I’ve been doing a TON of research into all areas of health lately. I’ve had a huge hunger for knowledge when it comes to learning how to heal myself and others as naturally as possible.
Most of the time, we need to get to the root of the issue to find out why we may be experiencing chronic health symptoms. However, there are some basic things we can do to get started improving our digestion.
Here are 5 easy ways you can start improving your digestion and healing your gut today.
1. Sit Down for Meals
Do you ever feel like the world just keeps going and going and you can’t keep up with it all?
More work places are only allowing 30 minute lunch breaks, more and more fast food places pop up every day and we’re getting more and more used to eating in front of our desks or in our cars.
The problem with this is that our digestive system was designed for peak digestion when we’re at our most relaxed (or our parasympathetic nervous system is activated).
Digestion actually slows down when we’re in a state of flight or flight (or our sympathetic nervous system is activated). That’s a great feature to have when we’re running from a threat — so we don’t have to stop to use the bathroom, but the problem is that we find ourselves in this state more and more often.
When you sit down at a table for a meal, and turn the TV or computer off, you’re communicating to your body that it’s time to slow down and go into a calmer, parasympathetic state. This way, digestion goes back to normal because you’re back to a calmer state. It doesn’t hurt to do a few deep breath work here or diffuse some calming oils to achieve this too.
2. Chew SLOWLY
Right now, I want you to stop and think about the last meal, or snack you just ate.
Can you remember the speed at which you ate?
Most likely, you ate in front of a TV, your desk, or your kids/spouse and you got your next bite of food onto your fork before you finished chewing the food in your mouth.
(Don’t feel attacked because same.)
Digestion starts in the mouth. We’re supposed to chew food to break it down, but most of us take a couple bites and swallow because we’re eating mindlessly. So, it passes straight through our esophagus and to our stomach.
When food isn’t broken down, the nutrients in it are wasted and aren’t absorbed properly into our bloodstream. Not only that, but it’s pretty much a recipe for bloating and uncomfortable IBS symptoms.
Next time you’re eating, try taking a bite and putting your fork down until you completely chew your food down to liquid and swallow. This way, you’ll be much more mindful about how quickly you’re eating and you practice breaking your food all the way down for optimal digestion!
3. Try an Elimination Diet
The gut is a tricky little devil.
You can be “healthy” your whole life and have no issues with food and something like mold exposure, prolonged antibiotic use, trauma, chronic stress, heavy metal toxicity, etc. can cause issues like intestinal permeability (leaky gut).
Once this happens, you can start to have issues with foods you never had before.
These are called food sensitivities.
Sometimes, doing an elimination diet can be a helpful tool you can use to identify which foods are triggering your symptoms or making your inflammation worse.
Elimination diets are only be meant to be done for a period of 5-6 weeks and then foods are slowly added back in to determine which ones seem to be bothersome.
I’ve seen WAY too many people (including myself) who end up on these way longer than they need to be and end up eating the same 5-10 foods over and over again. This actually terrible for your gut microbiome because it thrives on a diverse diet. So, please be smart when doing this.
If you have a history of disordered eating, make sure to work with a Registered Dietitian or a doctor when going through this.
My personal favorite elimination diet is the Autoimmune Protocol. It really covers an array of foods that may be triggering your symptoms and there are LOADS of resources on this available for a newbie.
4. Add Healing Foods to Your Diet
I find that the times I’ve been the most successful in eating a healthy diet is when I focus less on what I can’t eat and more on what I can. This makes me feel excited about eating healing foods and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
Food is so much more than calories.
There’s a reason Hippocrates, one of the greatest figures in medicine, said:
“Let food be thy medicine.”
With all of the conflicting information out there or with what we’re hearing at the latest health summit, it can make us afraid to eat anything. But don’t be afraid!
While there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, what generally is a good idea is to eat nature’s food – the things not in a box or a bag. Think fruits, veggies, meats, and legumes. Grains can be okay for some and problematic for others. Don’t knock things until you try them! You are your own best detective in what you can tolerate well and what you can’t.
We all know exercise is good for us and we should be doing it in some shape or form. When we have digestive disorders or other chronic illnesses, this can feel more difficult and we can let this area of our life kind of fall through the cracks.
Exercise is actually great for those of us with IBS and other digestive disorders because it can improve blood flow, relieve stress, regulate weight, and speed up metabolism — all of which can contribute to a healthy, well-functioning digestive system.
On the flip side of this, a 2017 study found that as exercise intensity and duration rises, the likelihood of intestinal injury increases.
Ideally, it’s recommended to exercise around 30 minutes a day. There’s not a huge need to work out longer than that. Having chronic health issues, I find that gentle exercises like yoga, swimming, and walking help me feel like I’m getting movement in without overdoing it. There’s no formula for what the “best” exercise is for you – just do something you love to do and start! You can always get some advice from your doctor or health coach as well.
What routines are you doing that help you heal your gut? Let me know in the comments below! I love hearing from you.