It's not only WHAT you eat, but how, when, why...
Of course, WHAT WE EAT might be most important, and definitely the most socially fetishized, but another consideration is how, when, and WHY we eat. In Chinese Medicine there are bodily motions associated with each organ channel that support them at the appropriate times. In a previous newsletter I discussed the liver channel’s relationship with stress and cortisol secretion, its according association with walking, which is why it is helpful to pace or go for a walk whenever we feel irritated.
The “motion of the stomach and spleen (or pancreas)” is to be seated, which is why we recommend not only eating while seated, but also to remain seated for a while afterwards to facilitate our first stage of digestion. Sure, a leisurely walk a half hour later might benefit the second stage—especially in cases of overeating and bloat—but during a meal optimum digestion is generally best found in a relaxed, but not reclined seat. I see too many Americans stand up to go as soon as the last bite is in their mouth, or worse, EATING WHILE WALKING DOWN THE STREET. There is no way they are not creating inflammation when doing this.
WHEN DO YOU EAT? For thousands of years Chinese Medicine has said that the stomach qi markedly weakens after 7pm. In recent generations western medicine has informed us that insulin resistance spikes after 7pm. These mean the same thing. Per this scientific truth we should eat our heaviest caloric meals for breakfast and lightest in the evening, which is obviously the opposite of what most Americans do. I too enjoy a fun, sociable, big dinner as much as anyone, but for the majority of quieter evenings this is a good fact to keep in mind.
HOW DO YOU EAT? Eating too quickly taxes the “stomach yin.” Failing to give our gut any breaks between bites is like not taking a break between sets at the gym. We exhaust our microbiome and end up not even absorbing all of the nutrients on our plate. If you’re like me and have trouble going slowly I recommend at least pausing for “halftime” midway through, placing your fork and plate down, and taking a breather. Food should be chewed thoroughly until it is a liquid consistency in our mouths. Failing to do so places a greater burden on the gut, which either a) exhausts it, or b) is too much for it to handle and results in excess fluid retention.
WHY DO YOU EAT? Are you truly hungry, or just bored, depressed, or THIRSTY? Often times our body mistakes dehydration for hunger. We overeat when we could have been satiated by a simple glass of room temperature water. Other times we are unconsciously seeking the dopamine or serotonin rush offered by certain snack foods. While this is OK once in a while, we can often find that same rush through either a 15-minute nap or 15-minute exercise workout.
I hope this was somewhat helpful, as I find that microscopic improvements in habituation over time can engender macroscopic improvements or prevention in the long run. If you take two people with identical genetics (or as close to as is possible) and identical diets, but one of them chews food thoroughly while seated and relaxed at the appropriate times of day we can be sure the physiological end result after decades will differ. For more information on how to improve YOUR INDIVIDUAL microbiome disharmonies please do not hesitate to contact me.