Gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, cramps – these symptoms of digestive disturbances are common in our culture. You’ve no doubt been bombarded with advertisements your entire life for antacids and other quick fixes to get rid of these issues, so of course, these maladies would seem normal. Common. Usual. But are they?
If you experience any of the common symptoms above more than once a week, and you have been popping Tums like candy for awhile, perhaps it is time to take real action!
10 Tips to Improve Your Digestion
- Exercise! This is a no brainer. If you get moving, so will everything else! Make sure to stay hydrated around workouts! Also, if you are overweight, losing weight can decrease pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (the one that allows acid to reflux, resulting in GERD) so even more of a reason to get moving.
- INCREASE stomach acid. Often it is too little stomach acid that causes digestive ills like heartburn, not too much like you have heard. In fact, antacids can actually work against healing the problem! Drink a glass of water with lemon or apple cider vinegar added prior to meals to boost up the acid. This will help your stomach break down the food better. Many people with digestive disturbances have low stomach acid for various reasons and this is not something to take lightly. Your stomach acid not only breaks down food so you can digest and absorb it properly, but it kills harmful bacteria from the food you consume. FYI – Don’t drink water just before or just after meals – it dilutes the stomach acid – as mentioned, add lemon if you are thirsty around meals.
- Reduce stress – another no brainer. I am sure at one time or another either you or someone you know has experienced a digestive disturbance like diarrhea, gas, nausea or vomiting when faced with a stressful situation. When you are stressed, the hormones that take over are fight or flight hormones. Your body literally thinks it’s in danger so it shuts down all unnecessary processes that have nothing to do with saving your life. Digestion is one of those processes. Try diffusing your response to stress by deep breathing, meditation, and positive thinking. You want all the systems of your body functioning optimally.
- Eat cultured and fermented foods. These foods contain live healthy bacteria that will repopulate your gut environment with good guys! Yogurt and kefir are great sources, but get the full fat, plain varieties to avoid excess sugars/chemicals. If you are looking for a more potent, non-dairy source, try eating raw sauerkraut, kimchi, or pickles -there are plenty of options for fermented vegetables out there. Just remember to eat these in small servings, like condiments -they pack a powerful probiotic punch! Check out Nourished Kitchen for more info on these foods and even how to make them yourself.
- If you don’t like fermented foods or can’t tolerate dairy, try taking a probiotic capsule. There are many out there, so check for quality ingredients and the more cells the better! I use this one (affiliate link) Always consume probiotics after taking a course of antibiotics or after a bout of food poisoning to replenish beneficial bacteria.
- Reduce processed sugar & artificial sweetener consumption. Sugar has been known to be a chosen fuel for pathogenic bacteria. Sugar substitutes often cause gas, bloating, etc due to chemical additives. If you want something sweet, try eating a piece of 70% (or higher) dark chocolate – check out this new study showing that many hungry beneficial gut microbes may LOVE to eat it as much as we do!
- Consume gelatinous broth. Mmmm! GELATINOUS! I mean make homemade bone broths from beef, chicken or fish bones and consume often. Bone broths have been known to heal gut lining since the early times of civilization. Many cultures have handed down their recipes through the ages to promote healing of the digestive system, joints, hair, skin and nails. SO GOOD FOR YOU! I drink it right from a cup with my meals. My recipe is EASY & was handed down from my family thru the ages as well. You can also make jello to get some gelatin in the diet as well – try making homemade gelatin snacks instead of store bought to avoid chemicals & artificial sweeteners – it’s easy! Here is a really fun & delicious recipe.
- Reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol can kill off good bacteria (And brain cells 🙂 ) and while I would never say not to enjoy a cocktail once in awhile, I would recommend eliminating alcohol during the healing process.
- Supplementation: DGL and L-Glutamine are 2 supplements that are very well regarded by experts to helping the heal the gut. Always talk to your physician before taking any supplements.
- Try an elimination diet. If you notice digestive distress after you eat dairy, wheat, eggs, or other foods, try eliminating it from your meal plan for 3-4 weeks (if you suspect more than one food, only eliminate one at a time so you know for sure which is causing the problem.) After the 3-4 weeks, then add it back in small portions to see if your symptoms return. If they do, you may have a food allergy or sensitivity. If you suspect this may be the case, get a food allergy test by your physician so you know for sure.
If you or anyone you love has frequent heartburn or GERD, please read this amazing resource for more information. And of course, consult your physician if you have any chronic digestion problems.
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