Oct 07

Tips for improving digestion

By Madison Downton & Monica Patt | Acupuncture Blog

Digestion and digestive health is important year-round, but with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas (too soon?) around the corner, this is the perfect time to regroup on how to keep our stomachs in-check.

Here are some tips to help with digestion:

Tea with lemon and honey

Skip the ice water 

Drinking cold water with your meal may be something you’re used to, but it makes it harder for your stomach to digest food. It also dilutes the stomach acid, and the cold temperature can cause your stomach “tense up” and make it more difficult to do its job. It’s similar to what happens to muscles in your hands when you go outside in the winter with no mittens; it’s just not a good idea.

Try drinking a small amount of hot water to warm and soothe the stomach instead.

Eat slowly

Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but that’s because it’s important. Slowing down your pace of eating and chewing your food makes your digestive organs’ job much easier. Your saliva has enzymes that start the digestion process off. 

Woman enjoying a mealTry not to feel guilty

Sometimes it’s hard not to indulge over the holidays, and that’s OKAY. Life is short. Stressing out afterward will not help matters. When you’re stressed your body sends the blood flow away from your digestive organs, which is the opposite of what we want. 

Enjoy some homemade chai

Spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and black pepper are all really good for you this time of year. They are good for your immune system, help keep you warm, and they help with blood circulation. In Chinese medicine they invigorate the production and circulation of Qi (energy) in your body, just like we do with acupuncture. 

Since we use herbs daily in the clinic, we thought it would be nice to breakdown the following recipe into the action of each ingredient:

  • Cloves– are warming in nature and are associated with the Spleen and Stomach (our main digestive organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine) They warm the stomach and aid with digestion.
  • Black Pepper– warming in nature and directly affect the Spleen and Stomach. By warming the stomach pepper is helpful for abdominal pain due to cold as well as digestion.
  • Cardamom –warms the spleen and stomach, promotes digestion and can be helpful in vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal distension.
  • Star Anise– can be used to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, digestive aid as well as increase appetite and promote blood circulation in addition to gas, bloating and diarrhea. Historically star anise has also been used for various women’s health problems such as menstrual cramps, painful menstruation and irregular cycles.
  • Cinnamon– not only is this another warming spice but it also helps balance blood sugar levels.
  • Ginger– warming in nature and promotes circulation as well as assisting with digestion and decreasing nausea.

Here is a recipe for homemade chai you can try at home for an after dinner digestif:

  • 2 cups water
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1 while star anise
  • 1 large cinnamon stick or 2 small
  •  a slice of fresh ginger about 1/2 inch thick
  • honey to taste (optional)

Put all the spices into a small pot with the water and bring to boil, then simmer for 10 – 15 min. Strain, serve, and enjoy.


Acupuncture can be very effective in the treatment of digestive complaints such as bloating, constipation, and heartburn.

A recent clinical trial evaluated the effect of adding acupuncture into the treatment of care with patients that had heartburn that was not responding to medication. Findings found that adding acupuncture is more effective than doubling the medication dose (proton pump inhibitor) in controlling gastro-oesophageal reflux disease-related symptoms in patients who failed standard-dose proton pump inhibitors. You can read more about that study here.

Acupuncture has such a positive effect on the brain and all the the bodily functions linked to the parasympathetic nervous system. In addition to addressing acid reflux, acupuncture also addresses gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation and diarrhea by normalizing gastrointestinal motility and can be a helpful tool to combat any digestive issues that may arise over this holiday season.

-Written by Madison & Monica