If the runs are becoming a normal part of your life, we need to have a little chat! I discuss poop with all of my clients – right down to the color and consistency. Why? Because it’s an important marker of health! It can give us a lot of clues about what is going on inside your guts! And because I’ve experienced all sorts of digestive issues (as I’m sure many of you have as well), I’ve built a solid list of digestion helpers, whether you have constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, or a combo (lucky you!).
Having a normal bowel movement pattern (as in at least daily) likely means that you are absorbing your nutrients, that you have a robust gut, that you are getting enough fiber, and that you are moving toxins and excess hormones through your system. Plus, having regular bowel movements is correlated with more energy, improved emotional well-being, better sleep, better skin, less allergies, less risk of chronic disease, and overall better health.
Want to be a super pooper? Here are my top 7 tips for supporting digestion naturally.
Eat Peacefully and Chew Thoroughly
Sound strange? Have you ever tried to sit down and enjoy your meal slowly and without any distractions? If you’re anything like me, you automatically reach for your phone, check your email, check your Facebook, update Instagram, and before you know it, you look down at your bowl and are surprised to find it empty!
When it comes to eating, just eat! Distractions like watching TV, checking messages, reading, and even having heated conversations can lead to overeating, indigestion, and even weight gain. This is because your brain is distracted! It’s not getting the message from the stomach that says “hey! Stop shoveling food in your pie hole – I’m full!”
And just like your mummy told you, chew your food thoroughly. Chewing small amounts of food until it becomes a liquid is SO great for digestion. It’s really simple but we often forget to do this or get too excited about swallowing that we don’t chew thoroughly enough. We can actually assimilate more nutrients by chewing our food and we can digest our food better because we are allowing our stomach the chance to release digestive enzymes that help break down food.
When we swallow large particles of food, we can actually promote an increase in the bacteria in our intestines that cause gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. No fun. So listen to your mom for once and chew like a cow.
Solids and Liquids Don’t Go Together
I know it’s hard to do, but drinking while eating does not bode well for digestion. Drinking while eating dilutes the enzymes and acids in your stomach and makes your impulse to swallow stronger. Save your liquids for before or after a meal by 30-60 minutes on either end.
Avoid Refined Sugar
Guess what happens when we eat sugar? The body pulls minerals from our bones to help break it down. Yikes! Also, sugar can lead to gas, weight gain, diarrhea, and acid reflux. If you need some help with breaking up with sugar, check out some of my blog posts on my sugar elimination:
In addition, combining refined sugars with complex sugars can be hard on the stomach. Try eating your fruit away from meals so that digestion can get a head start before it tackles simple sugars.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are trendy now. Food that has been sitting out for a while, growing bacteria, tasting very sour….it’s in! Fermented foods support gastrointestinal health by preventing unwanted pathogens, supporting the immune system, and preventing uncomfortable GI conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
If you’re not a fan of fermented foods, you can always try encapsulated probiotics. However, research shows that fermented foods have more diversity in bacteria and in much larger amounts than what is found in capsules. Fermented foods include live sauerkraut, miso paste, brine pickles, fermented vegetables, tempeh, kefir, and kombucha. Such strange names.
Fermented foods provide helpful microorganisms that crowd out the bad bacteria that make war in your gut. But slapping some fermented foods on the wound is not going to cut it (is there a pun there?). The good bacteria need a suitable place to thrive, so yes, you’ll need to upgrade your diet (aka more veggies and less sugar) to ensure the good bacteria are going to survive and create a more peaceful environment.
Consider Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes help us break down our food for better absorption. You can find them at natural food stores and take them with your meals. However, please do so under the guidance of a qualified practitioner as your body can become dependent on them. I like Source Naturals Essential Enzymes.
Eat Some Fiber
There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber pulls in water, slows down digestion, and reduces the rate that sugar is absorbed into our bloodstream. It can help lower our blood sugar levels and cholesterol. It is found in beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Insoluble fiber is like a scrub brush for your intestines. It is the fibrous part of the plant that adds bulk to your food and slows down transit time of food through your intestines. Adding insoluble fiber to your diet helps prevent constipation and make your bowel movements bigger, softer, and easier to pass. It is found in nuts and seeds (like flax and chia), whole grains, and vegetables.
Just another reason to eat your veggies, in case you needed another one 🙂
There’s a Tea for That
Of course there’s a tea for that! In fact, there are many teas that help soothe digestion. Try a gut-friendly blend like peppermint, fennel and ginger. These herbs help heal the gut and soothe many digestive ailments. Ginger is by far my favorite, but peppermint can also be very soothing. Drinking tea also promotes more fluids in the body, which can help move things through. Here are some of my favorite digestive support teas!
What are your go-to’s for happy digestion? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!