Stomach troubles giving you gas and acid reflux? Digestion is like the big pink elephant in the room. While frequent bloating, gas or irregular bowel movements are common, it is perfectly normal to choose not to talk about them.
You may have heard the basic tips to improve those tummy troubles: Drink plenty of water, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, eat a high-fiber diet and use probiotics. All good, but I have my own five easy-to-digest tips to improve your digestion and keep things running smoothly.
1. Normalize Your Bowel Movements
Bowel movements don’t often crop up in daily conversation or with your doctor, for that matter, which makes it difficult to understand what normal bowel movements are. There is debate even among health experts regarding normal bowel movements. A doctor may consider once every three days is normal, but I’m convinced that “normal” is different for everyone. What causes that difference in frequency of bowel movements is diet. If your diet contains a considerable amount of dairy and meat, a mucus-like paste slows the digestion process. If you’re eating healthy foods that support good digestion (fiber, whole foods and probiotics) you may find that up to three times a day is normal for you.
2. Eat Fruit on its Own
While you may think a fruit salad is a healthy addition to your breakfast, you should rethink when you choose to incorporate it into your diet. Fruit should always be eaten alone. This way the simple sugars can be completely absorbed by the body and the stomach can process the nutrients and fiber much easier. It is best to eat fruit on an empty stomach and try to avoid eating it after a meal. Other foods such as meats, fats and starches take longer to digest, and if you eat fruit afterward you run the risk of fermentation developing in your gut.
3. Reduce Your Yeast Intake
Yeast overgrowth is known to create gas, bloating, intestinal cramps, altered bowel function and irritable bowel syndrome. Your digestion may be compromised and you don’t even know it, especially if you consume large amounts of yeasty breads in your diet. Yeast, wheat and gluten are typically high on the list of top allergen foods to avoid, so if you have food sensitivities, you can try to eliminate these foods for 10 days or so from your diet to see how your body reacts and how you feel as a result. Yeast can be found in many processed breads and sweets. My advice is to avoid yeast, and consume more whole grains such as quinoa, millet, teff, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat and amaranth.
4. Stimulate Digestion and HCL Acid
When you have enough HCL (hydrochloric acid), you promote good digestion and immune health. Your food isn’t completely digested when there isn’t enough HCL in your stomach. Food will also not assimilate and you could become deficient in particular minerals and vitamins. There are several dietary sources to increase your HCL, such as mustard, horseradish, fennel, dill, salt or anything with a sour taste like lemons, pickles or apple cider vinegar. If you want to increase the production of HCL naturally, add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice to one cup of warm water. You can also help stimulate digestion by tongue scraping in the morning, or consuming Swedish bitters 20 minutes before your meals.
5. Consider the Clock
What time are you eating and when do you stop eating for the night? Don’t have a meal after 6 p.m. People live hectic lives and this isn’t always possible. However, your digestive system needs ample time to rest. You may notice when you eat late at night that bloating, gas and gastrointestinal troubles will keep you up. It is also a good idea to go to bed by 10:30 p.m. at the latest. This supports your adrenal and thyroid glands, which helps you to increase and stimulate metabolism. No more late-night TV!
These tips will help keep your digestive health in top form. After all, when you make the effort to keep your diet healthy, making sure you absorb all of the quality nutrients is of the utmost importance!
Lynne, K., “A Conscious Girl’s Guide to Healthy Bowel Movements,” Conscious Diva web site, Nov. 12, 2012; http://consciousdivas.com/kira-lynne/a-conscious-girls-guide-to-healthy-bowel-movements.
Leche, E., “The Major Rule for Eating Fruit,” MindBodyGreen web site, May 30, 2012; http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4970/The-Major-Rule-for-Eating-Fruit.html.
Nelson, M., “Ways to Increase Stomach Acid Production,” Branch Basics web site; http://www.branchbasics.com/learn/ways-to-increase-stomach-acid-production/, last accessed May 1, 2014.
Wickham, E., “Foods that Create Mucus,” LIVESTRONG.com web site, March 9, 2011; http://www.livestrong.com/article/339269-foods-that-create-mucus/.