The bloating. The burning. The discomfort. No one enjoys stomach upset. Continuously eating meals that aren’t serving our bodies can really rob you of energy and even impact your mental health. Not to mention all of the other uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassing symptoms that go along with it.
And did you know that your stomach upset might not even be from the foods you are eating? It might actually be from how you are eating your meals.
The gut is the gateway to the rest of your body. The majority of our immune system is found in the gut. Serotonin, the hormone that helps the brain work better, is made in the gut. If your gut is out of whack, chances are you have symptoms related to it.
When I work with my patients, I always make sure that we look at their overall health before we get started. Because gut health is a fundamental element to healing. We can’t improve the rest of the body’s health if part of the foundation is broken.
If you’re suffering from bloating, pain, irritability, constipation, or anything else, here are 5 great tips for improving your gut and bringing your GI system back online to start healing.
Improving Your Gut Health By Changing How You Eat.
Eat more unprocessed, real foods.
Ok, this first one is pretty easy. And it’s one we all know but often have a hard time putting into practice. In this “go go go” world we live in, processed and/or fast foods are just easier. And hey, I get it. As someone who is on the go a lot for conferences, teaching, and speaking engagements, sometimes you just need to grab something quick. But this shouldn’t be the norm.
Fast foods and processed foods are no good for our digestive health. They are full of chemicals, additives, and preservatives that can send our guts into a whirlwind of dysfunction and wreak havoc on the rest of our body systems. Things like systemic inflammation, IBS, constipation and diarrhea are just a few symptoms of having an unhealthy gut.
Be especially cautious of consuming foods with xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many “no sugar added” foods. This compound has been shown to cause abdominal cramping and severe diarrhea. Eating foods with these artificial ingredients can throw your gut flora, the good bacteria that live in your gut, out of balance. This can lead to bloating, gas, and a whole host of other unpleasant side effects – including rise in blood sugar!
Instead, aim for more fruits and veggies and lean proteins. I know it’s a lot, but we should really be eating 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Chew Your Food.
This just might be the most important way to start healing your gut. Did your mom ever tell you to chew your food 20-30 times before swallowing it? I bet you rolled your eyes at her. But you know what? Your mom was right!
Chewing your food is the first step to preparing your digestive system to work. It turns on the stomach pumps, increasing the acidity to start breaking down the food we eat. This is crucial! If undigested food makes it out of the stomach and into the small intestine, it can impede the absorption of nutrients from our food, cause bacterial overgrowth, increase pain and slow down digestion. You can read more about the importance of gut health here.
And while you’re taking the time to chew, really pay attention to the food you’re eating. What does it taste like? How does it feel? This can make the experience of eating more satisfactory and really help to reduce some of the stress we often bring to the dinner table.
Put away the screens
Don’t watch TV. Don’t scroll Instagram. Don’t play Candy Crush. Screens cause distraction resulting in mindless eating. The food gets shoveled into our mouths without even thinking about what we are doing or how much we are eating. We tune everything out, including our body yelling at us to stop because our stomach is getting full.
If you want some entertainment while you eat, try playing some relaxing music or music that makes you happy. Listen to a podcast or a book on tape – but not any stressful subjects. This type of media will keep you entertained but not totally distracted from what you are doing- Eating and really ENJOYING your food.
Reduce your Stress and the amount of time eating on the go
Our world is fast-paced. Time management is always on our minds, especially when working in a busy office or clinic. It is so tempting to work while eating lunch. Or grab some dinner while driving to soccer practice. But it is crucial to stop. Sit down. And enjoy a meal without distractions. Sometimes this is unavoidable. But try to strive for this type of situation most days of the week.
When we eat in a high-stress environment, such as while working or on the go, proper digestion just can’t occur. Stress takes the GI system offline because no one needs to eat when running from the tiger. Ever wonder why you get heartburn worse when you rush through a meal? Your body perceives a state of stress and doesn’t allow the food to be processed well.
When you do take the time to sit down to eat and enjoy your food, make it look pretty. If you got takeout, put it on a plate. If you cooked, plate it so it looks yummy. The visual appearance of a meal can do a lot for whetting the appetite and getting the digestive juices flowing.
Be consistent with your food/schedule
The digestive system is a creature of habit. It likes consistency. And it takes a long time to create change within your digestive system. If you decide to make a change to your eating habits, stick with it for at least 6 months.
Eating meals at similar times each day can also help if you’re dealing with constipation issues. Did you know that the colon has a reflex that makes it want to empty about 30 mins after you eat? If you plan to eat your meals at certain times, carve out some time about 30 minutes after you eat to sit on the commode. Timing like this can help move things along!
Be consistent with your sleep schedule as well. Sleep is very important for digestive health as this is a time for repair and renewal. It also helps keep hunger hormones in check so that you aren’t making poor food choices.
If you’re suffering from digestive upset, making small changes like those listed above can help. Work with me for more guided, personalized help in improving your gut health. Book a free discovery call to find out more about Health and Wellness coaching with me. Or click here to learn more about coaching.
Are you a healthcare professional interested in learning more about how gut health impacts patient care? Click here to read an article about GI health from my Pelvic Health Education Subscription.