I hope you enjoy this article, which first appeared in the 'Savvy Selfcare' column in Massage & Bodywork. I am delighted to share this writing by Jennie Hastings (licensed massage therapist LMT and business owner), as she explains some of her revelations about eating and digestion.
When I was growing up the message “you are what you eat” was a big one. I remember a public service announcement called Time for Timer that would come on during Saturday morning cartoons. In it a skinny-legged cartoon cowboy reported from inside the digestive system, talked about protein, fats, and carbohydrates, and sang, “You are what you eat from your head down to your feet.”
This seemed like good information. It always made sense to me that what we eat turns into the building material for our physical bodies. However, as time has gone by, and the experiences of life have begun to accumulate, I would have to adjust the saying from “you are what you eat” to “you are what you can digest”. Unfortunately, it is possible to eat food that should be helpful and healthy and completely miss the benefit because the digestive system cannot assimilate it.
After a traumatic experience in my early 20s I began to recognize how important a healthy diet was for my overall well-being. Up until then I had relied on my youth to get me through everything. At that time it became obvious that what I took into my body had everything to do with how I felt physically, mentally, and emotionally, and I started to pay attention.
I began to learn more about nutrition and carefully craft my meals. I started drinking smoothies in the morning, learned to eat kale, began using healthy fats, and added super foods like goji berries and hemp protein to my diet. I was spending a lot of time and energy on my food, not to mention money. Between shopping, preparation, eating, and cleaning up, let's face it, food is a really big deal in our lives.
However, I wasn't exactly getting any benefit from the food. I noticed how at the end of a long day of careful dietary measures I would inevitably find myself raiding my housemate's ice cream stash, or gorging on other sugar. My skin began to break out in itchy eczema spots on my hands. It was very embarrassing, as a massage therapist, to have a rash on my hands. Fortunately, my clients understood that it was not contagious and allowed me to touch them, but it was a difficult time in my life to understand what was going on and what I could do about it.
This went on for a couple of years. I was at a yoga retreat at one point and there was a woman there who had suffered from terrible eczema at points in her life. My teacher asked her to tell me anything she could about what eczema is about. I remember she said, “eczema is about not being able to fully digest what life has given you.” Over time I began to realize that she meant this not only in the literal sense of physical digestion, but also the digestion of thoughts, emotions, images, sounds, basically all of life experience.
Eventually I met a woman, a nutritional therapist, who worked with me on my digestion. With supplements to stimulate bile production in my gallbladder (basically beet extract) and a few other key supplements my body began to be able to break down the fat I was eating and feed it to my skin. As quickly as I'd lost my skin to the itchy rash, my skin repaired itself. It felt like a miracle.
Since then I have learned that digestion is the most important part of eating. When I was 20 and still blissfully unblemished by some of life's more brutal realities, I could eat a Snickers bar and processed cheese food and turn it into vital life energy because my digestive fire was high and could burn through anything. After the trauma I could eat organic steamed kale drenched in olive oil with pumpkin seeds and not derive what I needed from it.
Good digestion is vital to good health. Signs that your digestive system could use support include bloating after eating, erratic bowel movements, and lack of energy. If you are eating healthy food and still feel undernourished or have cravings, it might be time to care more directly for your digestive system. I know people who have eliminated practically every kind of food from their diet and still experience dietary woes. If this sounds like you, please understand that it might not be the food itself that is not working, but the process of breaking it down.
Beyond just what we eat, how we eat, and the way we feel about ourselves and our lives, affects our ability to digest. Modern life requires us to digest way more than food. All of the information that we come into contact with everyday through technology needs to be processed and metabolized. Learning to care for and support our digestive systems is a valuable investment in life energy. Seek help from a nutritional therapist or Ayurvedic counselor. Educate yourself. The return will be a lifetime of good energy, and what could be better than that?
6 Thing to Improve Digestion from the Chopra Center
2 Do some form of daily movement
3 Do not Overeat
4 Sip on Ginger Tea
5 Eat your largest meal at lunchtime
6 Release negative emotions
Thank you SriDevi Jennie for the insightful post and thank YOU for taking this journey with me!
For more from Jennie Hastings, check out http://inspiredmassagetherapist.com/
Loving Life and Living Love,
If you haven't signed up for the blog posts, please do. If you are interested in submitting a "guest blog", please send me an email. Mary@BestYOULife.com
I welcome you to leave a comment below or post one on my BestYOU Facebook page.
Sharing your thoughts is a gift to all of us!