How is your gut health? Need work? The saying goes, “you are what you eat” and while that can be pretty true, it’s more like “you are what you absorb.” Meaning, while it’s super important to have a varied diet of properly prepared, nutrient-dense foods you must also be able to adequately break down the nutrients you’re consuming and use them in your body.
Now, I can hear your thoughts, “Crap, I already struggle eating a proper diet, now I need to worry about absorbing the nutrients, too? Don’t worry, the good news: with a few small lifestyle adjustments, many people can experience a huge shift in the health of their gut.
So how do you know if you’re properly absorbing these nutrients or if your gut is in an unhealthy state?
Signs that point to an unhealthy gut:
- belching, gas or bloating after eating a meal
- heartburn or acid reflux
- undigested food in your poop
- poop that isn’t not well-formed
- poop that is hard or difficult to pass
- bad breath
- strong body odor
- feeling better when you don’t eat
The root cause of each of these varies a bit, however, each symptom you may be experiencing is a telltale sign that you have digestive dysfunction, aka, an unhealthy gut.
The most common cause of the majority of these issues is low stomach acid, also known as hypochlorhydria. Stomach acid is a vitally important digestive juice that can be easily affected by unhealthy lifestyle practices such as antacid drug use, excess sugar, highly processed foods, chronic overeating, constant snacking between meals, excess alcohol consumption, or nutrient deficiencies, just to name a few.
Okay, now we have covered how we got this unhealthy gut, so let’s go back to the good news! There are many things you can do in terms of lifestyle changes to help support your digestive system and avoid hypochlorhydria.
There are 3 decently easy steps to follow in the order they’re presented to ensure that each part of the digestive system is working optimally and the organs and systems to follow can rely on the health of the organs before it.
3 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
- Rest to digest. The most important step you can take to improve digestion is to ensure you are in a relaxed state before you eat. I know it’s hard, but step away from the phone, TV, and any other electronics or distractions. Sit down, take a deep breath, and enjoy your food. By entering into this “rest and digest” mode of your body (called your parasympathetic state) you’re allowing your brain to activate the salivary glands and produce saliva, which begins the digestion process! We often think being “busy” is some kind of badge of honor we wear, but in reality, it’s hurting our health. Take the time to get yourself into a relaxed state and watch your body work wonders.
- Chew your food. Aim to chew 20-30 times per bite, or until your food is in a liquid state. (yes, this sounds gross) My real tip here is to put your fork down in between bites to avoid eating too quickly and to help get in those chews. As you eat, savor the taste, smell, texture, and colors of your food. Your mouth is a huge piece to the digestive system. The mechanical and chemical breakdown of food takes place here, so when we skip this step it enormously affects the rest of the digestive process. Chewing ineffectively or too quickly allows large particles of food to enter your stomach and intestines, potentially causing digestive dysfunction. Chewing your food thoroughly allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food, helps you maintain a healthy weight, allows for easier digestion, and leads to fewer digestive issues like gas and bloating.
- Increase stomach acid. Hydrochloric acid promotes digestion and the absorption of many vital nutrients. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet and poorly managed stress, has negatively affected this important digestive component. Incorporating warm lemon water, consumption of fermented foods and digestive bitters will help prepare the digestive tract for digestion and encourage the production of digestive juices and enzymes. Additionally, following the two steps before this will set the stage for the production of stomach acid.
Whether you’re experiencing one, two, or all eight of the symptoms listed above, following these steps in order will provide the ultimate foundation for a healthy gut and optimal functioning digestive system.
* A little reminder here, that this article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure disease, and is for educational and informational purposes only.
Until next time,
Keep it Fresh. Keep it Simple. Keep it Real.