Published July 31, 2014 What if I told you that taking the ice out of your drinks could instantly improve your digestion? Think of the word “cold” – frigidity, stillness, stagnation are feelings and synonyms that come to mind. When we think of digestion, however, our ideal feelings we’d like to associate with it are fluidity, motion, warmth, and efficiency. It makes sense that cold liquids (or foods!) would hinder the burning digestive fire we’d like to have going all day. Is this an unusual tip? Absolutely – but it’s one that has helped me immensely over the years. Here’s a list of 11 unusual ways to improve your digestion that may seem strange at first, but can make a big difference!1. Don’t drink anything cold, only room temperature to hot beverages!Hot drinks only?! What about water? According to Traditional Chinese medicine, you should serve water the temperature of tea (or at least luke-warm / room temperature if the notion of plain steaming water doesn’t tickle your fancy). I know this sounds crazy, but when I visited my first TCM practitioner, this was the immediate instruction they gave me and it pretty much changed my world. At the time my body was considered very “yin,” or cold (hello cold hands and feet) and not only was food always sitting in my stomach undigested, my hands and feet were extremely cold even in warm weather. I was always tired and had a lack of circulation. Yang represents the energy that is responsible for warming and activating bodily functions. When this energy is depleted your body begins to slow down, displaying signs of under activity and sensations of coldness. You need heat in your body, otherwise where will your “digestive fire” and metabolism get their burning power? When you have food sitting in your stomach, especially food that contains fat, it simply doesn’t make sense to put an ice cold “refreshing” liquid on top of it. This will solidify the fat/oils you just ate and stagnate your digestive process. The point of digestion is burning up food for energy, but cold drinks do the opposite. Hot drinks liquify your food and make it much easier to break down. Plus, drinking hot things all day long will keep your yang, or metabolism and food-burning power, going strong. 2. Drink ginger tea (or fire cider) in the morning and reap a strong digestive fire all day long!Fresh ginger is a common herb used in Chinese medicine to help digestion through its function of warming the stomach. Yang deficiency can present itself in many ways, and ginger will help all of these symptoms (lack of energy, puffy/heavy legs and arms, puffy eyes/face, bloating after eating, sluggish bowel movement/loose stool, sensitivity to cold environments or foods, some may underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), weight loss difficulties). Simply drinking ginger tea in the morning can jumpstart your yang energy and replenish your deficiency by helping the body dispel “cold” early on in the day. It will also raise your Qi, or your life force, giving you a boost of energy.Fire cider is another option. The ingredients include: apple cider vinegar, honey, oranges, lemons, onions, horseradish root, ginger root, habanero pepper, garlic, and turmeric! You can pick up a bottle in your local health food store. ALL of these herbs are spicy, pungent, and warming and can kickstart your digestion! Taking a shot of this is an excellent way to prepare for the day.3. Eat with company. If you usually eat alone, light a candle as company instead!Did you ever notice that animals don’t like to eat alone? Cats are known to do this, and the other day my friend posted a video on Instagram of how her dog loves to be watched while he eats. She thought it was because he likes an audience, but in reality, animals instinctively know that eating around the presence of others improves digestion. This was the first thing I read in Dr. Devi’s book on her natural allergy treatment system.4. Don’t talk about anything at the table besides your food. Don’t talk about anything stressful or even events that happened during your day. Just the food!One of the best things you can do is practice mindfulness, where you are present in the current moment and only that moment. You are knee deep into any and every sensation that is going on during the activity you’re performing, whether it’s washing the dishes or eating a delicious meal. While eating, you should be tasting every flavor and bite, or else your energy won’t focus on the meal or digesting it. “The worst thing you can do is ask your child about the test he or she is worried about or something that happened at school,” a practitioner once said to me. TCM believes that mealtime is not a place to talk about the events of your day or anything that could evoke a stress response or cause your mind to wander. When you are eating, you should be focused on the delicious food, celebration, and good company. An excellent thing to do is comment on the different flavors or spice notes you taste, and even ask the chef of the house, “How did you make this? I would love to know the ingredients” so that you can compliment and respect the food, depositing positive, loving energy.5. Eat with flowers or a living plant on the table. Surround yourself with beauty and color.In this 2009 study, viewing plants during a recovery period had a positive influence linking directly to health outcomes of surgical patients. Patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers had significantly more positive physiologic responses evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue than patients in the control room. Can you imagine what a simple living centerpiece could do for your meals?6. EAT WITH YOUR HANDS!Eating with my hands always felt natural, yet I was scolded by my elders for doing so! Why? It’s about as close to nature as you can get. Digestion begins at your fingertips! This is why food you prepared by hand with love just feels good in your body. It starts from the moment you begin chopping and touching the food you’re eating. Your body senses what’s to come and prepares. Millions of nerve endings in your fingers relay the message that you’re about to eat, including the temperature of the food, level of spiciness, etc. to prep the stomach for digestion. Handling the food with your fingers releases digestive juices and enzymes. You will feel much more connected to what you’re eating.7. Thank God or The Universe for your food. There is a reason many cultures say prayers before eating!No matter what higher power you believe in, display gratefulness to the Universe/God for the meal you are about to consume. Your words and thoughts transmit energy and have the power to change reality. They hold much weight, therefore you must use them wisely. When you say a prayer of thankfulness and gratitude before your meal, you literally change the energy of that meal. You put love into it. You raise its vibration. It will immediately become easier to digest. Saying thank you after a meal will also aid your gut health.8. Eat when the sun is out!I’ve talked about this in depth in this post. Yang energy, which creates excess or “heat” is strongest during the day, when the sun is out. Yin energy, which creates deficiency or “cold” is strongest at night. The energy and motivation of our body mirrors the SUN’S yang energy! Our DIGESTIVE FIRE (think of logs of food going into a fervent fire) is strongest when the sun’s energy is strongest. By listening to nature and the cycle of the sun, we know to eat our largest meal around 3pm. You should try not to eat when the sun goes down, because your body gets colder and your digestive fire dies out in order to save energy for organ restoration during sleep.9. Never eat while you’re angry or arguing.Another thing I learned in Dr. Devi’s book is that “allergies” can present themselves in any form, because “allergies” are simply your body rejecting the ENERGY of a food or component of food (vitamin, etc.) Energy is everything. Your body senses the energy of food when you’re even within a 10 foot range of it. When you eat while you are angry or arguing, you can literally develop an allergy to the food you were eating from that day on. Your body remembers the food you consumed while you were in such a poor, negative state and remembers to reject it next time.10. NEVER EAT WHILE READING OR WATCHING TV!Check out this post I did a few months back. I explained how the different organ systems in your body either mother one another (nourish), or have the ability to attack one another. As you can see by the red arrow stretching from the liver to the stomach, the liver has the ability to “attack” the stomach when it is overcharged. Did you know that your eye health is related to the health of your liver? If you are experiencing eye or vision problems, liver cleansing is your answer. When you use your eyes to read or watch TV, you are charging up your liver. At the same time, you are engaging the stomach, but it’s not getting stimulated with your attention and energy. Therefore, the overcharged liver has the opportunity to attack the stomach causing “IBS” and many other serious digestive issues and pain.11. Practice Tai Chi or Qi Gong before a meal to get your energy and digestive fire flowing!Here is a great video that shows you modern Qi gong exercises you can do at home in a short period of time. It’s a great way to start your day or any meal.