Here at the PROPPR we are often asked about the types of food that will nourish our bodies and keep our gut happy. While using a toilet foot stool should help with the ‘exit’ part of the digestive journey, making healthy choices and considering what goes into our bodies is just as important as making sure it leaves well!
We’ve created an eBook to share some tips and recipes for eating with the seasons to assist in maintaining good gut health all year round.
The overall state of our digestion determines how well we receive nutrients and if indeed we are receiving enough to be in the optimum state of health and vitality. If we eat well and are able to absorb and use our nutrients, it stands to reason that we would be able to uphold our immune systems in the best possible way and enjoy more energy.
Speaking of energy… we’ve also considered the nutrition principles used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where along with herbal medicines and treatments like acupuncture, our diet is an important component of our overall health. TCM is based on the philosophy of the yin and the yang, two opposing yet complementary forces that make up life and energy.
In TCM, all foods are categorized into temperature – from hot to cold – and flavour – such as pungent, spicy, sweet, sour and salty. These differences in food temperature and flavour can influence the body in specific ways. It’s suggested we should aim to include all flavours and a balance of temperatures in each meal. If we consume too much of one type of food it can cause an imbalance within the body.
Yang foods are associated with fire and produce heat, while Yin foods are associated with water and are more cooling. So applying the TCM principles, it’s about finding the foods that balance your yin and yang to support your unique body type and environment.
We’ve incorporated these concepts and considered the fruits and vegetables that are in abundance during each season to create our guide to eating seasonally for good gut health. We offer these ideas and recipes to inspire you to be mindful of how you can be eating for both good gut health and balance.
Here’s a little snapshot of how to nurture our bodies with food through each of the seasons:
- Spring is the season of the liver and the gallbladder. These organs are in charge of regulating a smooth and soothing flow of energy throughout the whole person (body and mind). Unfortunately, they’re prone to congestion because we may take in too many poor quality fats and denatured foods, chemicals, medications, and intoxicants. What happens when liver or gallbladder energy isn’t flowing properly? We can experience anger and irritability (and for women: PMS), depression, insomnia, and an inability to lead or make decisions. We are also more susceptible to problems like muscle pulls and strains, joint pains, and headaches when the liver and gallbladder are out of balance. The good news is there are many ways to alter your dietary and food preparation habits in order to prevent a major liver and gallbladder meltdown.
- Summer is the season of the big ‘Yang’ and belongs to the fire element in the five element theory. Yang in TCM represents heat and when there is too much heat in the body this heat feeds on body fluids and harms the Yin (which is the cooler, winter aspect). Heat can be introduced to the body via the external environment (think sunstroke) or through diet (think hot chilli sauce). During the heat of summer, it is recommended to take in predominately cooling, dampness-providing foods (yin food) to disperse heat and build up fluids.
- Autumn is a time of dryness so people often suffer from dry/itchy skin conditions, dry cough, sore throats, sinus congestion, colds and flu. Dryness can also affect the large intestine causing constipation. In autumn we should alter our diet to nourish yin and support the production of fluids within the body. We should move away from the cold, raw summer foods and replace them with warm, cooked foods such as porridge, soups, steamed vegetables and poached fruit. Increasing fluid intake is also important, as well as reducing pungent foods such as onions and garlic.
- Winter represents the utmost of Yin, we slow down and naturally look to early nights in bed and curling up under the blankets on the lounge. The nature of winter is a slow, dark, cool, inward moving season – all things Yin. Winter is a time to slow down and conserve our energy in preparation for the transformation of spring. It’s also a time when we naturally gravitate towards warming foods.
While we’ve addressed diet, and the importance of eating seasonally, there are of course other things to aid in maintaining good gut health including:
- Sleep – allows our bodies to shut down, reset, and recharge. A minimum of 7 hours sleep a night is best, with our most beneficial hours being between 10pm and midnight.
- Mental Health – Stress levels and our emotional wellbeing have significant effects on our gut health with the connection between gut and brain now more understood.
- Water – drinking plenty of water is crucial for good gut health. The colon HAS to have water in order to clean and move things along.
- Fibre – we need a minimum of 35 grams of fibre per day in our diet. Fibre from fruits and vegetables is key, as well as some fibre from whole grains.
- Exercise – get moving! Movement in any form; walking, yoga, cardio, weight training, pilates etc; is so important for our digestive system. If our bodies are stagnant than so are our bowels!
- Squat to poo – if you’re not already, it’s time to get propping friends. Get those knees higher than your hips on the loo and notice the difference. It really is the proper way to poo – for us all.
We do encourage you to pay attention to your body. If you are experiencing constant bloating, constipation, wind, IBS, abdominal pain and cramping, address them as quickly as possible.
If your gut ailments continue, then please seek the attention and advice of a professional; a Nutritionist, Naturopath, Functional Medicine Doctor or a Gastroenterologist.
For those interested, here’s some additional reading on TCM and nutrition: