ALIVE & FIT MAGAZINE Vol.14 Issue 54 Fall 2020: Happy Digestion Habits

The process of digestion is a complex system, often taken for granted and overlooked until symptoms indicate something is less than perfect. Digestion starts in the mouth with salivation, followed by the action of breaking down morsels and the body assimilating nutrients to our cells. From chewing to evacuation, the five steps of digestion take between 24 to 72 hours to complete. The amount and type of food, rate of metabolism, gender and a laundry list of reasons all impact the rate of digestion. One thing is for sure, poor digestion equals poor health. For optimal health, its imperative key nutrients from food, vitamins and supplements are being absorbed.

Whether you eat to live or live to eat, no one should experience scary symptoms after a snack or meal. Countless clues point us to defective digestion.

Bloating, belching, cramping, flatulence and pain are not a compliment to the chef and should not be a regular occurrence. They are a red flag, indicating an issue and adjustments are of the essence for avoidance long term.

Heartburn or acid reflux is an uncomfortable burning sensation in the throat or chest. Overeating, especially the wrong foods can result in indigestion, ultimately leading to gases creeping back up, causing a burning sensation. Reaching for antacids to combat incredible discomfort becomes commonplace for many people and not a long-term solution.

Food intolerancesleft undiagnosed result in daily digestive distress. Allergies causing anaphylactic reactions are impossible to ignore, while food sensitivities may fly under the radar for years. Persistent belly-bothering symptoms are a sure sign to start looking at typical bad guys, wheat and dairy.

Bad breath and body odourcan be blamed on more than onions and garlic. Sleepless nightscan also be linked to digestive drama. Surprising fun fact: serotonin, the happy hormone and precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin is made in the gut. A happy gut equals holistic slumber.

Skin conditionssuch as acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis can worsen with tummy troubles tied to food sensitivities and allergies. Supporting the inside, just may address the outside!

Constipation is the result of a failed digestive system. Passing waste daily is paramount to rid the body of toxins and ward off a future of hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Diarrhea is a sign the body is moving food through digestive stages too fast and overtime nutrient deficiencies can result. Pale colored greasy floating stools or undigested particles, pus or blood instools is not the bowel movement you want to see in the toilet. The perfect poop should be easy to pass, without straining. It should be well-formed, even S-shaped and in one caramel colored piece. Pellets or mushy movements highlight digestive imbalances. The Bristol Stool Chart is a great tool, helping highlight healthy bowel movements. 

Ridges on fingernails or nails that take forever to groware more than manicure moments, but an indicator of issues worth investigating.

Vitamin Deficienciescan arise in the healthiest well-rounded meal plans when the digestive route is not in tip-top form.

Nausea and vomitingshould not be an after-eating norm and taking a deeper dive into the cause is vital.

Eating a rainbow if colors is crucial for supreme nutrition, providing energy for fuel and holistic happiness. Digestive discomfort negatively impacts us mentally and physically, affecting all parts of our daily life. It can be painfully embarrassing and horribly uncomfortable. There are heaps of natural ways to take care of tummy troubles, ensuring your digestive system is of a high standard.

Diet:

Say so long to a high sugar, high fat and highly processed diet. Banish bloat by saying good-bye to carbonated drinks. A diet containing white sugar, white flour, white rice and table salt offers bupkis for the body. Focusing on fresh nutrient dense fruits and vegetables also acts as a prebiotic, not to be confused with probiotics. Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fiber found in the plant kingdom, helping fertilize the good gut bacteria. Improving regularity, addressing leaky gut and dysbiosis are monumental on the road to improved digestion. Chicory root contains powerful prebiotics in high amounts, making them a great go-to for many ketogenic meal replacement bars and high fiber breads. A good-for-the-gut daily menu should include a variety. Top picks for bacteria building are bananas, apple skin, garlic, onions, asparagus, barley, wheat, yams, leeks and beans. On top of smooth sailing in the bathroom, prebiotics boost energy, immune system, vitamin production and help support healthy weight-management.

Probiotics:

Taking a probiotic without a diet rich in prebiotics is like painting a wall without first priming. Probiotics are the living good bacteria thriving in a healthy colon. Lifestyle choices directly impact the bacteria. Stress, alcohol, diet, smoking and prescription drugs such as a round of antibiotics can wipe out the gut-friendly bacteria.  A nutritionally dense diet and supplements all help strengthen the bowel wall, reduce constipation and improve digestion. Fermented foods are Mother Nature’s probiotics. Miso paste, kimchi, tempeh, kefir, raw cheeses, unpasteurised sauerkraut and dill pickles plus stupendous soda replacement kombucha all promote a healthy gut flora. Probiotics can also be added in capsule form and tasty liquids in dairy and gluten-free versions.

Fabulous food fare:

On top of first-class fermentation, fiber is your friend, fueling glorious gut health. Aim for a minimum of 25 grams per day, everyday without fail. Ground flax, chia and psyllium are outstanding choices and a snap to add to smoothies and yogurt. Fruit is a wonderful way to start the day. Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain and papaya contains papain, both awesome additions for digestive easing food fare. Both exotic fruits can also be found in yummy chewable stomach supporting supplements. Bone broth is another first-class choice. A favorite of keto-diet fans, chicken or beef bone broth are rich in glutamine and glycine goodness, two amino acids, helping heal a leaky gut.

Bitters:

Go for groovy ginger. Whether you grate, chop or steep, ginger is a first-class bitter herb. In the herbal world, ginger is a famed sialagogue, stimulating salvia and starting the digestion party. Ginger is also a carminative, in other words, a dream for digestion. Ginger, a huge holistic helper, relaxes stomach muscles, aids in the action of peristalsis, decreases inflammation in the intestinal lining and also increases bile production. Other celebrity bitters are salad sensations. Jazz up romaine lettuce with the addition of arugula, endive, radicchio, kale and dandelion leaves. One surprising bitter sure to please is 85% minimum dark chocolate. Burdock root, dandelion and ginger tea throughout the day are top picks. If the thought of eating bitter foods has you down in the dumps, liquid bitters are available at your local health store.

Celtic Sea Salt and Apple Cider Vinegar:

An underactive stomach does not produce enough hydrochloric acid (HCL). Its impossible to ignore symptoms ranging from gas, bloating and heartburn to bad breath and even parasites. A not so fabulous diet, especially one high in red meat, dairy and on-the-go junk are start-up factors for low stomach acid. Factor in dehydration, aging, stress and low salt intake and a full-blown issue is sure to follow. Food will digest in the absence of HCL, but low bile causes the food to stay acidic and damaging wastes proceed to pass through the digestive tract. Adding Celtic salt to food helps produce much needed HCL. Start with ½ teaspoon sprinkled on steamed vegetables. Keep in mind, salt is an essential electrolyte lost during sweating and stressful times, making it crucial to adjust according to your lifestyle. Another great holistic habit is the addition of a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to water before each meal. Apple cider vinegar plus olive oil and herbs is an easy and affordable salad dressing delight. Please note, unpasteurised is the key word. Apple cider vinegar must contain a murky residue at the bottom known as “the mother” to be effective.

Stress, anxiety, guilt and self-hateare emotional factors and key contributors to digestive dilemmas. Living life in a fight or flight mode has the body on high alert, answering to the threat of danger with a surge of cortisol. The body switches to survival mode, putting digestion on hold. Chronic stress is linked to chronic constipation. Magnesium is a super supplement, supporting regular bowel movements.

Undiagnosed food sensitivities:

Overeating is not uncommon in a super sized world, but bloating, belching and flatulence with bouts of constipation and diarrhea is far from normal. Keeping a food journal and documenting feelings post-meals can lead to unlocking whether your portion is simply too big or certain foods are problematic. Elimination diets, food combining, food testing are all options to discuss with your preferred practitioner.

Fiber and Waterare your best friends. The effects of a diet low in fiber can be seen in a wide range of issues including constipation and flora imbalance. Overtime, a sluggish digestive system can lead to hemorrhoids, rectal fissures, diverticulitis, varicose veins, appendicitis and even gallstones. The premier transit time from eating to evacuation is between 12 and 24 hours. To make sure you are on track, eat some beets, peek for pink and your transit time magically appears. Anything longer than 24 hours is cause for concern. Your daily diet should include an array of fruits, vegetables, legumes, raw nuts and seeds adding up to a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day. Fiber bulks the stool and increases transit time. Water is vital to the digestive process. Water supports salivation, base of digestive juices and an adequate intake ensures the intestines and colon are hydrated, allowing wastes easy passage along the digestive route. Dehydration equals constipation. A flow of water in and a quick call to nature is sure to follow. Aim to drink 30ml of water or herbal tea per kg of bodyweight daily. Keep in mind, exercise, caffeine, hot weather, stress and medication all increase your daily need.

Digestive enzymesare present in saliva, a few key organs and even found in cells on the surface of the intestines. A deficient diet and low production hinder the breakdown of food and simple adding supplements supports an array of symptoms associated with digestive issues. To breakdown carbohydrates and starches, look for enzymes containing amylase. Protease is the key enzyme associated with protein while lipase with fats.

Exercise supports stomping stress and often forgotten, but a best friend aiding digestion. Movement of any kind gets things moving! Living by the mantra “Rest and Digest” is a sure way to achieve dreamy digestion.

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