Improve Digestion Now: All-You-Need-to-Know Guide

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

The Look Of Constipation 800X675 1 | Improve Digestion Now: All-You-Need-To-Know Guide

 How is your digestion?

Our gut is the gateway to all things health. If our gut is not healthy, or digestion is “off” then other things fall apart. How is your digestion? Today’s Tip Tuesday is dedicated to all you need to know for improving your digestion in order to feel amazing in your own skin (inside and out).

Signs of Digestive Disturbances:

  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas, especially after meals
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Cramping
  • Fatigue between meals
  • The 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. “crash”
  • Frequent headaches
  • Skin breakouts
  • Lightheadedness before meals
  • GERD, reflux
  • Allergies, asthma
  • Brain fog
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Lowered immunity
  • Mood disorders (depression, bi-polar)
  • Mental and behavioral health maladies (ADD/ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, eating disorders, migraines)
  • Inflammation (and stress)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Blood sugar handling issues

How to improve your digestion?

Remove the Stressors

Improve Digestion
Remove the bad.  The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract such as inflammatory foods, infections, and gastric irritants like alcohol, caffeine or drugs.

  • Food Logging & Investigation.
    If you suspect a food intolerance, try keeping a detailed food and symptom journal for two weeks that includes times, foods, portion sizes, and any symptoms experienced—note how you feel (psychologically, physically, etc.) before and after meals. This log will begin to give you a good clue as to what foods may be the culprits for some of your symptoms.

 

  • Food Elimination Experiment.
    With a clearer picture of what foods may not be your best friends, it’s time to rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract. No one likes to change dietary habits but it is essential for treating a leaky gut. For most everyone, that means eliminating packaged and processed foods and excessive amounts of added sugar, for some, that means: gluten, grains, dairy, soy, FODMAPs (garlic, onion, honey, fructose, avocado, apples, bananas, legumes, etc.) and/or nightshades (potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, paprika, etc.). Many people freak out right here (“You’re taking my ____ away?!”). It may not be forever—but you need some time away from these potential sneaky gut attackers in order to really determine if it is beneficial for you or not. Elimination allows you to reduce inflammatory reactions, improve gut permeability and improve digestion/absorption. Common foods to avoid during an elimination may include:

    • ALL sugars and sweeteners, even honey or agave
    • High-glycemic fruits: watermelon, mango, pineapple, raisins, grapes, canned fruits, dried fruits, etc.
    • Tomatoes, potatoes, and mushrooms
    • Grains: wheat, oats, rice, barley, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, etc.
    • Dairy: milk, cream, cheese, butter, whey, etc.
    • Eggs or foods that contain eggs (such as mayonnaise)
    • Soy: soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, tempeh, soy protein, etc.
    • Alcohol
    • Lectins—a major promoter of leaky gut—found in nuts, beans, soy, potatoes, tomato, eggplant, peppers, peanut oil, peanut butter and soy oil, among others
    • Instant coffee: Many brands of instant coffee appear to be contaminated with gluten. It’s important to eliminate it to be sure it’s not an immune trigger.
    • Processed foods
    • Canned foods

Replace 

Replace with good. Add back in the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that may have been depleted by diet, drugs (such as antacid medications) diseases or aging.

  • HCL Supplementation
  • Digestive Enzymes

Reinoculate

Improve Digestion

Support beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good gut flora

 

Repair

Improve Digestion

Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself, as well as adopting new food hygiene habits, are essential.

  • Supplementation (as directed). May include:
    • L-Glutamine
    • Pacreatic enzymes
    • Gallbladder and liver support
    • Cod liver oil
    • Zinc
    • Vitamin A, C, E
    • Bitters and herbs such as licorice root and aloe vera
    • Ginger

 

  • Food Hygiene Habits
    • Chew your food. Until its not longer in its original form
    • Relax. “Rest and digest.” Digestion is a parasympathetic process
    • Water Timing. Drink half your bodyweight in ounces (i.e. a 120 lbs. Individual needs approximately 60 oz. of water), and, for every 8 oz. cup of coffee or diuretic (green tea or caffeine drinks) you consume, you technically need 12 oz. of water to compensate for the dehydration that beverage provokes. In addition, refrain from water intake during meals inn order to allow your digestive juices to remain concentrated and better able to break down food.
    • Food Handling. Consume foods in their freshest, least-handled state as possible. This prevents LOTS of bad bacteria (from others’ grimy hands or sketchy restaurant kitchens, or spoilage) from inhabiting your gut.
    • Food Quality. Food quality not only involves food handling, but also the nutrient-density of your foods. For instance, consider your morning eggs. Where did your eggs come from? A sick chicken in a huge chicken factory or a pasture-raised, free-range roaming chicken in a field? Or, an apple: A mealy, grainy 25-cent apple at the airport versus a crispy, crunchy organic and juicy apple from the farmer’s market? Totally a different experience with completely different nutrient factors.

Rebalance

Improve Digestion

These are the powerful lifestyle factors that can get neglected when we focus exclusively food and supplements, like sleep, physical activity and stress management practices (yoga, meditation & mindfulness)

  • Connect (with your body). Sometimes the connectedness we have (or don’t have) with our bodies can make all the difference in the world for digestion. Often times, we go into autopilot mode: we eat the same foods we “like”—with the same symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation or nausea (with no awareness that these foods are not digesting well). For instance, we drink the same protein powder day in and day out, only to find ourselves with a rumbly tummy and needing to find the nearest restroom fast…or we eat foods we think are ‘healthy’ for us, only to find ourselves doubled over in digestive distress time and time again, regretting our decision (onions, nuts, yogurt, cheese, eggs, etc.). Every BODY is different, and this is where being a super sleuth (and honest) with yourself is a must..

 

  • Find a Routine. Aim to eat regular meals throughout the day. Going too many hours without any fuel in your system may actually inhibit Reach for balance (protein, fats and veggies) and try to consume these around similar times of day, snacking only as needed to promote positive blood sugar between meals. A regular routine eating simply gets your body in the habit of anticipating food and beginning the digestive process—even without your trying.

 

  • Exercise. Regular exercise does a body good. Get things moving by grooving.

 

  • Mindfulness. Take a deeeeep breath in and let it out….five times. Attune to your breathing and your body. Sometimes all we need is a little re-set and stress management to realign our body.

Heal your gut, heal your health.

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