Digestion is defined as “a sequence by which food is broken down and chemically converted so that it can be absorbed by the cells of an organism and used to maintain vital bodily functions.” Let’s explore digestion using the TCM framework.

Digesting something means that you change its form; you break it down into smaller pieces. Your body makes something “digestible,” but that’s far from the whole of it. When you digest something, you break it down by heat or moisture, or chemical action. Literally, the process of digestion breaks things apart into separate elements.

The body’s wisdom has the ability to make a decision about what it needs from each of these broken-apart pieces. Your organs have the skill to make decisions about what will benefit them. They say, “I like fat. I need sugar. I can’t eat that.” All of these judgements happen invisibly at lightning speed because of the body’s innate wisdom and intelligence. Each of your organs takes in what it needs.

The whole body processes the wisdom to know what it needs to survive. The body has the capability to plan for and produce energy from the substances it receives and digests.

The best thing you can do for your whole body is to strengthen the function of your digestive system. One time-tested way to conquer digestive system issues is to eat a steady diet of Chinese barley, Goji berries and red dates. Here’s one delicious recipe that you can eat for a warming morning meal, or throughout the day.


Warming Barley Cereal

5 cups of boiling water

1 cup of barley

Handful of Goji berries or red dates

Rinse barley and add to boiling water. Reduce heat and let simmer about one hour. Continue to check barley so it does not dry out or get too mushy. About 30 minutes into the cooking, add the Goji berries or red dates. Eat hot or at room temperature.


Excerpted from Digesting the Universe: A Revolutionary Framework for Healthy Metabolism Function. Get your copy here.

Click here to try some additional recipes using Chinese barley.

Food, Metabolism Function
2 Responses to Kitchen Pharmacy: Digestive System Issues
  1. Such gentle wisdom! My TCM doc diagnosed me with Spleen Qi Deficiency w/ (heat) dampness and Liver Qi Stagnation, along with a little Heart fire. I’ve made amazing progress under her care (herbal). She “prescribed” a breakfast for me that I just love. I make a porridge of American/Western barley, Chinese yams, red beans (aduki/adzuki) and red dates. The only thing extra I add is some preserved lemons. There were things I had to give up and things I needed to incorporate into my diet, based on my pattern (diagnosis). It has been SO worth the effort. Do NOT underestimate the healing power of this simple recipe! My only question … does American barley and Job’s Tears (Eastern barley) have the same energetics, in other words are they interchangeable?

    Thank you for the Dragon’s Way. I bought book & CD and am trying to do the exercises on a daily basis.

    • Terry, there is a difference in essence between American barley and job’s tears. The taste and texture is even different. Job’s tears has been the subject of research and is considered an ant-cancer food.


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