Circulation and the Gut: The two most important systems to get in order for health
One of my teachers says something that is very obviously true, but also quite helpful to think about: “The basic requirement of health is to have highly oxygenated, highly nutritious blood flowing to all of the tissues in the body.” This means you need plenty of blood flowing to any given area of the body, and that the blood has to have plenty of nourishment in it. So the circulation system has to be healthy, and you need to be putting enough of the right kinds of nourishment in your body (mostly via the gut) to maintain that healthy blood flow. Seems pretty basic, right?
Issues relating to circulation are extremely common. While circulation seems like such a basic concept we tend to completely overlook its importance and point to other things as causing our health problems. Most often, we think of poor circulation as being something that shows up as our cold hands and feet, however, we may also experience the effects of poor circulation in other areas of our body. Have you ever thought that your neck pain may be due to poor circulation in your neck? Or that your sinus infections may be due to poor circulation in and around your sinuses? And if you have bad circulation in your arms or legs, that you may be more prone to injury and lengthy healing times? What about abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and constipation? Our internal organs can also be affected by circulation issues!
Most of our patients have several issues rooted in the quality of their circulation, typically because of poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. Poor circulation can also be a structural issue, cardiovascular tone issue, or a congenital issue, but it can also be related to the quality and volume of your blood. A few signs that can point to issues related to circulation are often feeling cold, having cold hands and feet, skin that is cool to the touch, pain, frequent infections, bloating, or constipation. There are several other physical warning signs of systemic circulation issues of which we should also be aware!
Two things that can factor into whether or not the body has the building blocks it needs to make healthy blood are the quality of the food you’re eating and the health of the gastrointestinal system. If you are having GI issues, they may be hard to spot, but symptoms like gas, bloating, nausea, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, abdominal pain or cramping, and even mild constipation can point to issues here that need further exploration.
In addition to the quality of the food that you’re putting into your body, it is important to understand that different foods have different effects on the physiology of your body. For example, certain types of food promote healthy circulation and warmth, while others tend to have more cooling, congealing effect on the fluids in the body. Warming spices such as cayenne, turmeric, and ginger are known to stimulate healthy circulation. By comparison, constantly cramming foods that create a cold or damp environment into the body (like most milk products) might exacerbate the problem!
Here are a few simple suggestions to help improve circulation and digestion:
- Begin the day with a warming tonic, such as ginger or turmeric tea, to activate your digestive system and get the blood moving.
- Hydration is key. Where do you think all that fluid in your blood comes from? Drink plenty of room temperature water throughout the day to help keep things moving. Too much caffeine is dehydrating.
- Get your feet above your heart at least once a day. This is especially wonderful at the end of a long day, by simply propping your legs against a wall or placing a pillow underneath your ankles.
- Get the body moving. Exercise dramatically helps to improve circulation in the body. If you sit a lot during the day, make an effort to get up every half hour or so to take a couple of laps around the office (or outside, if you can).
- Manage stress. While certain amounts of stress are unavoidable, there are still methods and practices to help control it, including breathing techniques and some forms of exercise.
Both the circulatory system and digestive system depend on healthy blood flow, and here at Centered: Richmond, approximately ninety percent of our patients tend to have issues with either one or both of those systems. One of the main benefits of acupuncture and Chinese herbs is that they help to reduce or remove barriers to good circulation in the body (like muscle tension).
At Centered: Richmond we are always looking for the root of the problem, and what we can do to bring you relief while removing blocks to healing. If you suspect that healthy blood flow and/or GI complaints/inflammation are getting in the way of your health, come see us. We’ll get things moving, bad pun intended.