All disease begins in the gut”
Hippocrates, over 2000 years ago.
This is the first concept taught in Naturopathy college. Explored at length, it is also this premise that forms the beginning of all naturopathic treatment protocols. If the digestive system is compromised, food cannot be broken down, and nutrients cannot be absorbed. The entire system begins to function with less integrity.
So, this Spring, the season of renewal, we are duck diving into releasing some untapped energy- simply by strengthening our gut! This can be a very detailed topic, so I’m going to focus on some of the absolute basics that can be easily achieved without making any radical changes in your world. The simplest of moves can make a big difference – just watch this space and you will see!
Possibly paradoxically, I look at the last part of the digestive process first. Elimination needs to be regular, complete and satisfying. If it is not, it affects the upper digestion greatly – appetite and digestion will be impaired, so this should be addressed immediately. The body needs to be able to release all that is no longer needed efficiently and regularly, for so many reasons, notably to avoid recirculation of waste materials throughout the system.
For those on the sluggish side- “slower movers”- I suggest Tulsi LAX. This is a very gentle, effective, nourishing laxative tea. Make according to pack directions and take either last thing before going to bed or first thing in the morning. Those who swing the other way, tending towards more frequent, less formed elimination, could include Psyllium husks. Known as the “intestinal broom”, Psyllium is an excellent source of quality soluble and insoluble fibre that binds and draws toxins, ensuring they are carried out of the body. Be sure to drink plenty of water when taking Psyllium – you will need to experiment with the dose to suit your unique system. A good starting point is to mix 1-2 teaspoons into a glass of water and follow with a second glass of water. I use ORGANIC INDIA psyllium because it is certified organic, free from any additives, and the company gives back to our planet simply through its business model.
Intermittent Fasting is another practice that works wonders for many digestive systems. There are many ways to practice intermittent fasting and being regular with this practice really pays. I like to eat early with my kids (around sunset) and then not again until breakfast – easily allowing 14+ hours for my digestive system to rest, taking nothing but filtered water and Tulsi tea during this time. Others prefer to eat their evening meal a little later, and not eat again until midday the following day. There will be a sweet spot to suit your individual body type and, your routine. You may just need to trial a few options to find it.
Regular exercise contributes to healthy body rhythms. If you don’t have a regime that works for you, do explore daily walks, swimming, cycling, pilates, jogging, team sports and even some hatha yoga styles. Try to integrate your exercise routine with regular nature fixes e.g. cycling through the park, bushwalking on weekends, ocean or river swimming & golf or tennis with a friend.
Yogic breath work. Power to the regular hatha yoga practice, especially when it incorporates meditation and pranayama (yogic breath work). Khapalabhati is a specific technique that actually massages the large intestine while facilitating a respiratory purge – if you don’t have an excellent, authentic yoga teacher, find one and get a regular practice going.
Getting deep, regular sleep resets the body in so many ways, and really contributes to a healthy digestive system. One of the best self-care principles is to establish a sleep routine that works and to stick to it. Your digestive system will love you for this!
Now, let’s go back to the start. Digestion actually begins before we eat – with our senses! Making good, whole, plant-based food from scratch gets our tummies ready to eat. Our eyes feast on colourful vegetables, lentils & pulses. Have you tried red, green or black rice? Our tummies love the sound of garlic and spices sizzling in the pan – a natural cue for bellies to get ready to eat!! Small sips of Tulsi TUMMY, made according to pack directions, as we prepare our food, throughout our meal, and even after eating, will help stoke our agni or digestive fire. The warming spices this blend contains will help the integrity of your digestive system.
These tips should also help those with sluggish systems and lack of appetite – try eating regular, balanced meals (made by you or somebody you love), avoiding snacking in between, good exercise & sleep combined with 2-3 daily cups of Tulsi TUMMY and the good elimination practices mentioned already. Cook with plenty of ginger and warming spices to further stoke your agni. Always eat in a relaxed environment and avoid eating if feeling strongly emotional (wait for the emotion to pass first).
Unfortunately, the impact of chronic stress on digestion can undermine any other good practices you might have in place. Tying it all together – good sleep, regular exercise, yoga or meditation, making food and eating with loved ones all contribute to stress management.
A healthy gut contributes to a healthy body- our heart, brain, immune system, nervous system, reproductive system and more thrive when digestion is strong. And healthy body sets us up for a healthy life. Go forth and digest well this spring. As always, if you have any concerns about your digestive system or general wellbeing, do seek professional medical advice.
Sarada (Sally Martin) is a naturopath, herbalist, yoga teacher, mum, nature-lover and free spirit who lives by the forest and the beach, near Byron Bay.
Sarada works as Team Leader for ORGANIC INDIA AUS & NZ and is passionate about healthy, conscious living.