Lying under the middle of the abdomen, midway between your sternum and your navel, lies the stomach. The great receptor, wan, which translates to “bowl”. It is here that all foods collect and progress with their digestive processes, the sum of our cravings and the wisdom of our choices.
With great enthusiasm, our stomach accepts and prepares our food for absorption in the small intestine.
The demands on our stomach are significant. We ask it to accept whatever we give it, then to transform it into something good for us. This relationship earns the digestive system the title of the Earth Element in Chinese medical five phase theory.
The balance between the strength of our stomach and the impact of our choices can be challenged. Less than optimum decisions can initiate symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea, fatigue and bowel disturbances.
If this situation continues, a host of other conditions—from arthritis and allergies to immune deficiencies to obesity to skin disturbances—and more can be experienced.
In the Chinese model the stomach pairs up with the spleen to drive our digestive processes. Included in this function is the work of the small intestine and the pancreas. When we overwhelm our digestive system the product is a turbid state of absorption. What might be passed up by the small intestine to be sent out through the bowels is now absorbed. The resulting “toxins” become problematic on a wide and systemic level, or the compromised digestion can often fail to absorb beneficial nutrients leading to nutrient deficiencies.
Mental wellness can also be influenced by our digestion.
We see this reflected in our every day language with such idioms as “food for thought” and “let me chew it over.”
Our thoughts can and do impact our stomach. Many of us have made that connection, experiencing cravings when we’re upset or taking notice of emotional patterns when we eat particular foods.
In the Chinese model, mental energies such as rumination, excessive worrying, brooding and depression are often sourced in the Earth element. Again, these are signs of turbidity, but in this case the “toxic” impact is to our peace of mind.
Just as our food choices supply us with nutrients, our words and thoughts supply us with mental clarity.
This clarity can allow us to let go of unhelpful ideas and replace them with beneficial thoughts that nourish us on both emotional and nutritional levels.