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What Is Causing My Digestive Distress?

Mom, you said it's not polite to talk about the bathroom and that's ALL you talk about!"

My son wasn't wrong - we do spend a significant portion of our day discussing bathroom habits. Ewww, right? Unfortunately though, digestive difficulties are one of the most persistent problems plaguing clients when they first come to work with us. And they are not alone. In fact, a recent randomized survey showed that over 70% of Americans have frequently experienced at least one form of gastrointestinal distress in the last thirty days, and three-quarters of them have been dealing with it for more than six months. These symptoms may include, but are not limited to, constipation, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bloating, acid reflux and unexplained weight-loss. The most shocking part of this though is that the majority of people surveyed have not sought out professional care – believing these issues to be a normal part of everyday life. Fortunately, that is not the case.

Read below for 7 pro-tips on conquering digestive distress and identifying the foods and food groups that will help you feel and look your very best.

1. Eliminate certain foods (and beverages) until you find the culprit. By stripping down your diet to the basics you are able to see exactly what works for your unique bio-individuality. Some of the most common triggers include:

  • Fried foods- (particularly deep fried) generally top the “Do Not Eat” list for anyone dealing with digestive distress as they often trigger heartburn, diarrhea and/or acid reflux. This also includes particularly greasy or high-fat foods such as fatty cuts of red meat and butter or cream-based sauces and desserts.
  • Processed food- they are lacking in fiber (meaning they move through your digestive system too quickly) and often contain artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and/or lactose -all of which may cause or worsen gastrointestinal issues.
  • Artificial sweeteners- a recent study found that six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners (aspartame, advantame, acesulfame potassium-K, neotame, saccharine and sucralose) are all toxic to the gut microbiome. Additionally, they have been shown to raise “bad” cholesterol and fatty acid counts, disrupt metabolism and trigger glucose intolerance, amongst other dangerous side effects.
  • Dairy- even if you’re not lactose intolerant, it should be consumed only in moderation. Because dairy has a vey high fat content and is difficult for your body to process and digest, it can trigger diarrhea, gas and nausea if you consume too much. And obviously if you’re lactose intolerant (50 million Americans are!) its definitely a food group to avoid altogether.
  • Legumes- they contain lectins, a tough outer covering that provides protection to the plant but are incredibly difficult for humans to digest. These compounds can damage the intestinal lining causing GI distress and microscopic tears - potentially leading to leaky gut, irritable bowl syndrome, autoimmune issues and other inflammatory diseases.
  • Alcohol- it is a toxin for the liver and stomach lining, damages the gut micro-flora, triggers intestinal inflammation and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and can lead to a yeast and bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract.

2. Slow Down- Excess gas and indigestion (that unpleasant “stuffed” feeling that creeps in during or after a meal) can be caused by eating too quickly and ingesting air. Additionally, when you’re eating too quickly, you’re more apt to make unhealthy food choices, and even worse, eventually lose the ability to tune in to your body’s natural “satiety signals”. Our advice?

  • Put your fork down regularly throughout the meal
  • Chew- slowly, and a lot! The general rule is to chew each bite about 20 times before taking the next one.
  • Plate your food properly and sit down to eat. Try not to nosh while standing at the island or munching out of the bag!
  • Cut your food into smaller pieces. Not only does this naturally help you to slow down, but it makes the food more digestible before it even enters your mouth.

3. Essential Oils and Tea- Fennel, mint, cinnamon, clove and ginger are great natural remedies for digestive ailments. We love them in food, steeped as tea or as essential oil for abdominal massage.

4. Take Digestive Supplements- Probiotics, magnesium and inulin are all great additions to your diet to encourage healthy and regular elimination.

  • Probiotics- research has shown these live microorganisms to beneficial in the treatment and prevention of numerous gastrointensinal issues including constipation, diarrhea, IBS, colitis and Crohn’s. We love MaryRuth’s Complete Gut Health supplement because it supplies pre, pro and post-biotic support all-in-one!
  • Magnesium- magnesium citrate, magnesium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide reduce symptoms of indigestion and heartburn and have a natural laxative effect without the dreaded “sense of urgency”. We recommend the Calm Magnesium powder taken in a drink once a day, preferably before bed. It's surprisingly delicious and (added bonus!) promotes restful sleep and a sense of relaxation. That said, it's fine any time of day.
  • Inulin- it’s a terrific source of soluble fiber which helps to slow the digestive process, promote a feeling of “fullness”, increase levels of healthy gut bacteria and stimulate bowel movements. Inulin is found naturally in fruits and veggies such as artichokes, asparagus, bananas, garlic, leeks and onions to name a few. However, we also love supplementing with a scoop of Kos Inulin Powder in our daily joe to make sure things are always moving in the right direction!

5. Avoid High-FODMAP Foods- Some people are sensitive to indigestible carbohydrates called FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols). These short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) are not absorbed well by the small intestines, and people may find that by eliminating them, they are able to quell some of their digestive issues – particularly IBS and SIBO. In fact, for those suffering with these particular disorders, a low-FODMAP diet may decrease symptoms up to 86%. That said, because it is a quite restrictive diet, it should only be implemented under the care and supervision of a doctor or certified nutritionist. Some of the most common high-FODMAP foods are:

  • Artichokes
  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Wheat

6. Drink Plenty of Water- Water is your best defense against constipation and bloating. Dehydration causes the body to trigger vasopressin or the antidiuretic hormone (ADH). This release triggers cellular water retention and bloating. Drinking warm lemon water can help hydrate the body, flush bloat and restore a natural state of equilibrium.

7. Use Occasional Relief as Needed- Smooth Move tea (or capsules) is a natural senna and licorice-based remedy for those who suffer from occasional constipation. However, it should not be taken for longer than one week and if digestive issues persist beyond two weeks (or new ones arise), make sure to contact your physician as it may indicate a more serious condition.

*Please note: we are not medical professionals, nor should this be regarded as medical advice. We do not endorse or reject any one particular dietary theory or method; we simply believe in the power of eating whole, real organic foods as nature intended. Always consult with your physician before embarking on any new diet or supplement regime.

In good health,

Robyn + Megan