Digestion is probably THE thing I talk about the most with my clients. Well, maybe that and energy (or lack of!!!). The following are all are signs that something is not functioning right in that amazing digestive system of yours. However, it is very true that the signs of a troubled digestive system could be neurological, skin or immune-related too.
- Sore tummy
- Acid reflux
- Pain on one side
- Foul smelling wind
- Loose stools
- Fatigue after eating
- Undigested food in stool
Here are 5 tips for improving your digestion. Please note that this article is not intended as treatment for SIBO, IBD or any particular digestive condition and they are by no means exclusive. They are in addition to a healthy diet with lots of veg, good fats, not much sugar and very little processed food (but of course!!)
- Chew well! Yes, really chew. You wouldn’t believe what an impact this has and most people seem to be bolting their food down. It’s really quite simple as to why we need to do this: the process of chewing breaks the foods down into small pieces which then go into your stomach for further digestion by stomach acid and certain enzymes. When the food is in smaller particles then your body has less work to do and by the time the bits of food reach the small intestine they are in a size that the body can cope with. A lack of chewing results in big chunks going into the stomach. Quite often we don’t have quite enough stomach acid (maybe you are stressed, on PPIs – omeprazole), which makes it harder to break foods down of course, so then you end up with large particles in the small intestine, fermenting, causing gas (bloating) and creating an inflammatory environment with a host of negative consequences.
- Don’t drink too much liquid with a meal. This will dilute the all important hydrochloric acid in your stomach and prevent the release of adequate digestive enzymes.
- Add some bone broth to your diet. This is so easy to do, especially if you have a slow cooker. Use the bones of chickens or beef (your butcher may oblige) and make a nice broth with vegetables. This is so rich in healing nutrients such as glycine, which can help to protect and restore gut lining, which can be damaged through inflammation. Our grandmothers would have done this, passed down through generations from when we instinctively did what was good for us.
- Talking of knowing instinctively what is good for us, another dietary custom of many people all over the world is to eat fermented food. Tempeh and natto in Japan, kimichi in Korea, sauerkraut in Germany and kefir, kombucha and yoghurt in many places. Why are femented foods so good for us? In a nutshell, when a food is fermented and we ingest it, we are introducing different strains of beneficial bacteria into our digestive tracts. This is so important, our diets and lifestyles have changed so much over the last 100 years that many of us lack beneficial bacteria. Not to mention the impact of antibiotics and some other medication, which wipes these ‘friendly bugs” out. Good bacteria are needed for our immune system, to absorb or make certain nutrients, reduce inflammation and generally support healthy digestion. Incorporating a little into your diet on a daily basis would be wonderful, but any is better than none.
- Cut down on gluten based foods. More and more research is showing gluten to be an inflammation causing food. Did you know that when grains were originally introduced to the human diet, we sprouted and fermented them rendering them far easier to digest? Gluten contains a protein that is very sticky when it is in the digestive tract, so if you feel your system is compromised in any way, then give yourself a break for a while. Gluten can encourage intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which increases your likelihood of reacting to other foods and can overstimulate the immune system, which can also be a contributory factor in the development and management of auto-immunity. I will write more on this in the coming weeks, it’s a huge topic. Also to note is that gluten is not the only food to consider regarding digestive issues, it’s just quite a common trouble-maker and can be a good place to start.
There are so many more things I could say on the subject of digestion, but even if there is one point you find interesting or is new to you, then take that point away and maybe you can use it to make some changes for a healthier digestion and ultimately a healthier you.