Stoke Your Digestive Fire to Boost Your Energy and Clear Inflammation

October 2018 - Health & Wellness

With Warm Food and Hot Spices

As the raw food movement gains enthusiasts worldwide, you will often hear them say that raw food is best for health because it is highest in nutrients. Technically, this is correct because raw food is higher in enzymes and vitamins than processed food. But for those with digestive problems, the nutrients in raw food can be hard to absorb and metabolize, so these folks may find that lightly cooking their food can make it more digestible.

The dietary philosophies of both Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine regard food as more than calories and nutrients. In fact, the thermal nature of the food is just as important as the type of food eaten, impacting the body’s balance and ability to digest and absorb. In these ancient traditions, foods are categorized according to their thermal properties (hot, cold, neutral), and flavour (sweet, spicy, pungent, sour, salty). An efficient digestive system is able to handle the breakdown of all types of food, whether cold or hot. But for those with digestive weakness (or low digestive fire) this may not be the case.

Practitioners of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda also believe that the body is affected by weather. So foods with warmer thermal properties are thought to be more balancing to the body in cold winter months. (In fact it is believed that the body can be harmed by eating too much cold, raw food in winter, especially if the person has a ‘cold’ constitution.)

Tending the Digestive Fire

To ensure healthy and optimal digestion, we must support our digestive ‘fire’. This fire (called agni in Ayurveda) represents the power of our digestive organs to process and absorb what we eat while burning off waste products. If we have a strong digestive fire, we are able to easily digest food and absorb its nutrients. If we have a weak digestive fire, our body won’t digest food well, leaving undigested particles behind that create inflammation in the body.

Eating cold (raw) foods is best avoided by those with weak digestion because the digestive tract is made of smooth muscles, and these muscles like warmth. Just think of a time during winter when you were outside freezing. Remember how your muscles tightened up, and your body started shivering? Well, the same can happen to your gastrointestinal tract with the consumption of excessive amounts of cold food; it can cause muscle spasms leading to abdominal pain, cramps, and more.

In addition, the temperature of your food can affect the speed at which action potentials (needed for peristaltic movements in the GI tract) are fired. A cold meal reduces this frequency, thus reducing peristaltic waves. 

Can Cooking Help?

Light cooking methods such as steaming and stir-frying can make some foods easier to digest. Warming and cooking our food can weaken its molecular structure, making it easier to chew. Heat helps to degrade the parts of plants and meat that are resistant to our salivary enzymes. Cooking can function as a means to predigest our food, improving the nutritional availability. For instance, cooking proteins denatures them, allowing them to adopt a different structure that makes them more susceptible to digestive enzymes, and thus more digestible.

Cooked and warm food is also more energetically beneficial in the winter. That is why my new ‘Hot Detox’ plan recommends that 80% of the menu be served warm!

julie daniluk

The Hot Detox ~ #1 Canadian Bestseller in 2017! 11 weeks on the Globe & Mail Bestseller list.

Julie Daniluk’s latest book, the Hot Detox, supports every major organ of your body. Learn the science of detoxification with beautiful and easy-to-understand medical illustrations.

The Hot Detox is an incredible tool that has the potential to truly transform your life. Whether you have a skin disorder, allergies, belly bloating or irritable bowel syndrome, it works by taking stress off of your digestive system until it is restored. It incorporates foods that heal and avoids foods that can potentially be harmful.

In the past, detoxification was traditionally done in the spring and fall when temperatures were moderate and fresh greens were plentiful. However, the popularity of New Year resolutions in January pushes many people to want to cleanse in the heart of winter. But this goes against common sense. In the winter, we need to keep our fires burning to cope with a cooler climate. When it’s cold outside, a standard “cold” detox program of smoothies, juices, and raw salads does not support you, and may even cause you to feel run down, slow your metabolism or aggravate a digestive condition. (Case in point: Have you ever started your day with a frozen banana smoothie and ended up feeling bloated and tired by noon?)

The Hot Detox is a deep cleansing program that serves up a delicious, warming menu with anti-inflammatory remedies that spark digestive vitality. You can have delicious healing food in a balanced approach over the course of 3, 10 or 21 days instead of a crash diet or fast that will leave you jonesing for sugar. The Hot Detox embraces the ancient wisdom of India and China, applying the time-tested intelligence of warming up the body’s core. Inspired by hot yoga practices, this detox will switch up your routine and motivate you to try new exciting combinations. Whether you live in a warm or cool climate, utilizing the heat of a warming diet is the key to alleviating many common concerns such as IBS, low immunity, hormone imbalance and chronic pain. Even for those who live in a warm climate, have a hot constitution, or suffer from an inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, the cooling superfoods recommended in this book will balance the menu and ensure great results for everyone.

The Hot Detox Plan is a soul-satisfying, 5-step detox plan that uses metabolism-boosting spices and hearty recipes to reduce bloating, heal digestion and reset your vitality.


  • Carmody R., Wrangham R. “Cooking and the human commitment to a high-quality diet”. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. (2009); 74: 427-434.
  • Huma N., Anjum F., Sehar S., Khan M., Hussain S. “Effect of soaking and cooking on nutritional quality and safety of legumes”. Nutrition & Food Science. (2008); 38:570-577.
  • Koebnick C., Strassner C., Hoffmann I., Leitzmann C. “Consequences of a long-term raw food diet on body weight and menstruation: results of a questionnaire survey”. Ann Nutr Metab. (1999); 43: 69-70.
  • Verhagen M., Luijk H., Samsom M., Smout A. “Effect of meal temperature on the frequency of gastric myoelectrical activity” Neurogastroenterol Mot. (1998); 10: 175-181.
  •  Daniluk, Julie, “Culinary Spices That Heal”
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