“All disease begins in the gut” - Hippocrates
Eating is supposed to be a pleasurable experience - not one met with anxiety and anticipation over whether or not you’ll be hunched over in pain 20 minutes later. It is very rare for me to come across a client who does not suffer from digestive discomfort of some sort. Whether this be bloating, flatulence, cramping after food, IBS symptoms, irregular bowel movements, reflux or extreme lethargy post meals. These symptoms are fast becoming something which is ‘normalised’ by so many people around me - how many friends do you have who tell you that they are ALWAYS bloated?
Believe it or not, feeling 6 months pregnant when you ain’t, just isn’t normal…
Having a sub-optimal digestive system basically affects the way that nutrients are absorbed (or not absorbed) into our body - and remember that the whole reason we eat is to provide our body with the nutrients it requires in order to properly function. So it’s no surprise that when the main organ or system which is designed to break down and assimilate these nutrients is compromised, so too becomes many other aspects of our health.
Some common symptoms which can arise due to ongoing digestive issues include:
So why does this happen?
The reasons for poor digestive health are vast and varied and really depend on the individual’s diet and lifestyle which is why working with a specialist in this area can really help you to unpack what’s going on for your body.
Generally speaking, the most common causes for poor digestive health include:
My top 5 tips for optimising your digestive health are:
1. Track your symptoms
It might sound super basic (but hey, some of the best things in life are…) but one of the easiest ways to figure out what the hell is going on for you is to track your food and moods over a 7 day period. I get all of my clients to do it and it’s incredible how much awareness it brings to them and their bodies.
You simply write down everything you eat and drink over a week and include any physical or emotional symptoms experienced throughout the days - you track your bowel movements and consistency, your exercise and your sleep patterns. Once you have a week’s worth of data it can become quite evident as to why certain things are happening.
You might realise that you drink 4 cups of coffee a day and only 2 glasses of water. You might find a pattern between stress at work and an upset stomach. You might just recognise that you actually eat nothing green - oops.
Feel free to contact me for a complimentary food tracking template to use.
2. Remove the crap
I wish I could tell you that you can eat whatever you like and your body will miraculously make do with it - actually, it kind of does do this already at the expense of your liver suffering and your body becoming inflamed. So the choice is yours my friend.
But if you want to do the right thing by your body then get rid of the junk. I’m talking fizzy drinks, bottled salad dressings, two minute noodles, lollies, fried foods, excess take-away.
As for all of the other indulgences (alcohol, cheese, bread…) you may proceed with caution. Use the food diary to see whether or not there is any correlation between these foods and how your body reacts. Generally speaking, don’t binge drink and opt for beverages which aren’t loaded with sugar (so to spell it out - say NO to the bright green cocktail with all the fancy frostings on top and YAS to a vodka lime and soda).
If you want some tips on how to stock up your kitchen / pantry with the good stuff then click here.
3. Recognise the fact that you are indeed the host of an inner eco-system
And like any host, you want to show your guests a good time right? The bacteria which reside within our large intestine and colon play a crucial role to how we feel overall - this includes allergies, IBS type symptoms, bloating, skin issues, bacterial overgrowth, sugar cravings, mood swings and so much more.
It is in your best interest to be the best host you can be - you want those guys to be leaving you 5 star reviews on the reg!
So what to do? Your guests love fibre - so yes that means vegetables. They also benefit from fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and can sometimes benefit from taking a daily probiotic too. They hate it when you’re stressed out and too much sugar causes them to run amock…
Work with your nutritionist, naturopath or health coach to get more fermented foods into your life and find out whether or not probiotics are something which you should be considering.
Ahhh stress. The silent killer.
Figure out how you can simplify your life - often this includes becoming better at saying ‘no’, becoming better at delegating, understanding how to compartmentalise your life and only address things which need to be addressed RIGHT NOW rather than worrying about something happening next Thursday which might not even happen.
Remember that stress can come in the physical form too - so consider whether or not you’re thrashing your body too much at the gym and where perhaps something more gentle should be introduced into your weekly fitness routine.
One way to de-stress is to simply take a deep breath - in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts… repeat. (See? Another very basic tool which can literally save your life. Isn’t it funny how our body seems to have all of these inbuilt mechanisms for coping but we all just choose to ignore them?)
Other ways to de-stress include meditation, mindfulness, running a bath, laughing with a friend, lying outside in the sun with your fur baby and listening to the birds. Read more on stress here.
5. Chew your food
Who would have thought? Another basic concept which most of us forget to do. Can you see a pattern developing here?
Our digestive process literally starts the moment food enters our mouth (in fact our stomachs can start secreting gastric acid simply by thinking of eating a favourite meal!).
When food hits our tongue salivary glands excrete enzymes which commence the first stage of breaking down food - the more we chew, the better prepared the food is for entering our stomach and continuing the digestive process.
Hence the reason for ‘mindful eating’ - pop your phone away and appreciate the fact that you have food on your plate. Savour the flavours and enjoy the moment.
If you want to learn more about how your body works and how to nourish it properly, feel free to contact me for a one on one consultation.