This is a guest post that I originally wrote for Young and Raw last week. You can find it here.
Digestive wellness is the cornerstone of health. Millions of Americans are suffering from digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, pain, ulcers, heartburn and acid reflux. So many people are suffering from poor health as a result of their poor digestion.
We need to keep things running smoothly in our digestive tract so that we are able to break down our food properly, absorb nutrients efficiently, keep our hormones balanced and keep our immune system in tip-top shape to protect us from pathogenic substances such as yeast, bacteria or even parasites.
Here are 12 ways to improve your digestive health
1. Use proper food combining methods. Never eat fruit with grains. Fruit should always be eaten alone as it digests very quickly. When combined with grains, the fruit is stalled in the intestines and can ferment and lead to gas. Besides being unpleasant, regular gas can lead to yeast overgrowth and an imbalanced pH level.
2. Avoid the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Ibuprofen. They irritate the intestinal lining and can cause serious damage down the road if over-used. Try natural anti-inflammatories like Arnica, turmeric or Boswellia.
3. Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol irritates and damages the GI tract.
4. Take a good probiotic. Choose a reputable brand and one that is enteric-coated so it can survive the acidity in the stomach and make its way to the gut. Take on an empty stomach at night for 3-4 weeks at a time and do this 4 times throughout the year for maintenance. You may need to take them more frequently if suffering from digestive issues.
5. Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchee are high in beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that we need in our gut to assist in hormone production, nutrient breakdown and to keep the bad bugs out. Here’s more on that!
6. Consider reducing your gluten intake. I’m sure you’ve seen the phrase “gluten-free” everywhere by now, it’s listed on food packages and heavily used on internet recipes, but for good reason. This is not just a food fad that will pass. More and more people are starting to develop food sensitivities to gluten, even without having “celiac disease”. You can blame it on changes in the food industry such as genetic engineering and cross breeding of seeds. The way that wheat is produced now is entirely different from when your grandparents were growing up. As a result, the gluten protein “gliadin” does cause irritation and damage to the gut lining and can lead to leaky gut syndrome.
7. Avoid chronic stress. When you are stressed out, your body produces higher amounts of cortisol and too much cortisol can damage the gut lining, leading to leaky gut. Learn ways to keep stress and tension under control like yoga or deep breathing practices. Try to eliminate stressful things (and people) from your life.
8. Try using apple cider vinegar next time you have indigestion or heartburn. Mix a tablespoon in a quarter cup of water and drink up! This will actually help create a more alkaline pH environment in the stomach. You can also do this before meals to prevent heartburn and help stimulate hydrochloric acid production.
9. Avoid harsh laxatives that can damage the gut lining. Use natural remedies for constipation such as taking a few tablespoons of coconut oil on an empty stomach, warm lemon water to jumpstart the bowels in the morning, the ayurvedic herb triphala which gently helps keep you regular or a magnesium supplement. Magnesium can be taken in capsules orally (400-600mg a day for maintenance) or as a spray to be applied to your skin. This spray can be sprayed on your feet at night before putting socks on and you should have an easy bowel movement in the morning. Here’s more on magnesium spray.
10. Heal “Leaky Gut” with natural remedies. “Leaky Gut” is a condition where the tight junctions of the intestinal wall become overly impermeable and allow pathogenic substances and undigested food particles through to the blood stream. This can cause an immune response, leading to food sensitivities and can create autoimmune conditions overtime. It is caused by chronic stress, over-use of antibiotics, over-consumption of processed foods, candida overgrowth, dysbiosis in the gut, food sensitivities and heavy metals. Sip on slippery elm or marshmallow root tea to soothe inflammation in the gut. You can also take the supplement L-Glutamine to help seal the intestinal barrier.
11. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet full of antioxidant-rich foods like berries, leafy greens and orange-hued veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes to reduce inflammation in the body. Don’t forget super important fiber-rich foods too to keep things moving along!
12. Get a food sensitivities blood test done from a functional medicine doctor or a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner like myself to determine which foods are wreaking havoc in your body without you realizing it. When you eat foods that cause a reaction in your body, it creates an immune response that causes inflammation and overtime creates degenerative autoimmune disorders that are becoming so common today.
Follow these simple tips to keep your digestion running smoothly and keep your health in check! How do you keep your digestion in tip-top shape? Comment below!