Can you recall the days where life moved so quickly you just couldn’t catch up? You’d wake up late and rush out the door with breakfast in hand? Already behind, you’d eat lunch quickly or, worse yet, work through lunch. The thought of preparing a healthy meal after a long and exhausting day was too far out of your wheelhouse, so you’d grab a quick takeout meal on the way home.

We’ve all likely had days like that. But rush-rush, eat-on-the-fly behavior uses up precious Qi. Over time, this type of continual behavior can take a toll on your digestive function. Every organ system in our bodies have a physical and energetic function. Physically, healthy organs perform as intended. Energetically, healthy organs are able to communicate with other organ systems and carry out their energetic job functions in the body. There’s just one catch related to digestion: we don’t only digest food. Instead, we digest everything we encounter.

Think again about that rush-rush daily schedule described above. In a day like that, what have you asked you asked your body to process and digest? Energetically, the body will work hard to complete its duties. However, it often sends you messages as a call for help. Without proper digestion, the body will give you physical symptoms, such as, fatigue, headaches, abdominal distention, indigestion, poor sleep, and more to let you know that balance needs to be restored.

A great way to replenish your energy is with food. In TCM, food is used as medicine. Food contains more than just a variety of nutrients. On a deeper level, certain foods carry an essence that can impact your body energetically. Of course, a healthier way of eating also needs to be paired with a calmer lifestyle. This combination is a recipe for balance and harmony.

So how might you begin to eat for healing?

1. Choose foods by their color and taste. These are two of the discriminating characteristics connected with each organ system in the Five Element Consciousness Framework. Just think of the rainbow of colors that fill the produce area of the grocery store: carrots and yams (Stomach/Spleen), plum tomatoes (Heart/Small Intestine), lily bulb (Lung/Large Intestine), dandelion greens (Liver/Gallbladder), seaweed (Kidney/Bladder). And consider the tastes connected to these organ systems: sweet (Stomach/Spleen), bitter (Heart/Small Intestine), spicy (Lung/Large Intestine), sour (Liver/Gallbladder), salty (Kidney/Bladder). Use these colors and tastes to begin to change your perspective on the food you feed your body.

2. Eat warming foods. The digestive system in particular loves warmth. Using some of these healing foods as a guide, think about the soups or stews you can cook to nourish your body. Follow some of our recipes, or get creative in the kitchen!

3. Chew Your Qi Slowly! Dinnertime is a major place to begin reducing stress. Just as meditation brings us into the present moment and provides a sense of peace and calm, allow that calm to extend out into other areas, including dinnertime. By taking the time to thoroughly enjoy these nourishing foods, a deeper state of healing can be created around the table. Pause to welcome your meal. Thank it for nourishing you. Enjoy the aroma, the flavor, the texture and the temperature. Take just one bite at a time and chew your food slowly, staying present in the moment before you look to the next. Connect with the Qi within the food. Feel it inspiring your body, mind and spirit in a creative way. By chewing our Qi slowly, we can incorporate and digest it better.

4. Develop a body awareness. How does your body respond to this healing meal? Are you eating because you are hungry or because it is time to eat? Let your mind fall away, and instead, get back in tune with your body’s messages. Try to stop eating when you are 80% full. Notice how your body digests healing foods. Has your bloating improved? What message is your body sending you?

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Five Elements, Food

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