Gas, bloating, burping, heartburn...ugh! It's no picnic when our digestion isn't working as it should. So what can we do to get things back on track quickly?
First, let's start with the fundamentals. If you are unfamiliar with exactly how digestion is supposed to work properly, quickly read this article. As you'll see, digestion is a lot more complicated than simply moving food from tongue to tail.
Read it? Got it?
Let's move on!
Real Food Diet
The first thing you can do to tackle digestive distress is to eat real food! Cutting out packaged, processed foods is the first step to improving virtually any health challenge, but it's especially important when dealing with IBS, heartburn and reflux. The unhealthy oils, GMOs, inflammatory additives, excitotoxins and preservatives found in industrial foods do nothing to support proper digestion.
Try a Gluten-Free Trial
If you are eating real food, but still having digestive issues like bloating, gas and burping after meals or bowel issues, you might have a food allergy or sensitivity. One of the most common offenders is gluten. You can try a gluten free diet for a few weeks and see if symptoms improve. After 3-4 weeks, add a bit of gluten back in and see how you feel. Inflammation, bloating and other symptoms will then often flare, letting you know gluten was a factor in your health issues. You can do this same elimination diet with other foods, like pasteurized dairy or nightshades, if you feel those could be a problem for you.
Chew Your Food Well
Mom always had it right when she told you to “Chew your food!” It's vital that our teeth help the rest of our digestive system along and mechanically break down the food before we swallow. Chewing also gives enzymes, like salivary amylase, a chance to start breaking down the food in our mouths, too. So, chew, chew, chew!
Don't Eat While Stressed on On the Go
Eating while under stress or when we are on the go is a sure-fire way to short circuit digestion. When you eat in a relaxed manner, your body moves into parasympathetic mode. Digestion takes place in parasympathetic, or relaxed mode, and ceases in sympathetic mode, or stress mode. If you were to eat while driving or while doing another potentially stressful activity, your body will not digest the food properly. Read more about this here.
Bitters, often called Swedish Bitters, are a delightful and traditional digestive tonic consisting of an alcohol base and the extracts of bitters herbs and spices. Bitters fill a need in our modern diet, as we often don't get enough of the bitter taste. Bitters stimulate the digestive system to produce digestive enzymes, secrete bile, and balance HCl levels in the stomach. There are many recipes for making your own bitters and endless combinations are available. Some of the most popular bitter herbs include dandelion, burdock root, fennel, yellow dock, angelica and gentian. I often use and recommend the Urban Moonshine brand of bitters as they make them the right way- with organics, gluten-free alcohol, and no GMOs- and they taste great. You want to make sure to use a real bitter formulation- with herbs and alcohol- and not the commercial cocktail bitters that contain artificial flavors, corn syrup and other nasties.
Eat Fermented Foods
Ah, the cultured and fermented foods. Is there nothing they can't do? In addition to giving us loads of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms, fermented foods also aid in digestion. Cabbage based ferments are especially supportive of digestion due to soothing Vitamin U found in cabbage, and made all the more bioavailable by fermentation. Include cultured vegetables and beverages in your meals regularly, and if ulceration or stomach irritation/inflammation is of particular concern, try a bit of sauerkraut juice before eating to soothe the stomach and increase digestive power.
If you do not have time to make your own fermented foods (it's easy), you can purchase organic fermented foods online or at well-stocked health food stores.
Include Bone Broth In Your Diet
Bone broth is very soothing to the digestive tract and helps us assimilate vitamins and minerals better. Additionally, bone broth is a protein sparer and helps protein we consume go a bit farther. Include bone broth in meals by cooking foods with broth, making soups or stews, reducing broth for a lovely gravy or sauce or simply pouring a big mugful of broth flavored with real, unrefined sea salt to accompany your meal.
Bone broth is very easy to make at home and requires minimal effort; however, if you don't have time, you can always purchase long-simmered bone broth online.
Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar can also help get the digestive juices flowing. Simply add a teaspoon to a cup or so of water and drink before meals. Be sure you are using real, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, like Bragg's brand, and not apple flavored white vinegar.
These easy suggestions for natural digestive support are surprisingly powerful and extremely do-able by just about anyone. For me, it's so important that we be empowered with simple remedies to common health complaints, and that those remedies work to address the root cause of dysfunction instead of merely masking the symptoms. Each and every one of these supports the body instead of suppressing it. I hope that you have found something helpful here and will try one or several of these methods to support your digestion today. Remember- we are not only what we eat, but what we digest!