Stomach troubles can be debilitating, annoying, interfere with our quality of life and even lead to chronic disease. A solid 95% of clients that come to me have some kind of digestion issue; while waiting to receive lab work back I always like to give my clients ways they can improve their health status right away. When it comes to gut issues I have 5 methods that work incredibly well, and quickly; the best part is that 4 of them are free. This includes:
- Chewing each bite of food 30 times
- Food combining
- Ditch dairy or swap for plant-based alternatives
- Deep breathing/meditation
- Correcting nutritional deficiencies using a NutrEval lab test
- Chewing each bit at least 30 times. On average, we chew 3-5 times before swallowing a bite of food; even though chewing (mastication) is the very first step in digestion. Performing this step well can improve the rest of the steps to move along more optimally. It’s like baking sourdough bread, if you don’t have a strong starter the rest of the steps will be impacted, and in most cases no chance of producing a gorgeous loaf.
To start improving your digestion at your next meal start to chew each bite at least 30 times, if you have severe stomach issues, a chronic disease or a curious spirit, chew each bite of food 100-200 times. Chewing well may take some practice to remember, so leave yourself a note on your lunch, put a sign up somewhere in the kitchen, or set a reminder on your phone for each meal time. Be sure to take reasonable bites, if you are filling your mouth to capacity you’ll have to do far more than 30 chews.
Chewing well is one of the most impactful and simple ways to improve your digestion quickly. If you want to take your dining experience to the next level consider mindful eating.
- Food combining. If you are prone to gas and bloating I’m about to change your world. There is a lot I can say here but I’m going to keep it as short as possible since we have more info to address; if you’d like to hear more about food combining tell me in the comments below.
In short this method had been used, and studied since at least 1902; it can give you better digestion, more energy and even help you lose weight (if you have excess body fat). In short, certain foods should not be eaten together because they are digested differently in the body due to their concentrations. Human bodies cannot handle the poor combinations and food begins to putrefy in your gut, hello flatulence and heartburn. Some of the biggest offenders includes mixing protein and starches, like meat and potatoes, or eating fruit with anything else besides other fruit.
Fruits digest very quickly, within 20-30 min, however if you eat other foods like proteins, fats, or starches that can take hours to digest with fruit that wants to digest quickly your stomach will ferment the food and make the entire meal acidic.
Here is the quick guide to food combining, this chart has been adapted from Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution book. My favorite read on food combining is Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond.
- Starches CAN mix with vegetables
- Proteins CAN mix with vegetables
- Proteins and starches DO NOT MIX
- Different Proteins DO NOT mix
- Fats DO NOT mix well with protein
- Fats DO mix with starches
- Fruits should be eaten alone on an empty stomach (ideally in the morning)
- Stop consuming liquids, even water at least 30 minutes before eating
- Do not consume any liquids for at least 1 hour after eating
- Ditch Dairy. The bottom line here is no adult is meant to consume dairy, ever, and we are not supposed to consume the milk of another animal. Most people are lactose intolerant, which our society treats as an issue, when in fact those who can digest dairy have a gene mutation.
In humans, lactase, the enzyme that allows the digestion of dairy starts to decline after the first few months of life until it completely diminishes1 in toddlerhood. Around 70% of adults around the world are lactose intolerant; up to 95% of people from African and Asian ancestry are lactose intolerant; if a solid majority of people cannot tolerate dairy, why are we trying to force it? More recently lactose malabsorption and maldigestion have come to light which have the same symptoms as lactose intolerance: upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating and cramps. So even if you are not one of the 70% of lactose intolerant people, you may fall into one of these other two categories or a true allergy.
If you want to improve your digestion, for some within 24 hours, replace your current dairy items with plant-based alternatives, or just omit dairy from your day.
- Deep Breathing and Meditation. Meditation and breathwork is one of the most powerful tools we have for staying healthy. It can help with: stress, anxiety and depression, improving communication, heart health, the brain including demonstrable functional and structural changes in the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, insula and hippocampus; the immune system, as a part of treating PTSD and childhood trauma, gene expression, and of course digestion.2,3
Diaphragmatic breathing activates the diaphragm creating a gentle massaging action for the internal organs such as the intestines and stomach. This can reduce abdominal pain, urgency, bloating and constipation. It also activates the parasympathetic system creating a relaxation response of the body you might know as the “rest and digest” state.
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing right before a meal or snack is the best way to prepare your body to receive nourishment. I like to take a few deeps breaths during the meal as well, especially if I’m slacking on mindful eating.
- Correct your nutritional deficiencies. Our culture is obsessed with macronutrients and takes on diets or practices that often completely ignore micronutrients which are just as important to our health, and arguably play a bigger role. We may only need small amounts of vitamins and minerals for good health however they help balance hormones, build collagen, fight of disease, sustain our vision, support our brains and emotional health, and of course aide in digestion.
Sometimes we develop gut disorders that prevent us from absorbing nutrients properly that can lead to a host of symptoms like depression, anxiety, and brain fog or diseases like dementia, cancer, and arthritis; and sometimes we are not eating the right foods to give us the nutrients we need that can lead to damage in our gut. Regardless, it is important to know which nutrients you are low in and why so that you can heal your body.
Nutrients that are essential for digestion include but are not limited to:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): critical role in energy metabolism
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): regulates food-uptake, and fat metabolism
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): critical roles in the production of energy from food
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Necessary for fatty acid synthesis
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Protein metabolism, and Helps your body release sugar from stored carbohydrates for energy
- Vitamin B7 (biotin): metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose
- Vitamin B9 (folate): deficiency could induce glucose and lipid metabolism disorders
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): plays a role in energy production
In clinical practice we like to say “test don’t guess” which can save you a lot of time and money. If you supplement with vitamins you don’t need it can not only be a financial waste but also can be dangerous for your health. The best way to test for B vitamins is using organic acids (urine test) because this tests for the end products of B vitamin metabolism which tells us what your body is using vs what is just circulating (blood test). My favorite nutritional test is the NutrEval that uses organic acid testing and also looks at many vitamin and mineral deficiencies from a cellular level and many other markers that could impact your health including amino acids, fungal and bacterial overgrowth, neurotransmitters (especially helpful in anxiety and depression), and more. Check out this sample report to see just how much information you’ll gain about your nutritional status. If you want further and personalized ways to improve your digestion, and/or get a NutrEval test contact me for more information.
Bonus tips: your health care practitioner might also recommend a stool test. This is a great tool to find out if you have inflammation, low zonulin (a diagnostic marker for leaky gut), parasites, fungus, bacteria or yeast overgrowth, and specifically what kind. Contact me for more information on how to obtain a stool test.
If you are seeking some extra support, there is one digestive supplement that I recommend for every adult, Triphala.
According to Banyan Botanicals Triphala is recommended and used more than any other Ayurvedic herbal formulation. Unlike many other gut health supplements, it has the unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the system while simultaneously replenishing and nourishing it. This Ayurvedic formula supports the proper functions of the digestive, circulatory, and respiratory systems.
It is also said to:
- Assist natural cleansing*
- Gently maintains regularity*
- Nourish and rejuvenate the tissues*
- Support healthy digestion and absorption*
- Support the proper functions of the digestive, circulatory, and respiratory systems*
- Is a natural antioxidant*
Have you tried any other these methods for improving your digestion? Share what has helped you in the comments!
The information on this site is not meant to cure, prevent or treat any diseases, replace medical or legal advice.
- Szilagyi, Andrew, and Norma Ishayek. “Lactose Intolerance, Dairy Avoidance, and Treatment Options.” Nutrients vol. 10,12 1994. 15 Dec. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10121994
- Cuda, Gretchen. “Just Breathe: Body Has A Built-In Stress Reliever.” NPR, NPR, 6 Dec. 2010, www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever.
- Gotink, Rinske A., et al. “8-Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Induces Brain Changes Similar to Traditional Long-Term Meditation Practice – A Systematic Review.” Brain and Cognition, vol. 108, 16 July 2016, pp. 32–41., doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2016.07.001.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Banyan Botanicals products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information pertaining to your personal needs please see a qualified health practitioner.