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Strengthen Your Digestive Fire

By Heather Bergstrom, LAc

In Chinese Medicine, we have an analogy that explains how we view digestion by looking at a pot cooking over a fire: if the flame is too low, the food doesn’t cook properly.  This is the same with a weak digestion.  The digestive fire has to be strong in order to “cook”, or digest, the foods we eat properly. If the digestive fire is weak, we get uncomfortable digestive symptoms. The most important thing you can do is maintain a healthy and strong flame under the cooking pot. If you eat frozen or cold foods, the digestive fire will have to work harder and longer to cook the food.  If you eat warm or room temperature foods, the digestive fire works with ease.

Now that temperatures outside are cooling off, we naturally tend to change the foods we eat. We do this to match what is seasonally available and eat what our bodies need for the season. In Chinese Medicine, we look toward warm, nourishing foods during the cooler seasons to keep us healthy and provide comfort. This is a key time to nourish the digestion with foods that keep our digestive tract functioning at its best.  We eat warm foods rather than cold; avoiding raw vegetables, dairy, and cold or iced beverages. These foods weaken the digestion in colder months causing symptoms like bloating, gas, undigested food in the stool, and either constipation or diarrhea.

We also gravitate toward sugar during the cooler months not only due to all the holiday sugar, but also because sugar gives us a short burst of energy that we feel like we need when it is cold and dark out. Sugar feeds bad gut bacteria that crowd out good gut bacteria.  The result is that you have poor digestion with bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and irregular bowel movements.  Very uncomfortable. Consider that sugar weakens not only digestion, but also your immune system. Consumption of sugar slows down the white blood cells that are responsible for protecting your body and fighting off viruses.  The immune system is sluggish and impaired for about 4 hours after consuming sugars.  This means that you are left more vulnerable to viruses during that time. It is common to see people in clinic for colds and flus a few days after holidays. This is not a coincidence.

In order to strengthen digestive fire, try eating broth based soups, winter squash, yams, sweet potatoes, and cooked whole grains like quinoa and oats. Warming spices like ginger and cinnamon are helpful to the digestion and immune system as well.

One of the services we offer at Vitality Acupuncture along with our other services is nutritional and dietary advice and planning to maximize your health and vitality. Take a look at our website,, or call our office to see if we might be able to help you feel your best this fall season.

Vitality Acupuncture, llc - 208-629-4920
We offer free 15-minute phone consultations.
We bill insurance and can check on acupuncture benefits for you!