Today we're talking about gut health and digestion. It's a pretty broad category that includes gas, bloating, constipation, colitis, Chron's disease, and even bad breath. First I've got five things that you can do to improve your digestion.
But more importantly, we want to get to root causes of your gut and digestion troubles. For that, I also have three false beliefs that are contributing to the difficulties you're having with your digestion.
When we talk about digestion, this is a very broad, global kind of thing. But the beliefs and the things that you can do to improve digestion apply to any particular symptoms or diagnosis that you might have.
When I'm talking about digestion, of course, I'm actually referring to your whole digestive system. But specifically, for our purposes here, we're talking about your mouth, your stomach, your small intestine, and your large intestine.
Gut health and digestion
Let's start with the purpose of your digestive system and a quick overview of the basics.
How digestion works (BIG picture overview):
- Mouth - starts the digestive process by secreting saliva to break down food as you chew
- Stomach - continues to break down food by secreting acid
- Small intestine - absorbs nutrients from your food
- Large intestine - absorbs water and salt from food and compacts and gets rid of what you don't need
The process of digestion on an emotional level
All physical processes, illnesses, diseases, and pains have underlying belief and emotional components to them. For gut and digestion troubles, this relates to a process of taking in the things that you need that are going to benefit you, allowing everything to flow through your system, and then releasing or letting go of the things that are not necessary or helpful for you. Keep that in mind as we talk about digestion.
Signs and symptoms of digestive troubles
Since you're reading this, you're probably pretty familiar with signs and symptoms of digestion troubles because you have one or multiple of these symptoms:
- constipation or diarrhea
- gas, bloating
- anxiety and/or depression, mood swings
- brain fog
- skin issues, including rashes, eczema, ringworm
There are a lot of symptoms that you can have that tell you that your digestion is out of balance.
5 ways to improve your digestion
Here are 5 things that you can do to help improve and strengthen your digestion.
#1: Slow down and eat mindfully
This is the most important and the most critical one to follow. I'm sure you've heard it before. Many, many times, probably. That's because it's such an important thing to do.
If you you're only going to do one thing, this is the one that I recommend that you do.
We are so fast paced, and we try to squeeze so much into our days now that we very often do not take the time to sit down for a meal.
How often do you eat in your car, or in front of your computer or in front of the TV? This causes a lot of stress for our digestive systems, for two reasons.
First, you're not paying attention to what your body needs, so you're very likely overeating.
Second, you're probably not relaxed. When you are in a stressed state and you eat, your body isn't ready to take in and digest your food. Your body needs to be relaxed to properly digest your food.
I'm going to encourage you, even if it's just for one day, try for one day for all of your meals to sit down and do nothing but eat your food when you eat. Having a nice, pleasant conversation with others is also recommended!
Take your time when you eat. Chew your food, don't just gulp it down as quicly as you can. If you're often feeling bloating, and burping and belching, it's probably because you're eating and drinking too fast.
Slow down, and take your time to eat and enjoy your food.
Not only will this help with your digestion, but it will help give you incur a better relationship with your food and your body. You'll start to know what you actually like and don't like, and how things taste, and you'll have a better idea when you're full.
#2: Stop eating when you're full
Don't overstuff yourself. Every day does not need to be Thanksgiving.
This second suggestion goes along with the first one. If you're not being present when you're eating, it's very, very easy to overeat, especially if we eat in front of the TV or the computer.
So slow down a little bit and pay attention and notice when you're actually full, and you start to receive those signals that you're full, and then stop eating.
#3: Take a break from food
The next thing you can do to improve your digestion is to give your digestive system a rest. We tend to eat continually throughout the day. We eat, and then we snack between meals, too.
We also tend to eat and snack at night, shortly before bedtime. And when we do this, we don't really give our system a time to rest.
I want to encourage you to stop eating after dinner. No more snacking late at night.
Make sure your dinner is at least two hours before you go to bed. This tip can also help you release weight if you're overweight.
In addition to not eating late at night, if you're healthy and able to do so, consider fasting. You can still drink your water, but take a break from food for a 24 hour period, or maybe even for half a day. Let your system rest and give it a break.
#4: Help your stomach work better
Do you have heartburn or reflux? Or do you have gas or bloating? One of the reasons that's a problem is because we have an imbalance in the acid production in our stomach.
Most often, it's not that we have too much acid, it's that we have too little acid.
The way you can counteract this is to take a supplement with digestive enzymes, or take bitters. Bitter is one of the tastes of your tongue. The stimulation of the bitter sensation will help start the digestion process and facilitate the digestion of your food.
Digestive enzymes or bitters is something that you take take either right at the beginning of your meal, or 20 to 30 minutes before you eat.
#5: Try an elimination diet
You might have some food allergies or sensitivities, which is another sign that you have digestion or or gut imbalances.
A simple way to determine if that's the problem without having to go get a bunch of testing done for allergies, is to simply follow an elimination diet.
To do this, take all of the major offenders out of your diet for a certain period of time. Generally, for 2-4 weeks. Then slowly reintroduce them one at a time and notice how you feel and what happens.
This means you need to eliminate dairy, wheat, soy, corn, eggs. I would also eliminate nuts because they're very difficult for many people as well. So eliminate these things.
And you said, well, Jen, what do I eat? Well, eat a lot of fruit, eat a lot of cooked vegetables, and eat meat (which includes fish).
The reason I say cooked vegetables is because if you have digestion troubles, raw food is much harder on your system. It's harder to digest raw food. So when you're doing your elimination diet, eliminate the salads, and eat cooked vegetables instead.
#6: (Added bonus!) Go for a walk
Movement is good for you. (Especially when you read about the 3 false beliefs hurting your digestion. Digestion is about movement!)
Get out and take a walk every day. If you're at a desk job, take a break every 50 minutes and walk around the office. Movement helps relieve constipation and gets the bowels moving.
There are five (six!) things that you can do to improve your digestion. Even if your digestion is fairly strong, most of these things, at least the first four, will be very helpful for you in strengthening your digestion even further. Give one of them a try and let me know how you feel!
What thoughts came to you related to absorbing and taking things in, and then letting them go? Keep thinking about that, because the next thing is the three belief patterns that can be contributing to your poor digestion.
3 beliefs that hurt your digestion
There are specific ways of thinking that affect all of our systems within our body. These three thought patterns can upset your digestion in different ways. Here are underlying emotional issues that can upset your digestion.
3 beliefs that contribute to gut and digestion troubles:
- The inability to assimilate and absorb or to take in things that are new in your life
- Wanting to live in the past
- The desire to stay in your comfort zone
So notice, all three of these beliefs have to do with being more rigid and wanting things to be the way they are.
When that's the case, we are resisting the flow of life. And digestion is all about flow.
Things have to come in, they have to move through your system, and then they have to be released. And you want that to happen not too fast and not too slow. It needs to happen at the right pace for you.
What difficulty do you have with allowing yourself to experience new things, or to accept things into your life, or even of letting go of things?
So if you're not sure exactly where these issues arise for you, I've got a couple of questions you can ask yourself.
Ask yourself these questions about your digestion
The first question is, what things do you have difficulty accepting in your life right now?
Or if you have chronic problems with your gut health and your digestion, it may not be about something right now. There might be something that was a problem when you first were diagnosed or when you first started having problems.
So if it doesn't seem to be an issue currently, look back to about six months or so before you started having your current symptoms or your disease was diagnosed. And ask yourself about that timeframe. What was difficult for you? Or what do you resist in your life?
The next question is, what is difficult for you to let go of? What are you holding on to that no longer serves you? What do you no longer need?
The third question I want you to consider is specifically about your emotions. Your gut is strongly tied in to your emotions and your feeling.
You think about having a gut feeling for something. Too often, we ignore our gut and we go with our brain and with our logic. That's going to make your gut unhappy and be out of balance.
Ask, where do you have strong feelings of fear of anxiety or worry in your life? What feelings are you not listening to? Or are you not allowing yourself to express? Where are you stuck? Essentially, where are you resisting flow?
What nutrients can you take into your life that will give you more life, more energy, more excitement?
What can you release and let go of that is stagnant or that you've been holding on to and that no longer serves you?
Your gut health and your digestion are tied into essentially all of your organs and all your systems in your body, ultimately, because all of the nutrients that you take in have to be distributed to your entire body. So there are many, many symptoms that you can have for your digestion. All of us could stand to improve our digestion in one way or another.
Try a couple of these things both for your physical health and changing these false beliefs and see how your digestion improves.