Yes, from the title it’s a 4 wow factor isn’t it !! It’s a combo of things that I hear about the most in clinic working with women and it’s no surprise that they go hand in hand, as, afterall, we are a whole package, not just random body parts floating around. Although these 3 steps are so so simple, I think they are by far the main things a lot of us aren't doing or have let slip.
Our western society likes to complicate things and have us believe we need to always *do more* and do extreme things for feeling good. If we do something very simple it can seem like we're not doing enough. It's also a great way to keep us spending our money and not being connected to our self and understanding what *we* truly need.
Our digestion is our centre. And it is affected by so much more than *what* we put in. Our hormones, managed by the endocrine system, do so much more than controlling our sex hormones, and our moods are affected by everything internal and external to us.
So, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, having the privilege of a human body is complex in ways, but I’m also happy to share, that it is much simpler than we think.
Our body loves structure, routines and cycles. Give it that and it will naturally be much happier. After all that is how it functions so it requires that in return to operate optimally.
The key to *remember*, is that the body is constantly giving and receiving information. The clearer the information can run (and the better quality the messages) the more balanced the body is. If the messages are blurry, not good feedback or distorted in any way, the body then responds accordingly and doesn’t function as well as it is designed to, which is what leads to experiencing pain, signs and symptoms of imbalance, and more seriously, disorders or diseases.
I could talk for days and days about this, and there is so much fascinating info I am excited to share in the near future (stay tuned !!!), but for now, let’s dive into 3 easy things you can do for a stronger digestive system, balanced moods, happier hormones and managing your weight.
1. Eat breakfast.
Fasting, all the new (and old) fad diets and what all the self made health gurus and influencers share are all great on paper and in theory, but for most people it is not supportive functionally. When we observe that we are sleeping for a long period of time then we expect our body to be fueled and feel energised and amazing all day during all the countless things we are wanting it to do, then it makes sense that it would love some fuel to do all this.
Aim for a warm, either low GI breakfast, with some healthy sweetness like oats and some berries or fruits (I have ½ banana and some berries in my porridge) or a high protein breakfast. If you eat animal products that can include eggs, meats etc and if you don’t eat animal products that could include some scrambled tofu, baked beans, chickpeas (hommus on bread with avo) or a good quality protein powder (make sure you don’t experience any tummy discomfort from this).
Aim for some healthy fats too. For sweet breakfasts like oats adding some chopped nuts or a few coconut flakes or crushed seeds is great and for savoury avocado or a good drizzle of hemp or EV olive oil is perfect.
These are just some examples ofcourse, and they will keep you satisfied longer, provide your body and mind with the fuel it needs to sustain you throughout the biggest part of your day (morning till lunch is yang time = full energy time). It will also make sure you don’t tap into your reserves – we call this our Jing (our essence) in Chinese Medicine. This is like our reservoir – you don’t want to use from this as this is your life force. We want to use energy from that which we take in throughout the day.
Also, the saying, "eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner" is SO SO true. Again, it’s because we need fuel during the day not in the evening to go to sleep. When we have a late or heavy (or both) dinner it is more difficult for our system to detoxify and cleanse while we rest – which is what it’s primary job is – it’s repairing, restoring and getting wastes cleared ready for a bowel movement after waking = elimination (this is detoxing 101). Eating too much or too late at night also affects our quality of sleep and we may have a restless night, wake a lot or have intense dreams or can have us feeling drousy or heavy when waking.
Lastly, and this is super important, aim to eat something that needs chewing. If you look at the Horary Clock – the Chinese Medicine explanation of how we move with nature and how we can regulate our circadian rhythm by syncing with our external world, you will see that the stomachs energy window (each organ has a 2 hour window of power) is at …. Surprise …. breakfast time. This is the 7 – 9 am slot. (full blog about the Horary Clock and printable link is here).
Our stomach is like a soft machine, and essentially like a muscle. It needs to be worked. Chewing something wakes up the stomach. By chewing we produce saliva and start preparing gastric juices, enzymes and acids ready for breaking down food. If we have liquid meals – especially for breakfast, this step is skipped and it can weaken the digestive function and impair the metabolic fire. Similarly if we eat things that are really hard to digest, like just a handful of nuts or something really sticky, phlegm producing (like dairy) or really greasy, our stomach, and then the other digestive organs, have to work even harder to break things down. This also means we are using more of our own energy to metabolise things to make new energy. Quite counterproductive. Eating something warmer will also protect our digestive fire and allow our body to metabolise what we’re putting in much better and faster, plus help us to not store weight as our metabolic function is being supported not compromised. Think avoiding bloating, fluid retention, acid reflux, sluggishness, feeling tired after eating and not having a bowel movement directly after eating (we want to have bowel movements away from eating).
2. Eating regular meals and gifting yourself time to enjoy it.
Skipping meals, eating at random times, eating on the go or eating while being distracted are sure ways to weaken our digestive system, disrupt our energy levels and hormone levels and confuse the body about how to store reserves after metabolising (aka extra weight and / or fluid retention).
As we age and especially as women, our metabolism changes and can naturally slow down. As mentioned, the body, and especially the organs, love consistency, structure and routine, so making time to eat is really one of the greatest things you can do for yourself.
Naturally by having a good breakfast you will feel sustained till lunch (or have a snack if needed), and your blood sugar will be more balanced which will give you more clarity and a calm clear balanced mood, plus balanced hormones (all of them are affected by each other).
If you’re a parent, tune in to see if you are eating peacefully or if you are just eating the left overs of your kids or eating on the run in between their meals and places to be and things to do.
3. Making time for You and slowing things down a little
As mentioned, the body is a big messaging system. Every second of the day messages are moving around the body, between each body system (there are 12), each cell, each nerve, each type of tissue. It’s a big job. The main messenger is our nervous system, acting like the co-ordinator. Our nervous system has a huge separate branch that lives alongside our digestive system, called the Enteric nervous system (don't be surprised if you've never heard of this .... for some reason no-one talks about it even though it is so important !! If you know of IBS or suffer from it this is the culprit disrupting your tummy = basically because it is over stimulated and not relaxed).
So, if we are distracted, overwhelmed, emotional, stressed, agitated or the opposite of calm our nervous system is going to have a direct response on how we are digesting and metabolising food, how we are transporting, transforming and storing the nutrients we are extracting and ultimately how we are using the fuel from the food and drink we take in. Again think easy weight gain or just that bit extra that won't budge, sluggishness and feeling puffy.
An imbalanced and / or heightened nervous system is going to send all kinds or warped and confusing messages to our other systems. Glands like our thyroid, which play a huge role in many many important bodily processes, especially metabolism and weight management, are receiving direct info from our nervous system via the hypothalamus (one of our major control centres). These messages move back to the nervous system which influences our hormones, which guess what our thyroid creates and releases …. Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), which have a direct affect on metabolism, mood, our other hormones and our energy levels. When powerful hormones like this are affected or the glands are confused or overworked we experience any number of unwanted symptoms. In the case of the thyroid, if it is sluggish and overworked and tired think easily feeling tired, easy weight gain, fluid retention, brain fog, cold easily, feeling fatigued, poor metabolism and lack of clarity.
Our nervous system also has a direct correlation with other major systems like our immune and endocrine system (hormones). Making time for ourselves and leaving some space in our day is so potent and so valuable. All the money and all the things in the world are no good to us if we don’t feel well.
When we make a little space for us, connect with ourselves, or with nature and with the simple things we automatically move from a fight or flight nervous system response back to our innate way of being, a rest and digest state.
A simple and very quick way to also do this is to use our breath. Try exhaling for longer than inhaling. Counting is always a great way to help calm the mind quickly too and help us to breathe deeply. Play around with inhaling for the count of 2 and exhaling for the count of 6. For a deeper effect of this breathe deeply into your belly and slowly release all the stagnant air back up all the way to your throat and mouth. Then try extending the numbers if it feel comfortable - for this style of breath work always have the exhalation longer than the inhalation. Also extend the 'holding' count, example hold for 2 or 3 seconds between your inhalation and exhalation.
So, there they are. Three very simple but very powerful tips for managing weight, improving digestion, balancing our moods and happier hormones.
I hope they feel supportive and either create a light bulb aha moment for you or are a much needed reminder for where ever you are at right now.
If you'd like to stay up to date for when more of these and some bigger projects about these topics are launching, please make sure you're subscribed to my email list here, at the end of the home page of the Nourished Temple website.