Navigate gut health through the whole year, not just January.

woman laying down with hands gently resting on her abdomen. Wearing a light blue linen shirt.

Navigate gut health through the whole year, not just January.

As the media megawashes us with messages about diet, “new year, new you” and other “self-help” propaganda, our message this month is fully grounded in tried-and-true TCM principles.

See how we navigate gut health through the whole year, not just January.
Sara Ward

Sara Ward headshot

My own journey to TCM started with digestion. I was a mess. Couldn’t keep food down, didn’t understand why one day I looked like I was nine months pregnant and by morning I’d be rocking my (back then) flat tummy. I was 22 and living in South Korea when I found out about TCM. 

Like many people who walk into my clinic, I turned to TCM as a last resort, desperate for help. I’d seen every doctor for my digestive issues and all the tests came back free and clear. Then I found myself in a very traditional clinic in South Korea (not unlike the Village) where I was lying on a table in a big room full of other acu-nappers. The TCM practitioner asked me three questions and started placing needles on my limbs. As his pièce de résistance, he set a large heated rock on my abdomen. Wow. Then he sent me home with herbs.

I saw him every day for two weeks and witnessed my digestive AND mental health improve (funny how they go together, no?). The sun got sunnier, the days felt easier — a literal Christmas miracle! 

Or so I believed until I started studying TCM and came to understand the power of acupuncture and herbs. 

After my incredible recovery, I had to know everything about TCM. Today, after years of study and clinical experience, I know exactly what that practitioner was doing. He was warming my digestion, relighting my digestive fire and recirculating the energy my body had been misdirecting. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as avoiding cold, raw foods and eating with the seasons, using TCM principles to build out your meals. 

It’s so simple, in fact, that I’ve gone ahead and written a book about it. Stay tuned, we’ll be launching Yin Yang Reset in the new year. Until then, stay strong against the tsunami of “new year, new you” messages.

I like you just the way you are.

Lisa Matsuzaki


Gut health in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is not the same as what is presented in mainstream media, which appears to me as a thinly veiled version of diet culture. Digestion in TCM is central to a whole person’s health and wellbeing, mental and physical. So much depends on each individual’s constitution and how their systems function. Food as medicine is an integral part of TCM as both the things we eat and herbal remedies.

There is no single rule that applies to everyone although you may often hear me say that smoothies are my enemy! Of course, some people can handle them, but for most, they are too cold and hard to digest – especially first thing in the morning! TCM likes to keep our digestive fires burning!! Our bodies can extract more nutrients from warmed and at least slightly cooked foods.

It all comes back to balance. Most people benefit from more warm and cooked foods in the colder months. But if you can’t give up that smoothie, try fresh fruit rather than frozen, and warm it back up with the addition of ginger.

Moderation is the key!

Sharyn Turner

Sharyn Turner local acupuncturist smiling headshot

I’ve just arrived back from Australia, and you can bet we ate (and drank) a lot!

Now, I’m what Sara calls one of her digestion patients. I used to think the intolerances, pain and digestive upset I was experiencing almost every day was normal. Guess what? It’s not! And I no longer suffer thanks to dietary tweaks and acupuncture. 

Food as medicine is an integral part of Chinese medicine. The type of food, how it’s cooked and our individual constitutions all play a part in optimal digestive functioning. I always encourage warm, cooked, easily digested foods at this time of year or when you’re feeling that your gut could use a much needed boost. Reduce the spicy or fried greasy stuff to give your system a break!

It’s important to care for our digestive systems since our gut health also affects our general physical and mental health. 

Shanie Rechner  (pronounced Shaw-nee)

Shanie Rechner local acupuncturists smiling headshot

“Happy wife, happy life” they say. Well if that’s true, then I’m here to tell you your gut is the wife of your body.

We hear it all the time, but digestion truly is so important to our overall health. While I do love getting recipe ideas off of you all in session, that’s not the reason why I spend so much time inquiring about your food and nourishment habits. How we eat, and subsequently how our gut then handles that food, is a key part in how we create Qi, or create the building blocks for energy, growth and cell repair.

We spoke last month about mindset, but what if I told you without your digestion in order, trying to get your mind right may be an uphill battle in the making?

“Mind-Gut Connection” as dubbed recently by modern medicine, is a concept which has long been understood by TCM. You may experience this after a period of eating poorly when you become weighed down and foggy headed. Or vice versa, when you have been using serious brain-power and are left feeling ravenous (shoutout to all my students out there!).

In the clinic, you’ve likely heard me discuss how we’re activating your body’s built-in healing mechanisms through your nervous system (brain and co.) but what do I tell you this state is called? “Rest and DIGEST”!!!

So in this context alone we can see that a state of good-working digestion is equal to a state of health and wellness.

So tell me, how’s your wife?

Book recommendation: “Mind-Gut Connection” by: Emeran Mayer,MD

Vincent Wang

Vincent Wang Acupuncturists at The Village Community Acupuncture

In neuroscience, it is found that the brain-gut-microbiota axis involve communications that enable gut microbes to communicate with the brain and the brain to communicate with the microbes.

In Chinese medicine theory, gut health relates to Spleen-Stomach system. The Spleen harbors the body’s thoughts and intentions (Yi), and is responsible for intelligence, cognition, analytical thinking, memory and ideas. 

The Spleen is also responsible for positive psycho-emotion including honesty, trust, calmness, openness, balance, impartiality, acceptance, and calmness, which contribute to the harmony of Stomach and gut health. 

Our negative emotions such as worry, regret, pensiveness, self-doubt and overthinking may cause irregularity of stomach digestion and affect gut health. Gut function also exerts an effect on negative or positive emotions via Spleen-Yi (thoughts & intentions).

So be happy to maintain good gut health.

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