After eating a snack or a regular-sized meal, do you often experience digestive discomfort? If so, you’re not alone. According to this survey, nearly 75% of Americans percent regularly experience some form of gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating and gas. The bad news is, experiencing these symptoms is a clear sign that your digestive system needs help. The good news is, it is very easy to improve digestion if you commit to several of the lifestyle and dietary tips outlined below.
As an RHN and plant-based chef who regularly works with people who experience digestive distress, I’ve witnessed first-hand how simple life changes can benefit digestion and someone’s overall quality of life. Not only do the tips below reduce discomfort but they improve mental well-being by supporting a healthy microbiome. As Scientific American reports, 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the bowels. Clearly, healthy digestion needs to be a priority.
Following are 7 ways you can easily improve your own digestion:
- Add peppermint essential oil to water
You need to drink six to eight glasses of water each day to stay hydrated. In some of those glasses (preferably before meals to stimulate digestion), add 2-3 drops of peppermint essential oil. Not only will your water taste super fresh, you should experience fewer symptoms of bloating following your snack or meal.
- Cut out allergenic foods which might stimulate bloat
Many commonly-consumed foods (soy, wheat, corn, dairy, and eggs) are allergenic to the human body because of the way they have been cultivated. The majority of soy, corn, and wheat grown in the United States is genetically modified (GMO) and subsidized to boost the output of dairy and beef. As a result, the quality of these foods is lacking, to say the least.
The consumption of these foods, which are oftentimes difficult to digest, may exacerbate other inflammation-related illnesses (like eczema and arthritis) because they promote an inflammatory response in the body. If you can’t say “goodbye” to these foods, try to source organic and GMO-free variants.
- Boost your HCL levels
Eating highly refined foods, large amounts of meat and sugar, and living in a stressed state taxes the gastrointestinal tract, beginning in the stomach. These foods lower levels of hydrochloric acid which are necessary to break down proteins and foreign matter. When hydrochloric acid levels are low, you may experience all kinds of digestive distress — primarily gas and bloating.
You can take a HCL tablet with pepsin along with each meal, but this is a temporary fix. To boost the HCL levels in your stomach long-term, do one or several of the following:
- Drink 16 oz celery juice on an empty stomach each morning. Read more here.
- Switch to Himalayan sea salt which contains 80+ minerals and naturally stimulates digestive juices.
- Drink 2 oz of apple cider vinegar (organic and with the “mother”) in water or by itself in the morning. This will kickstart digestion.
- Supplement with enzymes
Naturally occurring digestive enzymes help break down food so we can absorb nutrients. Though the mouth, stomach, and small intestine make some digestive enzymes, the bulk are produced by the pancreas. In today’s world where food is cooked until it is charred and high-sugar diets are wreaking havoc on the pancreas, enzyme supplementation may be necessary.
Consuming 1-3 enzyme tablets with meals could help improve digestion, assist your body in absorbing more nutrients, and cut down on uncomfortable GI symptoms like bloating and gas. You can also eat more raw and uncooked foods (from smoothies to scrumptious salads). Harvard published an excellent guide on enzymes and their role in health. Read more here.
Friend, do whatever you can to destress. If there’s one thing most health experts can agree on, it’s that prolonged levels of stress lead to hyper physiological levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone). Rampant cortisol levels for extended periods of time can adversely affect the body’s immure and inflammatory response. Being “stressed out” also impacts digestion.
As Everyday Health reports, stress activates the “flight or fight” mode. In this state, physiological changes occur — including the halting of digestion, spontaneous diarrhea, and constipation. In more serious cases, stress may cause a decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the stomach. This could result in cramping, an imbalance of gut bacteria and, potentially, IBS. You can read more about the connection between digestion and stress here.
Depending on your personal preferences, you can destress in a number of ways:
- Dive into a good book
- Go for a walk in nature
- Take a long, hot bath with lavender essential oil
- Spend more time with loved ones
- Watch a comedy show
- Meditate and reflect in a gratitude journal
Though it may not always feel like it, these small habits can lead to life-altering change(s) down the road.
- Consider Probiotic supplementation Did you know? Each of us carries around between 2 and 6 pounds of bacteria in our gut. The microorganisms are essential for digestion but sometimes (primarily due to antibiotics) are wiped out. This can allow “bad bacteria” to flourish in the gut (candida, for example). The overgrowth of this bacteria can exacerbate endocrine problems and screw up digestion. That’s why supplementation with “good bacteria” is highly recommended. If you’d prefer to not take a pill, you can boost the good bacteria in your gut by drinking kombucha, eating fermented foods like pickles and sauerkraut, and consuming organic, live food kefir.
- Incorporate gut-friendly herbs
Mother nature provides an array of natural remedies to soothe digestive ails. The gut-friendly herbs can be added into soups, desserts, baked goods, tea, and even chewed (like ginger!). Some of the best herbs for healing the gut follow:
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You don’t need to suffer from gastrointestinal distress. Take your health into your own hands today and implement some of these recommendations (after consulting your physician or naturopathic doctor). What are your thoughts? Please share below.
IMAGE CREDIT: Ben Schonewille