Food stagnation is common language in the TCM community but you might not hear it thrown around in your every day life. What exactly does it mean?
In TCM, food stagnation happens when food remains stuck in the digestive tract. Usually it is when your digestive tract is holding onto food because the food has not fully digested and it is not moving down to those next digestive steps.
Holiday meals are the exact recipe for food stagnation because they are filled with dense, oily, fatty, heavy, and protein rich foods and generally we tend to overeat during these times. Meals like these are harder to digest and produce a lot more mucus in the stomach, slowing down the digestive tract. Stomach acids have a harder time penetrating this mucus and it sort of becomes a clog in the digestive tract.
Obviously, the best way to avoid food stagnation is to just plainly avoid overeating dense foods. But sometimes social obligations lead us into situations where we're likely to experience some food stagnation afterwards.
We have some tips for you on what to do if this happens and how to break up that bloated feeling in your stomach!
1. eat when it's still light out
Start eating when the sun is still up. When the sun goes does, the digestive system starts to slow down a lot, making it bloating likelier.
2. Eat light a few days before the feast
Bloating usually happens when you're filling up on a stomach that is still digesting and processing food from meals before. Eat light so that your stomach feels light. You don't want to already be sluggish when sitting down to eat thanksgiving meal!
3. Don't fast the day of feast!
Fasting the day of never seems to be a good idea. Being so hungry by the time dinner comes around is a recipe for eating a lot really quickly. If you're feeling hungry but not starving, you'll be able to pace yourself and spread things out a bit. This helps your digestive system work more fluidly.
4. Begin or end with a digestive aid
Enzymes before or after are a great way to supplement the digestive process when eating a big meal! We carry Hawthorne Berries which are great for pre and post meal. In TCM, they enter the Lung, Spleen, and Stomach channels and relieve food stagnation from overeating.
5. take Bitters
Take a dropper full of bitters before or after the meal. Mix it in with water or sparkling water. The bitters helps help to promote digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile and enzymes to break down food and absorb nutrients.
6. break down stagnation with tea
Boil water with equal parts cinnamon, ginger and lemon peel. Add a small amount of honey and drink up. This blend will be warming, flushing and great for breaking down things in the digestive tract.
7. gently move after the meal.
Our instincts after a big holiday meal is to get horizontal, rest and be stagnant. Well, when dealing with food stagnation, you want to counterbalance it with some movement. Rally the troops and go for a little walk after the meal. Do some light stretching. Do some active breathing. The body will feel lighter as things start to move in the body.
8. do exercises that engage your core
Give your digestive system 5-6 hours post meal and then consider doing some exercises that activate your core. Try these postures to stimulate gastric juices and help your digestive system move along!
7. Day after: Drink lots of water!
Literally flush out that stagnation and clog from the feast! Drink lots and lots of fluid. Cannot emphasize this enough.
8. A few days after: Acupuncture.
After the family and visitors have left, practice some self care and come in for an acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture can target points on the stomach to promote more stagnation relief and lightness in the body's digestion.