How is your digestion? I ask this simple question multiple times each day, sometimes pausing for several minutes to give my patient the time to formulate a response. In a country plagued with obesity, food allergies, emotional eating, and ads selling us the biggest, best new fast food followed by skinny underwear models, it’s no wonder we have a skewed relationship with nutrition and body image. Add in a few highly caffeinated energy drinks and handfuls of sugar with each meal, and healthy gut function goes out the window. Are you ready to revolutionize the way you feel in your skin? Follow these five steps to bid farewell to digestive distress forever!
1. Re-evaluate Your Relationship with Food
Do you eat for pleasure? Snack when you’re anxious? Binge when you’re stressed? For many of us, food has become a comfort in times of displeasure, or a reward for a job well done. As with any addiction, sugar and highly processed junk food causes a huge surge of dopamine, followed by a down-regulation. This means that we experience a temporary burst of pleasure the first time we eat a handful of candy, but consume much more to replicate the same release a second time. One of the best ways to break this addiction is to replace these indulgences with a healthier behavior.
Instead of running to your favorite coffee shop at the beginning of your day, fill up on protein-rich scrambled eggs with a handful of kale and spinach. Soothe your frayed nerves with a cup of chamomile tea instead of sinking into that pint of ice cream in the back of the freezer. Swap that salty snack for a stress-relieving sprint around the block. By addressing your emotional needs with action instead of food, you’re creating positive habits and also supporting the health of your gut.
2. Assess Your Allergies
People with hay fever rarely choose to bale hay for a living. However, I see many patients who suspect they have food allergies but continue to expose themselves to these problematic foods! The difficulty often lies in our perception of what’s normal. A mother with a gluten sensitivity may worry that her son is missing out if he doesn’t have a normal birthday cake. However, she is not only putting herself in danger by encountering a known problematic substance, but she is also perpetuating a cycle of dependence on these unhealthy foods.
The solution is to definitively test for these allergies, and to eliminate them from your life permanently. A functional medicine practitioner can help you choose which tests are right for you. With your practitioner’s support, you can make healthy choices the new normal in your household.
3. Make Mealtime Count
In many cultures, the family meal is sacred. Instead of gathering around the television and eating as quickly as possible, the meal becomes the focal point. This positive attitude towards eating helps prepare the body for digestion. Consuming a meal while stressed, hurried, or upset significantly affects digestion. Stress can affect your level of stomach acid, can trigger inflammation, and can lead to increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut.
4. Befriend Good Bacteria
Probiotics are a booming industry these days, and with good reason. Many people have an imbalance of microorganisms in their digestive tracts. Antibiotic usage in meats, dairy, and eggs, and an overly medicated society can wipe out the beneficial bacteria that makes healthy digestion possible.
One of the best ways to replace these bacteria is through the consumption of fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir. Probiotic supplements are also available. Be sure to choose one from a highly reputable source to ensure that the bacteria survive in transport to you.
5. Find Herbs that Help
Functional medicine seeks to uncover the cause of your digestive distress. Herbs can help you manage your discomfort in the process. Be sure to check with your practitioner to find the right herbal regimen for you. The following are a few of my favorites for soothing stomach ailments:
· Ginger: This tangy, bright-tasting herb helps with nausea and increases circulation to aid digestion.
· Peppermint: Peppermint tea can help ease indigestion and gas.
· Chamomile: This comforting herb helps with digestion and prevents constipation.
· Turmeric: A spicy herb celebrated for its many properties, turmeric can help prevent cancer, and eliminate h. pylori, a type of bacteria found in stomach ulcers.
· Fennel: This tasty herb can help relieve stomach cramps, gas, and heartburn.
If you’re ready to ditch your digestive distress for good, take advantage of my free consultation! Together, we’ll assess your overall health and begin to uncover the root cause of your chronic issues. Learn to love your body again. Support your entire system with beneficial food. Learn to identify which supplements are essential for you, and also build healthy habits for yourself and your family.
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.