You might have just walked away from Thanksgiving dinner and realized just how bad your bloating or heartburn is, which you got you thinking, “Is there anything I can do for this?”
The number of people who deal with some kind of digestive issue, from bloating to gas, heartburn to upset stomach, irritable bowel to food sensitivities, is staggeringly high. Anywhere you look, you can find something having to do with some kind of digestive issue, whether it be a book, a blog article, specialty food items or supplements at the grocery store or the many healing diet programs offered online.
Our society is rife with digestive issues and most people thing it’s normal and they have to just deal with it. Unfortunately, they often turn to tums, anti-acids, medications to lower stomach acid, gas relief pills and many other things that actually just make the digestive issue a whole lot worse.
There is definitely a time and a place for an specialty or elimination diet, food allergy/sensitivity testing or a complex supplementation healing regimen….but sometimes you just may find yourself in a bind looking for some simple solutions to digestive issues that pop up and you don’t have time to go the whole 9 yards.
Don’t get me wrong, you may need to get your allergies tested or have to go on a special diet to heal a leaky gut or choose a special diet based on your needs, but you may also just have some issue that can be easily resolved if you stopped and took care of it. I will offer you a few options that may help resolve some of your digestive issues. If you have tried these things and find that they did not help or possibly aggravated your concerns or were only a short-term solutions, I would highly recommend seeing a health professional who can help you heal your body!
The digestive system is a complex thing and needs special consideration – after all, it’s responsible for absorbing the foods you eat, keeping your immune system healthy and for health brain function…just to name a few!
My top 9 recommendations to a healthy gut include:
- Take probiotics. Your gut functions properly when it is inhabited by healthy yeasts and bacteria. These yeasts and bacteria help breakdown your food so its nutrients can be absorbed, they kill off any unhealthy invaders if you are exposed to them (think poor food handling, e.coli, lack of handwashing) and they help promote a healthy immune system. Imbalances in gut bacteria often caused by poor quality diet, food allergies/sensitivities, or taking antibiotics create space for overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria, which can lead to diarrhea, constipation, poor food and nutrient absorption and other issues including anxiety, depression and frequent colds & flus.
- Increase your daily fibre. Fibre is essential to healthy digestion. From promoting regular bowel movements (which remove toxins from your body) to assisting in the absorption of water and nutrients, a diet rich in fibre can help ease gas and bloating. A simple way of adding fibre is just increasing your daily fruit & vegetable intake and reducing your intake of refined sugars, poor quality grains and processed foods. If you initially find yourself more bloated after increasing your dietary fibre you may need to start by steaming vegetables rather than eating them raw as this makes them easier to digest. Especially if you are not used to eating fruits & vegetables and high-quality grains (NO white bread!) you may need to go to something as gentle as an apple pectin supplement.
- Drink lemon water or apple cider vinegar (ACV) water. A cup of warm water with ACV and/or lemon water before breakfast (or every meal!) helps in many ways. If you find yourself suffering from frequent belching, heartburn, gas and possibly that after meal “brick in the stomach” feeling, this might be an effective short-term solution. If you find that drinking this soothes these issues you probably are dealing with low stomach acid. This may seem backwards to you (especially if you have heartburn and that “acid” feel in your throat) but low stomach acid is usually the cause. Don’t reach for the anti-acids. Try this instead. If it works and your heartburn suddenly clears up you should probably see a nutritionist to deal with this issue as long-term heartburn not only affects your absorption of vitamins, minerals and food, but can contribute to the formation of chronic diseases.
- Ingest fermented foods and drinks. Fermentation is an incredibly easy and inexpensive way to add probiotics to your diet. Not only does it promote a healthy digestive system but it contributes to a healthy immune system and good brain function! Think about adding in things like kefir, kombucha, fermented veggies, yogurts (not the high sugar grocery store kinds!) and sourkraut, to your daily diet. You can even start making your own. Your gut will thank you!
- Hop on the bitters wagon! Nobody enjoys bitter foods. However, digestive bitters actually stimulate digestion in a powerful way! They stimulate the production of your digestive juices which will positively affect your digestion. Bitters can also help curb cravings and balance your appetite. You can buy a tonic from a health food store which combines a bunch of different herbs or you can simply add arugula, dandelion greens, kale, dill or turmeric to your diet!
- Add in some soothing aloe, DGL or much on fennel seeds. All three of these things help your digestive system. Aloe soothes an irritated and inflamed gut and promotes regular bowel movements. DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) helps soothe an inflamed gut (think ulcers) and can alleviate heartburn symptoms. Be careful with DGL – do not take for extended periods of time and avoid if you have a history of diabetes, edema, high blood pressure, or heart, kidney or liver disease. Lastly, fennel seeds can be munched on after meals to soothe an irritated gut, relieve gas and bloating, promotes healthy digestion and reduces heartburn. You an also rub 1 drop of fennel seed essential oil (mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil) over you stomach after a meal to hep with bloating and gas.
- Add in some L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that has the power to heal the lining of your gut. Think of this when you deal with with chronic irritation of your stomach (think gastritis, constant heartburn, ulcers). L-Glutamine can be purchased as a supplement or you can drink cabbage juice which is rich in this amino acid.
- Get your body moving! Your body is made to move. Not only does exercise stimulate the production of digestive juices but it strengthens the muscles of your digestive tract which helps promote digestion. Remember that you should give your body 2-3 hours of digestion time before doing any strenuous exercise and maintain good hydration.
- Reduce stress! Your gut is basically your body’s second brain. Your gut is plays an essential role in the production of your brain chemicals. Stress wreaks havoc on your gut by actually changing the microbiome of your gut (the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria) which actually affects your body’s mental, physical and emotional health. When you damage your gut’s microbiome you increase your risk for depression and anxiety, autoimmune diseases and other chronic health issues.
Caring for your gut is an essential and a powerful way to care for your overall health. It has an impact on your body in ways that are more than just physical. Your mental and emotional health depend on a healthy gut and the daily choices you make have an impact on your chances of developing health issues in the long-term.