Digestion 101: Simple Steps for a Healthy Gut

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Nobody likes a cranky gut. Gas, bloating, constipation, and loose stools are all very inconvenient symptoms of digestive problems. When the gut is unhappy, you're probably not utilizing the nutrients in your food as optimally as possible. BEFORE you attempt a full-blown elimination diet or spend big money on allergy testing, try some of these simple steps first. Oftentimes, it's the little things that make a big difference in your gut.

  1. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly. This is probably the most important practice, yet very few people do this regularly. Chewing your food stimulates digestive enzymes in the mouth, which means smoother digestion through the stomach and intestines.
  2.  Sip a homemade electrolyte beverage during your meals, using 6 oz warm water (not hot), juice of 1/2 a lemon OR 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, and a sprinkle of sea salt. This will help facilitate the breakdown of foods while you eat.
  3. Go crazy with gut friendly herbs and spices such as sea salt, ginger, rosemary, thyme, oregano, turmeric, and cinnamon.  
  4. Lightly steam or cook veggies. Raw veggies are harder for your system to break down, so until your GI tract is in tip top shape, consider cooking them lightly to start the breakdown process, in turn making more nutrients available to your body. Blending veggies into a smoothie has a similar effect. 
  5. Eat fermented foods daily. Examples include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. These foods contain healthy bacteria and enzymes that a healthy gut thrives on. 
  6. Calm down! Managing stress is another vital, yet often overlooked, aspect of optimal digestion. When you're stressed, your "fight or flight" system is activated. Part of that system is a stunting of digestion that allows more blood into the parts of your body that are needed to handle the stress- usually your muscles and brain. Try taking 10 deep, slow breaths before diving into your next meal. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of gut-friendly practices, but it's a great place to start. As I said earlier, most people feel a world of difference doing just a couple of these simple things. If these things do not relieve GI discomfort, you may need further analysis and supplementation. Consult a health practitioner or doctor, and consider getting tested for food sensitivities and/or candida.