Hi There! How's your digestion lately?
While you may think "oh it's good, I go to the bathroom every day", it doesn't mean your digestive system is working as it should. And if you're going less frequently than that, well, we need to talk.
So why is digestion so important? Well, if it's not working properly it can affect many other things in the body, especially when it comes to your immune system and mental health. It also causes a buildup of toxins that can lead to brain fog, acne, eczema and other more serious issues.
Without getting into the specifics about what we eat and how it gets absorbed into the blood stream for energy, digestion is a pretty interesting process and if you're one of my clients, I've likely asked you how often you go and for a description of what comes out (which is always a good ice breaker with new clients, hehe).
First, digestion is more than the process of eating food and eliminating its waste. It's about the nutrients from food that actually get absorbed and used and the things that can improve or hinder the process. Having said that, you aren't what you eat, you are what you digest and what your body is able to absorb with regards to nutrients.
So if your digestion isn't great, here are some things to consider:
Are you chewing your food? (no like REALLY chewing it)
While you may have heard that the digestive process begins in the mouth, some may argue it begins with the eyes. Even seeing food gets the digestive process started. We see food, and our salivary glands kick into action, releasing a digestive enzyme (Amylase) to help kick start the process. But if we pay attention to when food actually hits our mouth and we start chewing, this is perhaps one of the most important processes, aside from what we're actually eating. If you're part seagull and you eat as fast as possible without taking the time to chew properly, this can be EXTREMELY difficult on your body because your digestive system has to work so much harder to break down the food and likely isn't able to absorb all its nutrients.
Where and how are you eating?
Eating on the run, or at your desk while you complete other tasks can also wreak havoc on your digestion. Eating too fast means you aren't chewing properly and you're likely ingesting a lot more air, which can cause gas, bloating and other unpleasant symptoms. It's best to set aside some quiet time to actually enjoy the foods we're eating. Eating should be a mindful activity, where we take the time to really taste and enjoy our food.
Are you drinking enough water? (but not with meals)
Staying well hydrated is key to many metabolic processes in the body. It helps us flush out extra toxins and is important to digestion, but drinking too much water with meals can interfere with the natural digestive enzymes in the stomach that help break down food. While sipping water with meals should be fine, I normally advise waiting half an hour after a meal until you down a full glass of water.
Are you stressed?
What does stress have to do with digestion? Well, a lot! Aside from stress making you eat faster so you can get back to work and complete other tasks, chronic stress can actually affect your gut and the bacteria that live there. Stress can also make us reach for starchier foods that are higher in sugar, also damaging our healthy gut bacteria.
You're eating what?
As I'm sure you know, a diet high in processed foods can definitely affect digestion. What's worse, if someone is used to eating a diet of heavily processed take out foods, their digestion could actually get worse before it gets better when they start eating healthier. This can be due to a lot of reasons. From what I've seen, adding more vegetables to the diet, when someone isn't used to digesting them, can slow the process down, especially if those veggies are raw. What's more, sugar, poor quality oils and overall crappy ingredients will wreak havoc on the healthy bacteria in the gut, stressing the digestive system and impacting your overall health in the process. That's not to say people who eat healthy don't have digestive issues. Pay attention to the amount of veggies you eat and how much fibre you're getting.
"This 30-foot long [digestive] tract is a major headquarters for
immunity, neurological health and more. Digestive health directly
impacts your immune health and vice versa." ~ Dr. Isaac Eliaz
Don't worry, there are solutions! (though they may not happen overnight). Here are some of my most tried-and-true methods:
An elimination diet is the process of removing things from the diet that are likely culprits at slowing down digestion (and causing other health issues). Oftentimes, we can eat a certain food our entire life without trouble, but as we age the amount of digestive enzymes we produce diminishes, which can lead to food sensitivities that were never there before.
The three most common triggers are dairy, gluten and eggs (though there are more and they vary from person to person). Start with the one you think is the likeliest of culprits and leave it out of your diet for three or four weeks. If you feel better once it's been removed, then you've likely found the culprit. If you choose to reintroduce it and you feel poorly, then you know for sure.
I grew up eating bread and until last year I ate it regularly. Last Spring I noticed discomfort in my right hand side that wouldn't go away. One day it wasn't there anymore and I thought to myself "what have I not eaten in a while?". Answer: bread! When I ate it again, the discomfort came right back and it really impacted my digestion.
Detox / Cleanse
Another great way to boost digestion and overall health is through a detox or a cleanse. There are many different kinds but not all are created equal and some simply aren't safe. Here is my favourite:
Our Simply For Life 28-Day Restorative Detox: This is an amazing program that involves more than just food. While certain foods are eliminated for the month (gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine), supplements are also included to not only help detoxify key organs, but also help support them throughout the process. Other aspects are also considered: what household products are you using that can be replaced with safer, less toxic options? (cleaning products, laundry detergents, skin care products, etc); Mental Detox: social media cleanse, spending time in nature, etc.
Note: If you would like more information on this program please let me know. I'm currently doing it myself (and my digestion is great!)
Probiotics / Supplements
What the heck are they? They're products that contain live microorganisms that can improve the balance of bacteria in the gut. Our intestines are home to over 100 trillion bacteria, many of which are important to our overall health. Many things can throw off our gut health and affect our digestion: antibiotics, stress (as mentioned), processed/inflammatory foods (like sugar, carbs, etc), a bout of diarrhea, etc. Just remember that not all probiotic supplements are created the same and you usually get what you pay for.
You can also get a lot of probiotics from fermented foods like Kefir (plain not flavoured as the flavoured one will have more sugar), Kimchi, Sauerkraut, etc.
Other supplements to consider in addition to probiotics:
Products containing Senna (usually teas). Senna helps speed up the peristaltic motion of the intestines, facilitating digestion. Just be sure to follow package instructions and only use it if you're really backed up. (I speak from experience, lol)
Milk Thistle: While it's a liver cleanse, it can often help improve digestion by clearing away built-up toxins. The liver is our main organ of detoxification, so if it's sluggish, it will impact other digestive processes.
Know you fibres
We've all been told to increase fibre if digestion isn't functioning the way it should, but the type of fibre you eat matters. Soluble fibre (oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, psyllium, chia) attract water and turn into a gel during digestion, actually slowing down the digestive process. Insoluble fibre (wheat bran, vegetables, whole grains) will add bulk to the stool and will help speed up digestion.
Exercise, particularly yoga and cardio (even just walking!), help speed up metabolism and helps to get things moving.
Lemon Water (especially first thing in the morning)
Lemon juice helps the the liver produce bile to help digestion work the way it should. Just squeeze the juice of half a lemon into an 8-ounce glass of water and your digestion will thank you. Note: some people sip on lemon water all day, though you'll find it's more effective to consume it first thing on an empty stomach. Also, one of my past clients is a dentist and he told me that the acidity in lemons can wear away tooth enamel. So do it first thing, eat your breakfast then brush your teeth.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post, I hope you'll find it helpful. If you would like more information on these and other topics, or would like to arrange a chat with me, feel free to contact me personally at email@example.com or give me a call at 506-433-5911. I'd be happy to chat with you. See you next month! :)