This topic is one of my favorites to discuss, because digestive issues are so
prevalent, yet so infrequently talked about. A good portion of our customer base
is made up of those who suffer from digestive issues of some kind such as:
heartburn, gas and bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea or alternating
bowel patterns; or issues that stem from a poor digestive system such as a high
amount of food sensitivities, eczema, or weight gain.
In natural health, a healthy digestive system is pivotal to good health because
our digestive system is intricately connected to all other organ systems in the
body. Think: if our body is not able to efficiently assimilate nutrients from our
food, how do we nourish our organs? When our digestive system is unhealthy,
not only do we have overall discomfort, but we can also experience things like
allergies, mood changes, and even skin problems like eczema or psoriasis.
If you experience any of these issues, there are a few things you will want to
First and foremost is your diet: if you are taking supplements to help your
digestive system without investigating probable dietary causes, you are NOT
doing yourself any favors. Your diet should consist of:
1) Plenty of vegetables
2) Moderate amounts of fruit
3) Healthy fats such as the Omega-3’s (fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, camelina oil)
and Omega-6’s (grape-seed oil, olive oil, almond oil, safflower oil etc.)
NOTE: Remember to never cook an oil past its smoke point, at this point
they become more harmful than helpful
4) Proteins: LEAN AND CLEAN! (Hormone-free if possible chicken, turkey,
fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese)
*Some nuts are better digested if they are soaked first. Almonds for
example should be soaked in water for about 6 to 8 hours, whereas softer
nuts like cashews only need to be soaked for an hour or two
5) Complex carbohydrates (healthy grains)
6) Make sure you are drinking plenty of clean water
1) Processed and refined foods
2) Fatty, fried foods
4) Excessive amounts of sugar (pop and juice, packaged foods, white breads
5) Artificial sweeteners, flavors and dyes
In regards to diet: often times when an individual starts to follow a program to
benefit bowel function, the first thing they do is significantly increase fiber intake.
While this is incredibly important, I do not advise a sudden increase in fiber
intake: this will result in you feeling like garbage. Slowly increase the amount of
fiber in your diet, and ensure you are drinking plenty of water!
It is also highly valuable to consider food journaling. This may help you to
analyze foods that cause digestive distress (gluten and dairy are common
culprits, but certainly not the only ones), as well as analyze whether factors such
as sleep and stress levels impact your digestive system. If you want a template
for a food journal, feel free to e-mail me, and I will send one to you.
CHEW YOUR FOOD SLOWLY
Some individuals like to follow the mantra “live like you are dying”, but we do not
have to eat as though it is our last meal. I’ve heard various professionals in the
industry recommend different amounts to chew your food: some say 20 chews,
some say 30 chews, and I’ve even heard 100. Bottom line; make sure it is not
remotely close to being a solid when you swallow it.
Drink plenty of water. If you aren’t big on water, then try things like ginger,
peppermint or fennel tea. These teas are great for improving digestion, and will
count towards your overall water intake. Do not count other fluids towards your
total water intake, especially pop, juices, and caffeinated beverages. In natural
health, our rule of thumb is a half-ounce of water per pound of body weight, but in
my experience many people are not even getting close to that amount. If you are
one of those people who can go a whole day without drinking a glass of water,
just start making a genuine effort to drink more water.
You gotta move!!
Exercise helps to speed up transit time of food in the digestive tract, as well as it
helps to tone the intestines. There are also several yoga poses that you can use
to help to relieve digestive discomforts.
In regards to supplements, natural health has a few tricks up its sleeve. I have
broken them down into FOUNDATION supplements, as well as SYMPTAMATIC
Supplements that will act as a foundation
(You will want to be on these regularly, or for an extended trial period):
I am sure anyone interested in health has familiarized themselves with probiotics,
and rightfully so: the research behind them is fascinating. In fact, I am due for
a blog post exclusively on probiotics. In a nutshell, probiotics are the “friendly
bacteria” that thrive in our bodies. There is a wide-spectrum of bacteria, and each
strain of bacteria can have a different function in the body. It has been shown
that use of probiotics can reduce symptoms such as: gas, bloating, diarrhea,
constipation and symptoms of irritable bowel. They are also highly beneficial for
It is important to note that we DO get probiotics from things like yogurt and
fermented foods. However, most yogurts only contain 1-2 specific probiotics
(the most I’ve seen is 6), and many contain sugar and artificial sweeteners. Not
enough to count as a therapeutic amount.
2) Digestive Enzymes
Enzymes are used to catalyze reactions in the body. Digestive enzymes in
particular facilitate the breakdown of our food (Eg. proteins into amino acids).
This means that once the food reaches the small intestine, the food is small
enough to be assimilated. When food remains undigested, it is left to ferment;
causing gas, bloating and in some cases heartburn, which can be easily be
mistaken as the result of high stomach acid. Many things interrupt our body’s
ability to produce enzymes: stress, always eating cooked food, lack of nutrition
and smoking to name a few. Try one bottle for a whole month, and take note
of how you feel after meals. You should notice less bloating and lethargy after
The brand that I recommend is NOW Super Enzymes. There are other more
popular (and more expensive!) enzymes available that work great also but I find
in most cases these ones do the trick. Do not take them if you have high stomach
acid, as these contain Betaine HCL.
3) Greens powder
I am a huge advocate of greens powders, and there are multiple reasons why.
I remember a client coming in for an appointment, and when I recommended
a greens powder, he immediately went into skeptic mode. His response to my
recommendation was “I can get that all from food”, and he is absolutely correct.
My response was: “do you?”
We know we are supposed to eat vegetables, and lots of them. But many of
us despite our vegetables in breakfast, lunch, dinners and snacks are still not
getting enough: and more importantly we are not getting enough variety!
And that is what I love about greens powders: the variety. Many powders will
have things like sea vegetables (how many of you eat kelp regularly), antioxidant
that we don’t typically see fresh at our grocery stores (mangosteen, goji, acai),
super-foods (spirulina, barley, alfalfa, chlorella) and of course, some of the
greens that we eat limited amounts of (spinach, kale, broccoli).
Greens do not taste amazing; at best they are “okay”. But, the awesome thing
about greens is that it is a pretty small scoop and one serving a day supplies you
with minimum 6 servings of veggies. If you get a chance to pop by the store and
would like to try some, check to see if we have samples, and we would be happy
to provide you with one!
Supplements that aid in symptomatic relief of digestive upsets:
1) Peppermint or fennel tea:
These herbs are what are known as
carminative herbs. They help to reduce gas and bloating.
2) Swedish bitters:
These are by far the worst tasting thing you will ever try, but they are
very effective when you are experiencing bloating, constipation or
nausea. One tablespoon is enough, but you can do that multiple times
per day if need be.
3) Natural Laxatives:
Cleansemore by Renew Life, Gentlelax by Botanica,
Magnesium Citrate by Natural Calm
When you are experiencing constipation and you need something to
alleviate that, do NOT reach for a harsh laxative. For one thing, many
of them can cause painful cramping, but long term use of these can
create a dependency issue. The products listed above are gentle, and
4) Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal will bind to toxins, and prevent them from being
absorbed. This makes it very helpful for nausea, gas, and a generally
upset stomach. You do not want to take this on a daily basis; it is
intended for short-term use only.
5) Slippery Elm and Aloe Vera
Slippery Elm contains mucilage, which helps to coat the intestinal tract.
This is helpful to soothe ulcers or heartburn. Slippery elm does have
mild laxative properties so start with small amounts and allow your
body to adjust to it. Aloe vera juice is also known to be very soothing
to the digestive tract, and can help to alleviate constipation, as well as
soothe ulcers and heartburn.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce
inflammation of the digestive tract. It also reduces nausea and overall
If you are interested in learning more about digestion, and how you can assist
your digestive system using a holistic approach, you are invited to attend a
workshop at Frontline Fitness (north of Superstore) on March.30th
to 3:00pm. We do a one- hour info session, followed by one hour of yoga!
Admission is $20.00. Please phone me at 780-919-3265 to register.
You are also welcome to e-mail me with any questions you may have.
My e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org