Gut Health: Maintaining Balance During the Changing of Seasons
Balancing gut health during this transitional time between seasons helps establish a solid foundation for our overall health.
Around the autumn equinox is a transitional period, called “Do-Yo,” according to Eastern calendar. The atmospheric energy is changing its direction to opposite, from expansive,vibrant energy or “yin”during spring and summer, into more contracting, quiet energy or “yang” in fall and winter.
And this big transition can create instability in the air. We can see this instability most notably in weather. It could be cool or even cold one day, then it can go up to 80s like summer the next day. Beautiful sunny day could turn into rain storm within a few hours, while some hurricanes could be formed along the coast. This oscillation impacts our health, especially our gut health,
This atmospheric instability could knock you off balance. Some people may develop allergies, sneezing, running nose, colds and infection. Or pain, sleeplessness or just “so tired!” High emotions, anxiety or over-thinking could be a manifestation of instability in gut health.
The symbol of late summer/early fall or Do Yo, according to Eastern philosophy, is Earth or soil. This is a good season to focus on developing stability, or “standing firm on the Earth.” And the stability can be achieved by sound and strong digestive organs, the foundation of health.
Gut Health: Looking to Nature for Guidance
This time of year we can see various produce grown on the ground, such as pumpkins, onions, cabbages, cauliflower, etc, which represent the stability and Earth energy. A harvest season for rice is about to start.
Those foods have a natural sweet taste when cooked and are all beneficial for gut health, the foundation of health. These foods also satisfy us emotionally. As always, the nature provides us with what we need when we need it.
On the other hand, strong and unnatural sweetness from refined sugar or other sweeteners can weaken our gut health. White sugar is known to cause inflammation to the wall of stomach, and of course, put a big stress on pancreas, one of the biggest causes of diabetes. Fluctuation of blood sugar level can also cause emotional instability as well.
In my country, Japan, we cerebrate this short season with newly harvested grains (rice, sake, amazake), pumpkins, taro (or sweet) potatoes, and sweet azuki bean snacks, gazing the splendid full moon. Now let us also enjoy nature’s gifts, and develop stability to prepare for fall and winter!
What to Eat & Not Eat for Gut Health
In terms of food, vegetables that are grown on the ground give us the energy. And natural sweetness in those vegetables, which comes from complex carbs, nourishes our digestive system . They also regulate blood sugar levels more gently and naturally, while some substances in these vegetables are proven to be beneficial to protect the wall of stomach from inflammation.
Here are some seasonal grains and vegetables for gut health during this transitional time between summer and fall:
Grains: brown rice, millet, corn, etc.
Vegetables: cabbage, onions, pumpkins, taros, sweet potatoes, cauliflowers, etc. Cabbage in particular is good for inflammation of the stomach.
Other special foods: umeboshi plum is a traditional medicine for gut health. Miso, soy sauce (traditionally brewed, aged at 1-2 years), tempeh, amazake, sauerkraut and other brine-based pickles are all great sources of natural probiotics.
What Not to Eat for Gut Health
On the other hand, strong or excessive sweetness in sugar and other concentrated sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, artificial sweeteners), could weaken our digestive systems. Refined white sugar is known to cause inflammation to the wall of stomach, and of course, put huge stress on pancreas.
Gut Health: Beyond Food
Connecting to the soil and nature can help promote a healthy digestive system. Activities like walking, gardening, and hiking are all good to take in the Earth energy.