Have you ever considered that perhaps your poor health and chronic symptoms could be a sign of your gut health? We’ve all heard the saying “all disease begins in the gut,” and this statement couldn’t be more true. Digestion is fundamental to overall health. Every system of the body relies on nutrients absorbed through the digestive tract for optimal function, and today’s most commonly reported symptoms (fatigue, autoimmunity, IBS, inability to lose weight, depression, acne, and headaches) can all be linked to poor gut health. We could all benefit from showing our guts a little TLC!
Whether you’re just looking to support overall health and digestion or are on a healing journey, take a look at these 5 daily tips for supporting your digestion.
1. Reduce Stress
I can’t stress this enough…stress greatly effects how we digest our food. In order for our body to release digestive enzymes and hormones, we must be in a relaxed state. When eating, this relaxed state translates to chewing each and every bite 30-40 times. The breakdown of food starts right in the mouth, and begins with chewing, which releases salivary amylase, beginning the breakdown of food – specifically carbs – before we even swallow. If we don’t chew our food, constantly eat on the run, or are just constantly worn out, these hormones and enzymes will not be properly released. In turn, we’ll be putting a great deal of stress on the digestive system.
Next time you eat, practice eating in a relaxed state. Sit at the table, take a few deep breaths. Say grace, and then chew your food at least 30 times.
2. Bone Broth
There’s a reason your mother always made chicken soup when you were sick! Bone broth is an incredibly nutrient-dense, traditional food that is easy to make at home. It contains gelatin, which soothes the stomach, and a high level of amino acids – specifically, glutamine and glycine, which actually help to repair the epithelial lining of the intestines! Bone broth is also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and collagen, which all support the health of your gut, joints, hair, skin, and nails.
Broth is easy to make at home, and can be used in soups, stews, or to cook rice. It’s even great enjoyed on its own, straight from a mug!
3. Support the Good Bacteria
Science has only just begun to scratch the surface on how important the gut microbe is to overall health. Our guts are the home to trillions of microbes, and these friendly bacteria affect our health in many ways.
- Protect us from pathogens
- Regulate the immune system – 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut.
- Prevent the gut lining from becoming leaky
- Help regulate metabolism
Unfortunately, good bacteria can become unbalanced by a diet high in processed food, excessive stress or use of antibiotics. This can lead to digestive issues, leaky gut, depression, and even autoimmune disease. This is why it’s so important to support the good bacteria residing in the stomach. The easiest way to do so is by consuming foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi – foods that were staples of our ancestor’s diets for thousands of years. Before refrigeration, people would lacto-ferment their food, a process in which the natural bacteria feeds on the sugars found in the food and creates lactic acid. The result is a food abundant in probiotics and enzymes!
Fermented foods can easily be made at home or bought from the store. Sauerkraut, kombucha, beet kvass, and yogurt are all good sources. Aim for 1-2 servings a day!
4. Support Stomach Acid
Most of us suffer from having too little stomach acid. Proper amounts of hydrochloric acid are essential for the digestive system to work efficiently, and for overall health.
Stomach acid aids the digestion of protein, breaks down food, and protects us from pathogens and parasites, by maintaining the acidic environment of the stomach. It also aids in the absorption of vitamins and minerals such as B12 and iron.
Chronic stress, poor diet, and the overuse of antibiotics can all cause the production of stomach acid to become suppressed, which in turn creates symptoms such as bloating, gas, heartburn, and even nutrient deficiencies.
So, then, how does having too little stomach acid cause heartburn?
When there are normal levels of stomach acid, the body signals the lower esophageal sphincter (which connects the stomach and esophagus) to close once the body has enough acid to digest food. But if there is a lack of HCL, the esophageal sphincter remains open, causing acid to creep back up the esophagus and leading to that familiar burning sensation that so many people recognize.
One of the easiest ways to support the production of stomach acid is to dilute 1-2 tsp of raw apple cider vinegar in a glass of water, 10-15 minutes before a meal. Apple Cider Vinegar mimics the acidic environment of the stomach, promoting production of hydrochloric acid. This can also be used as a heartburn remedy!
5. Reduce Inflammation
Perhaps the best thing you can do for your gut health is avoiding inflammatory foods. Gluten, dairy, soy, corn, processed vegetable oils, and refined sugar are all inflammatory foods that our bodies are simply not designed to consume in large quantities, and damage the epithelial lining of the intestines. When the gut lining becomes damaged or “leaky”, small particles of food escape into the blood stream. The body is confused by these foreign invaders, and produces antibodies against them. This results in food intolerances, and puts a great deal of stress on the digestive and immune systems. The body remains in “fight or flight” mode for a prolonged period, which results in a lot of inflammation.
Instead, focus on eating nutrient dense, properly prepared foods, like soaked grains and nuts, coconut oil, grass-fed meat and dairy, and abundant quantities of fresh vegetables.
Gut health intricately affects our overall health, and that’s why I make digestion the foundation of my Nutritional Therapy Practice.
What do you think, are you ready to heal your digestion?