Ever since I can remember I have struggled with digestive issues, I was over at my grandmas house a lot when I was younger and I would constantly ask her for TUMS because my stomach ALWAYS hurt. I had the typical SAD(Standard American Diet) diet- that included all things refined, processed foods, meat heavy and very minimal vegetables, until I was about 18. That’s when I really started cooking more meals for myself and became much more interested in health and wellness. Over the years, through trial and error- I have developed some tips and tricks I use on a daily basis that really help me with my digestion. I hope they can give you the relief you need as well!
1. Find out if you have any food sensitivities : This is number one for me, you can’t begin to heal your gut if you don’t start by eliminating the foods your body is sensitive to, a healthy body starts with a healthy GI system. Start a food and mood journal to begin tracking your symptoms, that way you can start to pin point what foods make you feel certain ways.
2. Make sure to stay hydrated : We need water in order to properly break down our food and transport its nutrients throughout the body. Your bowel movements also require water, dehydration is a major culprit in cases of constipation! The amount of water each person needs is super individual, a great way to gauge your hydration levels is by looking at your urine. If it is concentrated and a medium-dark yellow colour, you need more water. If it is light yellow, you are well hydrated!
3. Populate the gut with probiotics: From food and through supplementation. Probiotics are the good bacteria that reside in your digestive tract, they help to keep the gut running smoothy and digesting effectively. Fermented foods are an amazing way to populate the gut with probiotics, I love sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha! If you don’t like fermented foods or don’t have access to good quality ones, probiotics supplements are your next best bet. I always recommend looking for one that contains at least 20-50 billion strains, as well as multiple types of strains (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium) and make sure it’s dairy-free and does not contain and binders and fillers.
5. Move your body daily : Daily movement can help speed up your digestion and keep you regular as well. Light exercise such as yoga, stretching and walking has been shown to improve bowel movements by increasing the flow of blood and lymph, as well as speeding up intestinal transit time. Having a daily bowel movement is important for intestinal detox, moving gut bacteria and preventing intestinal fermentation and build-up.
6. Eat more mindfully : Eating in a stress free environment, where you take the time to chew your food properly and savour your meal can help you better digest your food. When we are not in a proper state of “rest and digest” while eating aka in fight-or-flight mode, our bodies cannot allocate enough blood flow and energy to our digestive system because it is too busy making sure we are not about to get killed by a bear! Take a few deep cleansing breaths before you begin your meal, eat your food without any distractions like the TV or your phone. Chew slowly and really savour your meal.
7. Include healthy fats in every meal : Healthy fats can help you feel more satiated, causing you to eat less and not over burden your digestive system. Some examples of healthy fats are avocado, nut butters, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, salmon, dark chocolate, coconut.
8. Prime the gut with bitter foods: Such as apple cider vinegar- can be taken before meals diluted in water to help stimulate the flow of our digestive juices and digestive enzymes. Other options are things like rapini, radicchio, arugula, dandelion greens, cranberries, citrus peels, raw cacao, lemon, kale. Adding these options into your meals can help with digestion as well.
9. Herbal teas can be helpful when feeling bloated: Herbal teas such as peppermint, fennel, ginger and dandelion root are all beneficial for supporting the digestive system. You can even find herbal tea blends that are made specifically for digestive support such as “belly comfort” by Traditional Medicinals.
10. Digestive enzymes occasionally : If you know you are going to be having a big heavy meal, you can take a digestive enzyme supplement before hand to ensure the food is being properly digested.
11. Eat until 80% full : Getting into the habit of only eating until 80% capacity is an amazing way to keep your digestion in check. It ensures that your body can actually handle all the food that is being thrown down the hatch. To do this you HAVE to eat slowly, this gives your body time to catch up and process how much food it is getting. It takes 20 minutes for our stomach to relay to our brain when it is full.
12. Watch out for sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols are things like such as xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol- mainly found in items labelled “sugar free”. Our bodies cannot fully digest sugar alcohols, so they end up passing through our digestive tract relatively undissolved. These molecules can draw a ton of water into our intestines and cause major bloating, gas and diarrhea.
13. Manage your stress levels : Stress is a major factor when it comes to our digestive health.When our body is constantly in this fight-or-flight mode, our digestion gets turned off. Meaning we can’t properly process our food and this can lead to many other issues.
14. Prioritize your sleep : Ensuring you give yourself 8 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep each night. When your body is not getting the right amount of sleep, the tissues of the digestive system don’t get the proper amount of time to grow, heal and rebuild themselves.
15. Supplement with collagen : Collagen can be an awesome addition to your daily regimen. Collagen provides the amino acids needed to repair and rebuild the intestinal walls and prevent leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is when the tight junction proteins along your intestinal tract that act as the gateway between your intestines and bloodstream become damaged, allowing larger particles and foreign invaders to begin passing through. This in turn creates more inflammation in the body and sometimes results in autoimmune reactions.