Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Are you digesting your food well? Do you poop perfectly? Do you have days where you never have to think about gas, bloating, or a distended belly?
If you are anything like most of my clients, the answer is probably
And my friend, that makes me sad for you. It should not be that way. You should be able to eat real food without worrying about how you are going to sneak a button open on your pants at the end of the day. You should be able to clear a meal out of your tummy with no discomfort. You should be able to be intimate with your husband without worrying that you will fart during sex.
This is crass, but this is also life for a lot of women. Boo.
It used to be me. I have learned a lot about digestion during the course of my studies. I have been able to implement some simple and effective healing strategies for myself and for many of my clients. I want to share those with you today, because it is not normal to have terrible digestion all of the time.
To fix the end, we have to start at the beginning.
Digestion starts in the brain
Did you know that you start digesting food in the brain? We call this the "cephalic phase" of digestion. Think about this: when you smell a delicious roast chicken, or a warm chocolate chip cookie, or a loaf of freshly baked sourdough, what happens? Your mouth waters! And it should- it is preparing the body to begin digesting that yummy food. The brain registers the fact that a meal is imminent, and so the mouth begins to produce the digestive enzyme amylase. Present in the saliva, amylase is produced to aid the breakdown of carbohydrates and sugars. So it is a good thing when your mouth waters. This is a biological response produced in order to digest food.
Consider this: what if you pop into In N' Out (which I did this week) to grab a quick lunch? Did I make this lunch? No. Did I wait long for this lunch? No. Ergo, my body had very little time to prepare for its meal. I did not touch the food, prepare the food, anticipate the food, or enjoy the food, really. And consequently, I did not digest the food well.
This is why cooking and eating at home regularly is vital to true, nourished health. Invested = digested. (Oooh, I just made that up. I'm totally using it again.) If you are part of the food, the food has an easier time becoming part of you.
Plan, cook, and prepare meals slowly and thoughtfully so your body has time to switch from the mode of : now we are running from soccer practice to ballet practice (cortisol and adrenaline) to: now we are preparing the stomach to receive and digest nutrients (amylase, protease, lipase). Make sense?
Takeaway: Cook most meals at home for optimal digestion.
Digestion takes time
It is difficult to slow down every time we eat. We are busy. And some of us eat two times a day; some of us eat six times a day. No one wants to slow down during the day- we feel as though we will lose momentum.
But girls, if you want to digest well, you must slow down. Large pieces of food do not digest well. If you are swallowing your food whole, you are doing your body a disservice. First of all, it will be much tougher to break down the food in your stomach and you may experience indigestion. Second of all, you may not absorb all of the micronutrients that food has to offer you. You may find large pieces of food coming out of you. This is not good.
So chew your food until it is liquid. Truly, this is the simplest fix for indigestion. If you chew your solids until they are liquid, you have already done much of the hard work. Your body has to process less, which means it uses less energy, which means you will be less fatigued. "Until liquid" usually means chewing each bit 10-30 times. Try it today and see what you think. You may find yourself satisfied with less food. Bonus.
Takeaway: chew each bite of food 10-30 times, slowly.
Digestion can use assistance
When the body is compromised through disease or fatigue, digestion can begin to slow down. Oftentimes with chronic illness (like autoimmune disease), we will see a slowdown in production of endogenous enzymes. This means your food will sit in your digestive tract longer, and at the same time, the food will not be broken down into its parts and consequently, you will not be able to assimilate necessary nutrients.
Your hair may start falling out. Your nails may grown white spots and become brittle. Your fatigue may increase. You may become anxious.
If you feel like a rock is in your stomach much of the time after eating, you could probably use some digestive enzymes. This supplement will help digest food and free up energy to be used by the rest of the body.
If you feel like you have acid reflux, you may also benefit from digestive enzymes. Guess what? Most acid reflux is actually too little acid instead of too much acid. The body stops secreting enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach to digest food.
Sometimes, all it takes to aid digestion is to add a little betaine HCl. This is a digestive enzyme plus acid that will break food down in the stomach for you. People see amazing bumps in energy by implementing digestive aids, since digestion takes so much of the body's vital reserve.
Fifty percent of the population has an Helicobacter Pylori infection. This critter is a pathogenic bacteria that burrows into your stomach lining and secretes urease, which reduces stomach acid further. A less acidic environment allows this nasty bug to proliferate in your stomach and cause all sorts of digestive distress.
Ladies! Do not reduce your stomach acid! Your stomach acid is one of the strongest acids on earth, second only to battery acid. God designed your stomach acid to kill microorganisms, pathogens, and parasites; He also designed it to break food down enough to absorb all of your micronutrients for absorption.
Taking antacids (like Tums) or proton-pump inhibitors (like Nexium) will reduce your stomach acid and make you more susceptible to infection. This lowered stomach acid can cause bacterial and parasitical infections to proliferate.
If you have problems with what you think is too much acid, try my tips for digesting food properly. Also try adding in digestive enzymes and possibly HCl.
What are the symptoms of a digestive tract infection?
I had terrible stomach problems until I tested positive for H. Pylori and also a parasite. Now my tummy is fine. Conventional broad-spectrum antibiotics are not enough to kill H. Pylori. In functional medicine, the standard of care is a 60 day herbal protocol.
My poor tummy was dealing with not only an H. Pylori infection, but also a nasty parasite. Once I cleared those up, I was right as rain. But don't be fooled- it was a long, hard process. The herbal medication therapy took 60 days and there may or may not have been three consecutive days of colon hydrotherapy involved.
Don't guess if you have an infection or not. Get tested by a functional health care professional so that you can obtain the correct data. I use the BioHealth 401(H), which is the most trusted stool test in the industry.
Takeaway: Consider using digestive aids and getting tested for digestive tract infections.
To wrap it up:
Sub-par digestion really makes for difficult days. I know this from experience. Enjoy these easy tips for better digestion today!
Yours in health,