7 Ways to Aid in Digestion
Our digestion and the health of our gut is by far one of the most important fundamentals of overall health and wellbeing. If the health of your gut is imbalanced and you are experiencing digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation and abdominal discomfort then this article is for you. It's no picnic experiencing these symptoms and you may be wondering what the heck is going on? Well, over the years of perhaps not being in tune with your digestion, or in tune with how to support the gut naturally, we can start to experience some of these not-so-pleasant digestive symptoms. The bright side is you are in full control of how you feel, and if you are experiencing any of these digestive symptoms it is simply a sign that something is off, and it's your body's way of communicating that it needs healing. Here are 7 highly encouraged tips for you to follow if you are experiencing any digestive issues.
1. Remove Offenders
First step to healing the gut is to remove offenders. This includes food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies. You can try removing the most common offenders such as gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, peanuts, shellfish and corn. Ditch the unhealthy oils, refined sugars, GMO's, processed and packaged foods that contain additives and preservatives which hinder proper digestion as well. Then, start to consume a real food, wholesome and nutrient dense diet, consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds, lean organic meats like fish and chicken and legumes. Keep in mind if you have been diagnosed with any chronic digestive illnesses such as Crohn's, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or Ulcerative Colitis it is best to work with a registered or certified Holistic Nutritionist to give you a more specific food protocol based on your diagnosis.
2. Cook Your Veggies
A raw food diet can sometimes be tough on the digestive system and if we are already experiencing digestive symptoms this can simply worsen them. Try cooking your vegetables to ease the digestive process. By cooking your vegetables you begin to break down the vegetables and the fibers they contain making the digestive process easier. To support digestion you can boil, steam, sauté or roast them. You can also try mashing your veggies or try eating your vegetables in soups to further support digestion and to increase your body's ability to absorb all of the amazing nutrients.
3. Consume this Dynamic Duo (Probiotics and Prebiotics)
This is absolutely the dynamic duo of gut health. Your gut health depends on the trillions of strains of healthy bacteria. Your digestion and immunity depends on the health of these bacteria and its communities. We are in fact made more of bacteria than we are cells, and bacteria outnumbers cells in the body 10 to 1. Crazy right? Bacteria can be unhealthy or healthy bacteria, and when we have an outnumbered amount of bad bacteria, that’s when digestive issues can arise. Probiotics are those "healthy bacteria", which we can get from several food sources. Fermented food such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, kefir and any other fermented vegetablescontain those probiotics that will support healthy digestion. Prebiotics on the other hand are also important to aid in digestion, because they are the food and fuel for the probiotics. Without proper levels of prebiotics the healthy bacteria cannot thrive, grow and multiply in the digestive tract. So where can you get prebiotics? There is a unique strain of resistant starch which is in white potatoes, which is a prebiotic and you can get it in a concentrated supplement form. Other prebiotics food sources include artichokes, garlic, dandelion greens and onions. Pair the consumption of probiotics and prebiotics daily, and you are well on your way to optimal gut health!
4. Support Your Liver
Without the health of your liver, digestion can't do its job. The liver plays a vital role in processing all of the foods we take in and is responsible for removing toxins from the body. It is our ultimate detoxifying center! When it is bombarded with toxins, pesticides, chemicals, additives and other harsh substances, it can get overwhelmed making it hard to eliminate. As a result your digestion can then be affected. There are many liver friendly foods that can help support the detox pathways in the body and aid in the elimination of toxins, such as cruciferous vegetables (brussel sprouts, broccoli and cabbage) beets, apples, lemons, limes, berries, turmeric, dandelion root, green tea, avocados and garlic. Make sure you are also drinking lots of quality, filtered water, aim for 8-10 glasses daily of water to support the livers detoxifying process.
5. Start Consuming Bone Broth
Have you ever tried bone broth? Bone broth is one of the best sources of collagen. The tissue that makes up the lining of the intestinal tract needs collagen. It acts as a protector to the digestive tract, helps heal leaky gut syndrome and can soothe the lining of the GI tract. Since we know the liver plays a vital role in digestion, bone broth also boosts the supply of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is made in the liver and is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body detoxify.
6. Use Apple Cider Vinegar
In order to break down food particles you need hydrochloric acid, also known as stomach acid. Over time and as we age the levels of stomach acid can often decrease. Stomach acid levels can decrease over time from chronic stress, overuse of antibiotics, eating too quickly, poor diet, regular consumption of food sensitivities, and small intestinal bacterial growth. In order to support the natural process and healthy levels of hydrochloric acid, try regularly consuming apple cider vinegar. Mix approximately 1 tablespoon of raw, organic apple cider vinegar in a cup of room temperature water and stir. Drink this before a meal and this will help raise those levels naturally, easing the digestive process. Try not to drink more water during your meal as this can actually dilute the stomach acid levels in the body. Best to drink fluids throughout your day in between meals.
7. Slow Down and Chew
Our autonomic nervous system is composed of two main branches. We have sympathetic mode, which is fight or flight and parasympathetic mode which is rest digest and repair. When we are constantly eating our meals on the go, while we are driving, working or talking on the phone we aren't mindfully eating, and chances are we are in "fight or flight" mode. Fight or flight mode raises cortisol levels in the body (our stress hormones), making it hard for the body to properly digest foods, and assimilate nutrients for absorption. It also lowers our digestive juices and hydrochloric acids in the body. Take time out in your day to eat, make sure you're in a calm and relaxing state, chew your food mindfully, and aim for twenty chews before swallowing until your food is a nice mushy consistency. Eating while in parasympathetic mode and chewing your food has a positive effect on digestion.
Know that you are in control of this process. There is a lot you can do to heal your digestion. There is no need to live with the constant struggle of digestive issues such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, acid reflux and constipation. Remember these are not normal and are all signs that something is off and you need to make some changes. If you are seeking further advice and want expert support make sure to seek out a trained practitioner that specializes in digestive health.
Stephanie | Holistic Nutritionist, CNP