Herbs for Digestion

Improve digestion and lose weight with these recipes.

For weight control, stoke your digestive fires.

• Melanie's Chai 
• Bitters on the Go
• Digestive Vitali-tea 

One of my favorite patients was Melanie. She had a fantastic sense of humor and an unshakeable determination to be healthy. At age thirty-eight, she also had trouble with her weight despite dieting, walking five to ten miles a week, and bicycling for at least an hour each weekend.

She had been a pudgy child and, as she got older, rather than lose the baby fat, she got plumper. Through high school and college, she kept to herself a lot, focusing on her studies and a few close friends. She tried every diet that came along, but just as she began to slim down, the diet left her feeling deprived and hungry, and she gained back the weight she had lost.

As we talked, I noted that she looked puffy around the eyes. When I examined her tongue, it was swollen and wet and had a red tip. The sides of her tongue had tooth marks—indentations created when the tongue swells up with water and presses against the teeth. She told me that she often felt tired in the morning, which to me indicated that she might have a weak digestive system. Her pulse was “slippery,” which, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), indicates that she had a “damp spleen.”

In TCM, the spleen is a metaphor for the digestive system. I find that most overweight people have weak, damp digestive tracts. This point surprises some people who struggle with their weight because it seems that their digestion is working too well, but this is not the case. When the digestive fires aren’t “burning hot,” it is much easier for the body to transform food directly into fat and extra water than to transform it into muscle, blood, and energy. According to TCM, if the digestion is weak, cold, and damp, it is nearly impossible to reach an optimum healthy weight, even when eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

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