Gas, bloating, belching, heartburn, and constipation are the most common complaints I hear in my practice. When I first started nutrition coaching, I specialized in women’s health. While it’s still my focal point, digestive wellness has become a necessary passion because literally every single person with whom I work has some kind of digestive complaint. And even if digestive issues aren’t his or her main complaint, they almost always are a cause or contributing factor to the major presenting issue, whether the person is aware of this or not!
No matter how great your diet, it’s how well you digest and absorb that counts. That means if you’re not breaking down food properly, you won’t absorb all the needed nutrients, resulting in deficiencies, cravings, and unpleasant symptoms. Such digestive symptoms are caused by food intolerances, dysbiosis (bad bacteria overgrowth), parasites, SIBO, yeast, leaky gut, or insufficient enzyme and hydrochloric acid production that prevents food from properly digesting. I have all my clients with digestive complaints (so, basically ALL my clients) do an elimination diet and often stool testing to check for bacterial overgrowth, pathogenic bacteria, and yeast. These little buggers can cause big problems and are a source of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the root of all disease! There’s much truth behind the adage all disease begins in the gut.
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 (or, if you already have changed your diet but haven’t seen much improvement).
3 Easy Steps to Improve Digestion Right Now
- 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.
- 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. Here is a great list of recommended fermented foods.
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.
Try a squatty potty to encourage proper alignment of the colon so you can poop properly. The squatty potty can reduce constipation and heal hemorrhoids!
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. 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.
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