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Troubleshoot and Reset Digestion with Foods: Support Breast Health Ayurvedically
According to Ayurveda, 85% of diseases start with an underlying digestive imbalance. One survey reports 74% of Americans are living with digestive symptoms like diarrhea, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. While many folks just ignore these symptoms, doctors suggest they may be a sign of more serious concerns to come.1
Many food intolerances are caused by inefficient breakdown of certain proteins and fats, which often require more digestive strength than carbohydrates. Carbs can also cause digestive issues when they have been consumed in excess long-term and the microbiome becomes overpopulated with carb-digesting microbes. Seasonally, gut microbes should shift from carb-digesters in fall to fat-digesters in spring.
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Proteins require the stomach to produce a significant amount of acid and fatty foods and require the liver to manufacture high levels of bile. The pancreas kicks in by delivering digestive enzymes for proteins, carbs, and fats. If bile ducts are congested, the pancreatic ducts may also congest—in 91% of us, the pancreatic duct joins the bile duct before entering the small intestine.3
So, for most people, seasonal eating, balancing bile flow, liver function, and stomach acid production addresses the lion’s share of digestive imbalances. If there’s inadequate stomach acid or bile flow, harder-to-digest proteins and fats will go undigested into the small intestine, too big to enter the bloodstream, and be taken up into lymphatic collecting ducts.2
How Digestion Affects Breast Health
Think of the lymphatic system as the body’s drainage system, much like the drains in your house—when they back up, you have a mess. Depending on your genetics, toxins earmarked for excretion can back up into a variety of tissues—including the skin, joints, fat cells, brain, and, not uncommonly, breasts.
A healthy lymphatic system depends on efficient breakdown of food (proteins and fats) in the upper digestion; healthy intestinal epithelial lining as a protective barrier from pathogens and toxins; and the right diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
If you have a food intolerance or a growing number of foods causing you some level of indigestion, please address the appropriate imbalances with the right foods in the article below.
Troubleshoot + Reset Digestion with Food
Do you have trouble digesting fatty foods? If so, you may have sluggish bile flow or a congested liver.
Foods That Move Bile (Cholagogues)
- CHIA + FLAX SEEDS are loaded with essential fatty acids that lubricate the intestinal wall while nourishing microbes that support intestinal health and function. They are also high in fiber. High-fiber foods create bulk, which puts pressure on the intestinal wall, resulting in an urge to move the bowels. High-fiber foods also attach to bile in the intestines and escort it to the toilet, while stimulating the request for more bile. Adequate bile flow helps govern bowel regularity and consistency.
- RAW BEETS + APPLES are great bile-movers and thus very effective for occasional constipation. A great way to start the day is a breakfast mixture of freshly grated raw beets and apples sprinkled with lemon juice.
- GREEN, LEAFY VEGETABLES are high in fiber and magnesium, which supports healthy muscular contractions, called peristalsis, in the large intestine.
- LEGUMES provide bulk and better bile flow, which support healthy elimination.
- PRUNES are also high in fiber and within their skins exists a mild laxative, dihydrophenylisatin, which can kickstart sluggish bowels by boosting intestinal contractions.
How is Your Lymphatic System?
Do you experience fatigue after a meal, brain fog, rashes, allergies, headaches, swelling, joint aches, itchiness, or extra weight or cellulite around the belly and hips? If so, you may have a congested lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is actually the largest circulatory system in the body, with a high concentration of lymphatic vessels lining the intestines. The villi and lacteals that line the intestines and the lymph on the outside of the intestines make up 70-80% of the body’s immune system.
Primarily, lymph removes cellular waste while circulating the immune system. This happens as a result of muscular contractions, thus making body movement, stretching, and exercise the lymphatic system’s best medicine. Staying hydrated is also a nutritional requirement for healthy lymph flow. For optimal hydration, some experts recommend half of our ideal body weight in ounces per day.
Foods that Move Lymph
- EAT RED: The best foods for the lymphatic system are high in antioxidants. Classic examples of lymph-movers are foods that would dye your hands red, such as berries, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, and beets.
- GREEN, LEAFY VEGETABLES are highly alkaline, which supports lymphatic drainage. In nature, spring and summer harvests are primarily alkaline and boost lymphatic flow. The winter harvest is primarily acidic, which is nature’s way of rebuilding.
- FENNEL: Eating fennel and drinking fennel tea are traditional ways to move lymph. As a tea, it is effective for gas and bloating, and also supports intestinal lacteal function. Lacteals are small projections, similar to villi, in the intestines, which help absorb nutrients (particularly fats).
Download my free Miracle of Lymph eBook here.
How is Your Microbiome?
The intestinal barrier is made of skin or epithelium whose environment has to be just right—not too dry (constipated) or too loose (diarrhea). The right foods can help repopulate your gut with the right bacteria and help heal and seal your intestinal barrier.
An imbalanced microbiome can lead to bloating, moodiness, abdominal discomfort, weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, and symptoms that mimic those commonly found from lymph and liver bile congestion.
Feed Your Microbiome
- SEASONAL ORGANIC FOODS: Plants attract certain microbes from the soil and, when we eat those plants, the microbes become a part of our microbiome. Organic produce is a significantly greater source of beneficial microbes for the digestive tract compared to conventional foods. Eating seasonal, organic foods will provide microbes that support bodily functions required for each season. For example, in winter, foods are denser and require stronger digestion than the leafy greens of spring. Microbes that support stronger digestion naturally propagate in winter. While research is only beginning to shed light in this area, Ayurveda has understood the value of seasonal eating for thousands of years. Find our Seasonal Grocery Lists here.
- FERMENTED FOODS, such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and miso, are all great microbial sources. These were traditionally eaten in winter, as fermenting is a way to preserve vegetables in colder months. These foods are made via a process called lacto-acid fermentation, which makes them acidic and heating. Eating more acidic foods in winter makes sense, but can be problematic if eaten in excess in summer. Generally, fermented foods should be taken in small quantities, like condiments.
How is Your Liver?
The liver is a “keep-on-ticking” organ that rarely complains. Blood tests are needed to confirm a diagnosis. That said, intolerance to fats and alcohol, along with altered bowel function and discomfort under the right side of the ribcage, can indicate a liver concern.
Cleanse Your Liver with Foods
- BITTER ROOTS: Traditionally, dandelion root, burdock root, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and others were a standard part of the American diet. Today, such liver-cleansing and bile-moving staples are conspicuously lacking in most diets. If it is impossible for you to dig them up or purchase them fresh, get your bitter roots in capsule form and take them in spring. Always choose an organic, whole herbal root form rather than an herbal extract, as most good microbes are killed during the extraction process. Whole herbs are simply dried and ground up, leaving the majority of good microbes intact. My favorite liver-cleansing and bile-stimulating foods are:
How Is Your Stomach?
The stomach can be guilty of producing too much acid or too little—both can cause indigestion. Undigested food in the stool, food that just sits in your stomach, or the refluxing of acid all suggest an imbalance in stomach function.
Boost Your Stomach Acid
Once we have increased bile and pancreatic enzyme flow, encouraged lymph drainage, built a healthier microbiome, and are enjoying better elimination, we can fire up the stomach’s production of hydrochloric acid (HCl).
Ways to Boost Hydrochloric Acid (HCl)
- Chew fresh, raw ginger root or drink ginger tea before and during a meal.
- Dress a salad with oil and vinegar. Vinegar is an acetic acid, which boosts HCl. Apple cider vinegar works even better, because it is safe for high acid conditions.
- Drink a large glass of water a half hour before a meal to prehydrate the stomach’s natural buffer layer; this incites the stomach to make more HCl.
- Enjoy fermented foods as an appetizer.
- Sip hot water with lemon before or during the meal.
- Add a little salt and pepper to a small glass of water and drink before a meal.
- Spice food with fennel, cumin, coriander, ginger, cardamom (LifeSpa’s Gentle Digest).
- Ginger, black pepper, and long pepper (LifeSpa’s Warm Digest) is Ayurveda’s premier spice formula to boost HCl production.
How is your digestion? Can you tell where your trouble spots are? Protect your whole body by keeping your digestion in tip-top shape.