Gut Health Part 1: Basic Habits for Good Digestion

Heal your gut basic digestionSo you’ve decided to start healing your gut. Maybe you’ve read my beginner’s guide or maybe you’ve been reading about it elsewhere or maybe a practitioner or other source of information has brought the need to your intention.  Regardless of how you got here, you are ready to get started! First, I want to say how proud I am of you for taking control of your health.  But so many of use want to jump in to all the supplements we need to take and foods we need to eat (which are all good things) without doing some basics that will help us both reach success and maintain it.  You wouldn’t give a steak to a baby and you shouldn’t expect good digestion without some baby steps.

FIRST: Let’s talk about all the components of the gut.  These components are the basics of good digestion.  We will get into specific protocols for specific problems in the next section, but these are things that everyone should be doing now and forever. You can take all the probiotics and bone broth in the world but if you aren’t doing the basics, its like training for a drag race with no wheels.  Start working on these things and once you master these, you are ready to start getting more specific to your individual health needs, such as leaky gut, candida, dysbiosis, etc.  If you are already doing these, then check out Part 2 of my Healing the Gut series (coming to the blog very soon).

  1. The mouth.  Good gut health and digestion begin at our first bite.  So what we consume and what we do with it when we take a bite have a big impact on how effective each bite is when we swallow it.  We can get started heaing with our very next bite! How? I’m glad you asked…:)
    1. Chew thoroughly.
      1. chewing our food mixes it with saliva which contains enzymes. If we are not utilizing these enzymes, we start our digestion with a disadvantage. So chew your food very well- until it is a liquid.  There are some nutrients that cannot be accessed without our enzymes to activate them, so chew chew chew!
      2. chewing well also tells our brain that we are eating.  This allows it to tell the stomach and the digestive organs to start doing their jobs, like producing enzymes and digestive juices.  If the food reaches them and it comes as a surprise to them, then they may immediately store it as fat or not break it down properly before they dispose of it because they think that something else is the priority.  This brings us to the next thing.
    2. Eat mindfully
      1. Don’t do other things while you eat.  Many of us eat while we are watching tv or working at our desk which can both be the exact opposite of relaxing.  If your body is thinking of a deadline that is sending you into stress or an explosion or murder that is exciting from the latest episode of your favorite show, your body may read this situation as a state of fight or flight.  You will be particularly sensitive to this if you are already physically or emotionally stressed by an illness, healing, or chronic stress or any kind whether mental or physical.  This can happen even if you do not know that you are stressed.
      2. Relax.  Make sure that your body is in a relaxed state.  Your body can only digest in a relaxed state.  Otherwise it shuts down digestion.
  2. The stomach.
    1. Stomach acid. You cannot digest without it.  If you have been under chronic physical or mental stress, you will have trouble producing this vital combination of chemicals. You may also be low as a normal part of ageing.
      1. Most of us have too little stomach acid.  Too little stomach acid can actually contribute to leaky gut and gastroparesis and impaired digestion.  Avoid taking antacids or other things that reduce stomach acid.  This includes Rolaids, Tums or even baking soda.  If you suffer from GERD, Acid Reflux or other related disorders, see a functional medicine doctor or health coach or other qualified practitioner to help you find ways to treat this by increasing your stomach acid.  Too little stomach acid is the cause of this class of symptoms.  If you would like to read more about this click on here.    Having too much stomach acid is extremely rare and is also easily treated with diet.  And remember, relax! Not being able to relax will prevent you from producing your own.  We also produce less as we age, so it is normal to need a little help in this department but there is plenty we can do to increase our own stomach acid.
        1. HCL pills.  A temporary fix, this can help you digest now.  Until we can get you to produce your own acids, you can take these to help things along. It’s ok to take them as long as you need them and if you are older, you may choose to take them for the long run.
        2. Lemon Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar.  Taking up to 2 tablespoons before eating can increase the acidity of your stomach and help you digest better.  Another alternative is to drink lemon water throughout the day.  This will help with stomach acid production and detoxification, among other things. Do not combine this with HCL pills. It is either/or.
        3. Fresh Celery Juice first thing on an empty stomach in the morning.  According to Anthony Williams, author of The Medical Medium, drinking freshly made celery juice will help your digestion.  Some see a difference in days or weeks while others take longer to see a difference.  Alternatives are cucumber juice, or lemon in hot water.  The celery juice is supposed to be the most effective. Here is an inexpensive juicer that I recommend personally. It is good and there are better ones on the market for better quality juice, but if you are new to juicing, an inexpensive one is great to get started with on your juicing journey.
        4. Vagus nerve stimulation.  If you need some extra help and don’t like pills or if they are not enough, you can actually make your body digest by doing some vagus nerve stimulation.  This video shows you two, quick yoga poses that aggressively and manually stimulate the vagus nerve to force your body to enter a digestive state.  For more information on the role of the vagus nerve in digestion, click here.  This pose is pretty aggressive and is ideal for someone with gastroparesis but may be unnecessary for those without it. If you do not have gastroparesis you may want to consider things like 4-7-8 breathing or the following suggestion.
        5. Yoga and meditation.  These are effective as daily tools or used in addition to the above.  Try this before eating to increase digestion if you have been under stress, especially before a big meal.  Here is a yoga video to try and a guided meditation .  An alternative to meditation is to simply count your breaths or stare at a candle with relaxing, instrumental music playing.  Regardless of how you try to relax, I suggest starting with 5 minutes and building up to 20, 30 or even 45 minutes.
        6. Connect with your food. Taking time to prepare your food is part of the process that gets your body ready to digest. Chopping veggies, putting tasty things together and the such.. sends a lot more signals to your body for digestion than taking the pizzas from the pizza guy while yelling at your kids to grab some plates and searching for your checkbook. Remember that your brain is part of your digestive process and what it is doing is telling your stomach what to do.
      2. Enzymes.  These also help break down our foods so we can use it properly.
        1. You can take digestive enzymes.  Look for a good quality, allergen-free brand.
        2. Eating foods that are raw can help us digest better.  Raw foods have naturally occurring enzymes that help us break them down easier and by adding more raw fruits and vegetables to our diet, we can improve our absorption of nutrients.  There are some foods that are easier to digest cooked, like cruciferous vegetables for example. Some have more of one nutrient cooked but more of something else when they are raw. Vary your preparation methods of the same foods and eat about 50% of your food cooked. Experiment with different preparations for the vegetables.  Variety is key here but eating raw foods will also take some pressure off our bodies from keeping up with all the hard work.
  3. Support Organs. For information on whether or not you need extra support for these organs, see the self-assessment portion in this book to help you decide.  As far as self- assessment of these organs, I believe this book to be the best source (that I have come across) in self assessment.  (For serious conditions and assessments, please see your functional medicine doctor for diagnostics.)  This book is also great as it also contains specific supplements to help support these organs.
    1. Liver- I would allege that all of us need liver support, even children. If you are unsure you can use the self assessment in the book above or for more information on signs of sluggish liver click here. To summarize, signs include constipation, diahreah, bloating, nausea, sugar handling problems, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. But since our children are born with over 200 toxins in their blood, I suggest supporting the liver even if you do not have these issues.  A buildup of toxins in our blood show that we have been exposed to more toxins then our liver can filter and it could probably use some help.
      1. milk thistle, dandelion, glycine (found in gelatin and bone broth) and turmeric.  For additional herbs click here
      2. detox days.  There are several different ways to do a cleanse or detox. Fasting, Juicing, Eating only raw or mostly raw vegetables for a period of time.. whatever your speed of detoxing: do it. Incorporating detox baths, dry brushing, hot towel scrubs, clay masks and other such detox support habits will help with reducing the toxic load on our bodies also, but doing a dietary detox will help our digestive organs rest and work on “taking out the trash” of their own in addition to the “trash” in the rest of our body.
      3. Incorporating cruciferous and sulfurous vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, arugula and Brussel sprouts. (If you suffer from thyroid dysfunction, I suggest you eat these foods cooked.  Eat them raw only occasionally.)
    2. Gallbladder- I remind you that there is a book with a great self assessment above but you can also read more about signs of a sluggish gallbladder here.  To summarize, if you have a lot of belching, bloating, gas, abdominal pain and queasy stomach then you may want to jump on the bandwagon of supporting your gallbladder.
      1. ox bile– especially useful if you have lost your gallbladder.
      2. Avoiding fried foods and “bad’ fats.
      3. This article here has an excellent list of support herbs that can help a gallbladder function at its best.
    3. Pancreas.  If you have hypoglycemia, diabetes, prediabetes, adrenal fatigue or have belly fat ( a sure sign or sugar handling issues) you may need some pancreatic support.  For a self assessment, see this book.  You can also read about more serious pancreas problems and their signs here.  For the sake of this article, however, we will assume that some simple sugar handling is the most we will be dealing with on this journey.
      1. pancreatic enzymes
      2. For a list of foods that help pancreas health click here.  Remember not to eat foods that may not be compatible with your body or condition.
      3. Balancing your blood sugar- the most common way of doing this is to include protein at every meal and avoiding processed grains and sugar.  This method is the most accepted way of controlling blood sugar.  However, Anthony Williams, author of The Medical Medium, suggests instead balancing your fructose or glucose sources (think apple) with a source of potassium (think coconut water) and a source of naturally occurring sodium (think celery).  He says that these three will balance your blood sugar when balanced on your plate.  For more information click here.

That covers basic digestion but if you are dealing with leaky gut, dysbiosis, candida or other gut impairments, you will need more than basic digestion support. You need healing support.  Start with these basics and once you master these, then move on to Part 2: Leaky gut (coming next week).

Try these out and let me know how they work for you by commenting below! If you like this content and want to be updated with more health information, recipes and articles please sign up below or to the side (depending on your whether you are on a pc or mobile device) for email updates or follow me on facebook for related health information articles and more. Feel free to comment or message me, I love hearing feedback from my readers who are joining me on this crazy journey.

If you would like to read more about healing your gut, including the science behind gut healing protocols, support recipes, additional articles and more, you can get a head start by checking out the following sources/resources:

Gut Health

The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers

www.amymyersmd.com

The Immune System Recovery Plan by Dr. Susan Blum.

www.blumcenterforhealth.com

Skin and Gut Health

Acne– click here for a face map that can tell you if your acne is related to gut health.

Alternative Methods and Support Materials

The Medical Medium by Anthony Williams.

Life Changing Foods by Anthony Williams

3 Replies to “Gut Health Part 1: Basic Habits for Good Digestion”

  1. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I am very glad to see such magnificent info being shared freely out there.

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