How digestion effects fertility and how to improve yours
According to Chinese medicine, a healthy digestion is key to overall health, including fertility. Luckily, we can heal and improve our digestion and therefore our fertility through simple practices and by eating the right foods.
In Chinese medicine, our digestion is referred to as Spleen Qi (“chee”). Spleen Qi not only rules the digestion, but also plays an important role in a woman’s fertility. Spleen Qi is responsible for regulating menses, holding a pregnancy, and transforming food into blood and energy, both of which are necessary for increased fertility.
Western women tend to have weak Spleen Qi, due to the western diet and busy lifestyles. Factors that deplete Spleen Qi are cold, raw foods, overeating, eating too late in the day, over-thinking, worrying, and multi-tasking. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone.
When your Spleen Qi is weak, you have low energy (especially in the late afternoon or after eating a meal), it might be difficult to get out of bed in the morning or you might feel like you could sleep for several more hours even if you’ve had plenty of rest, you suffer from gas and bloating easily, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded often, you may experience spotting with your cycle and/or mid-cycle bleeding, and your tongue may be puffy and pale with teeth marks around the perimeter.
If this sounds like you, don’t despair! I’m going to share with you my best tips and practices to bring your digestion back into balance, thereby boosting your fertility.
In Chinese medicine, we view the digestion as a fire. We don’t want the fire to be raging, and we don’t want it to burn out. Ideally, our digestive fire burns steadily throughout the day. Because warmth is our goal, you’ll notice many of the suggestions below are warming.
Foods and practices to nourish digestion:
- Eat soups, stews, and warm food in general.
- Add warm spices to your meal like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel, fennel, cloves, black and white pepper. (No spicy food or spices.)
- Cook your grains well, so they are easy to digest.
- Eat primarily cooked vegetables as opposed to raw.
- Eat small, frequent meals so as not to overwhelm your digestion.
- Don’t overeat heavy, hard-to-digest, greasy, fatty or fried foods.
- Avoid cold drinks with meals, which will put out the digestive fire.
- Drink a teacup of warm water, broth or tea with each meal.
- Try taking digestive enzymes before you eat a meal to encourage proper nutrient absorption and improve digestion.
- Take probiotics daily or every other day to help build beneficial gut flora.
- Drink warm water with fresh squeezed lemon first thing in the morning to wake up your digestion and stimulate your own naturally occurring digestive enzymes. (This practice is especially useful for people who find they are not hungry first thing in the morning.)
- Take 100 steps after each meal to facilitate the digestive process and avoid gas and bloating.
- Increase fiber and water intake. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, providing food for beneficial gut bacteria to thrive. Whenever you increase your fiber, it’s important to also increase your water intake to prevent gas and bloating. A general rule of thumb is to drink 64 ounces of filtered water per day, or half your body weight in ounces.
- Limit dairy and gluten in your diet, even if you don’t experience a true allergy or sensitivity to either one. They both cause inflammation in the body, and we would all do better to avoid or minimize them in our daily eating routine. Removing gluten and dairy is one of the simplest dietary tweaks you can make that will yield big results.