different energetic effects in the body, cooling vs heating.
4. Eat 1/2 fresh grated ginger with a pinch of rock salt before meals to boost digestive fire before meals.
5. Alkalizing foods such as leafy greens can help to regulate digestion.
6. Small sips of warm water during a meal will help with digestion and absorption of foods. Avoid iced water or cold drinks as they can shock our digestive system.
7. Learn to chew your food and savor the taste. Conscious eating is a cultivated habit.
Food Combining Rules
One thing I do have to note is that when studying Eastern philosophies, I find that the philosophy often assumes that we adapt its foods.
For example, there are specific foods in Macrobiotics that are specifically Japanese.
Similarly, when studying Ayurveda, there are specific implications with Indian foods.
I believe food is personal to each one of us and we should focus on its holistic “principles”, rather than the specific foods.
As a Korean American, I crave certain foods at different phases of my life.
For example, post partum, we eat lots of seaweed soup to supplement the body with iron and nutrients that are rich in seaweed.
When I’m sick, I crave my mom’s bone broth soup with porridge.
There’s wisdom to eating certain foods at certain times of our lives in the East.
Here in the West, I feel we’ve become an instant gratification society. We tend to zap foods in microwaves and don’t really take the time to sit down and enjoy our meals.
This is something to think about as we practice mindfulness with Yoga here at Alkaline Wellness.
Our ultimate goal is to cultivate awareness and connect with our true nature to be balanced and joyful in all facets of our lives.
I hope you enjoyed this blog.
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See you next time.