When I meet with a new client, we spend 90 minutes discussing health history in great detail. What’s occasionally heartbreaking about this is hearing someone say they don’t feel comfortable or relaxed in public because they’re constantly scanning the area to make sure a bathroom is near. Nearly 80 percent of us are dealing with nagging digestive issues like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, or chronic diarrhea. (source) But you can improve digestion fast by making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Troublesome digestive symptoms are the most common complaints I hear in my practice, and they range from mere annoyances to major disruptions. Digestive wellness has become a necessary passion of mine because literally every single person with whom I work has some kind of digestive imbalance.
We’ve all heard that you are what you eat. But more accurately, you are not only what you eat, but you are what you absorb. That means if you’re not breaking down food properly because your digestive system isn’t up to par, you won’t absorb all the nutrients from your food, resulting in deficiencies, cravings, and unpleasant symptoms such as gas, belching, and heartburn.
Chronic digestive symptoms may be caused by food intolerances, dysbiosis (bad bacteria overgrowth), parasites, SIBO, yeast, leaky gut, or insufficient enzyme and stomach acid production that prevents food from properly digesting. I often recommend that folks with digestive symptoms consider an elimination diet to help them determine which foods are causing symptoms and inflammation. Stool testing to check for bacterial overgrowth, pathogenic bacteria, and yeast is also recommended. These little buggers can cause big problems and are a source of inflammation in the body. There’s much truth behind the adage all disease begins in the gut.
We all want relief, and we want it quick. There are three easy steps you can take right now to improve your overall digestive function. Burping and farting your way through the day isn’t pleasant, and it isn’t normal. Ideally these steps should be used in conjunction with changing and improving your diet.
3 Tips to Improve Digestion FAST
- This first one is easy and free: Eat slowly! You want to be in a relaxed mood when you’re eating. If you’re stressed, on your feet, in the car, or running around and shoveling food in your face, your body isn’t going to be in a rest and digest mode. It’s in a fight or flight mode, diverting energy AWAY from digestive function and toward your activity. So before a meal, take a deep, centering breath. Say a quick thanks or blessing if you’re into that. Then EAT SLOWLY and chew thoroughly. This is the single best way to improve digestion and prevent gas, bloating, and belching.
- Take 2 digestive enzymes with each meal. This is an incredibly helpful and simple tool for helping your body break down food. I use and recommend these because they contain both enzymes and hydrochloric acid (like your stomach acid). Enzymes are excellent for relieving heartburn, which is due to insufficient stomach acid production, and may also improve constipation. You can also try a shot of apple cider vinegar in an ounce of water. Bonus is apple cider vinegar is great for detox and may help control yeast populations in the gut.
- Get some fermented foods daily. I cannot say enough good about fermented foods. They contain enzymes to help you digest and probiotics to boost your immune system and protect you against pathogenic bacterial and yeast/fungal overgrowth. My top 2 preferred fermented foods are raw kraut and water kefir (or dairy kefir if you tolerate dairy). I love this coconut water kefir. All you need is an ounce per day.
Stay hydrated: drinking too little water yields a harder stool that is difficult to pass. Teas count too, so try ginger tea during the day. It is excellent for increasing stomach acid production and eliminating gas, bloating, and nausea.
Take a probiotic to help build up good flora levels in the gut and nourish your microbiome. It’s never a bad idea to supplement with a probiotic a couple times yearly. In between, make sure you get your fermented foods daily.
You may also want to consider a gut cleanse to kill candida, parasites, and bad bacteria overgrowth. Most of us have an imbalance between our good and bad bacteria in the gut, so taking anti-microbial herbs for a few weeks can knock back the bad guys. ALWAYS follow up with a round of probiotics to help recolonize the good guys, and focus on a diet that nourishes your microbiome.
I also recommend stool testing before taking herbs so you know what’s going on in there and what to take to kill it off. It helps to work with a practitioner to guide you in this process.
Want Even More GI Support? The 21 Day Gut Reset is for YOU!
Please consider joining my 21 day gut reset program. You can join at any time, as it’s a self-paced e-course. All you need is a little motivation and an email address to join! Check out everything you’ll get:
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- includes a 21 day meal plan: gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar free
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- shopping list
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- a chart to help you build meals
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Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.