Healthy Body

Healthy Body

Happy Stomach Series: Part IV – What’s Up With Grains and Gluten?

September 1, 2014

Hello friends. We’ve made it to the last part of the Happy Stomach Series. We've talked about not drinking water with meals, dove into good bacteria with fermentation, and challenged our overly processed diet. I am so excited to report that I've received posts, texts and words from a handful of readers who told me that these tips have made them feel better. Please keep them coming! I want to know your health queries so I can obsessively research them for you.

Anyways, I couldn’t think of a more fitting ending than exploring the infamous offender of all digestive woes:

GLUTEN.

If gluten is the enemy, then “gluten-free” is our new hero. The phrase is popping up on food labels and restaurant menus left and right. Everybody and their mother suddenly has a gluten intolerance. But ask most people what it is and why it’s bad, and they won’t have a good answer for you. Why? Because we’re confused. Where did this mystery ingredient come from? Why is it suddenly such a problem? Is it an epidemic? Do we all need a gluten-free diet?

I don’t know about you, but I could use a refresher course. Starting with, what the hell is it?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and grains. It's the sticky GLUe-like part that holds together the nutrients, helps dough rise and provides chewy goodness to breads. 

Right off the bat, it sounds pretty wonderful, right? So why is it so bad for our digestion?

Well there's this thing that they've discovered called "gluten sensitivity." This term covers a spectrum of disorders, from the minor-ly agitated stomach, to the majorly endangered celiac-diagnosed. In all of these cases, this glue-y gluten has an adverse effect on the body.

Symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea, constipation, muscular disturbances, headaches, migraines, severe acne, fatigue, and bone or joint pain.

The thing is, the research is still very young. And although the medical community has figured out a way to test for celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a little more open for interpretation. Supposedly, all you need to do to test for gluten sensitivity is eliminate gluten from your diet. If your symptoms go away, Congratulations! You are gluten sensitive. 

It's so subjective. So abstract. Sounds like a hypochondriac's dream. I had a hard time believing in these claims. And an even harder time when I noticed all of the processed gluten-free goodies popping up in grocery stores everywhere (a topic for another day).

Is it really possible that so many of us have been silently suffering with digestive issues all this time, and only now that we have pinned a culprit are we admitting the problem?

The question on my mind is:

Is gluten bad for every body's digestion?

Short answer: Possibly

Long answer:

It is if you have gluten sensitivity and just don’t know it. 

Gluten sensitivity is predicted to be severely under-diagnosed (1). Most people have gotten so used to indigestion and the other problems that come with gluten that they don’t recognize it as a problem. In this regard, the gluten-free craze is a good thing because it’s causing people to question their bodies’ ailments. Unfortunately, while celiac disease can be tested, gluten sensitivity cannot. Gluten elimination is the only way to diagnose. If you are experiencing the aforementioned digestive symptoms after you eat, it is recommended you try eliminating gluten from your diet for at least 30 days.

It is in this day and age because gluten isn’t what it used to be. 

We don’t eat the same wheat that our parents ate. It may look the same, but it does not act the same. In order to get our wheat to grow faster and grow more, we have hybridized the grain, making it ridiculously resistant to bad weather and parasites. An estimated 5% of the proteins in this tougher grain are brand new! And these shiny new proteins are the ones causing adverse reactions in the human body (2). 

Besides the way we grow it, the way we prepare it is also different. Grains used to be soaked, sprouted, fermented and baked using slow yeast. You remember the benefits of fermentation? This process actually helps digestion and increases nutrient intake. That is not the case in our bleached, quick-bake wheat today. Basically, it's not only more dangerous, but less nutritious. 

So we've got this weather-resistant, quick-rising, de-nutritionized wheat. And you know what we're doing with it? Eating more of it! It's in our breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. You'd be hard-pressed to find an aisle of the grocery store or a menu at a restaurant without wheat. We grew up on it. It's a major part of our diets. And it's almost impossible to avoid. 

But our grandparents and great grandparents weren’t snacking on chips, crackers and granola bars throughout their day. They were eating home-cooked meals filled with meat, veggies and non-hybridized bread. I wonder, did people pop Tums back then as much as they do now? 

It's not. But there are other things in grain that are bad for you.

By nature, grains contain toxins that slow down their growth on purpose to protect them from potential invaders (like birds) until they get the nutrients they need to grow (water and soil) (3). Besides gluten, these toxins include lectins and phytates. Lectins have the ability to damage the gut lining and trick you into thinking that you're always hungry (carb cravings). And phytates bind to nutrients, robbing them from your body. 

It’s not if you feel no negative reactions to eating gluten (I’m a genius, I know).

I highly doubt you would have read this far down if this was the case. But if you don’t have digestive issues after a sandwich, pasta, cracker or cookie, then you’re a lucky son of a bitch. 

Bottom, bottom line:

The other day, I was talking to a parent of a child with celiac disease. I offered my apologies, admitting that it must be hard for the 10-year-old. In response, the parent said to me,

"Hey, it's alright. Because of her celiac, she is one of the healthiest kids in her class. When you eliminate gluten, the only options that are left are the healthy stuff. And she loves it because it's all she knows."

Sure, I believe there are people out there who will continue to ingest gluten and be just fine. However, is it possible that if we all reduced the gluten in our diets that we could be better than fine? When you eliminate gluten, you replace it with veggies, proteins and good fats rather than wheats and grains. The health benefits in the former greatly outweigh the latter.

I’m never one to completely eliminate anything from my diet (unless I was forced to because I was diagnosed with celiac disease). But in the last 6 months to a year, I have decreased my gluten intake quite a lot. I’ve replaced crackers with Flackers (this awesome cracker made from flax seeds), sandwiches with salads and oatmeal with eggs. And you know what? I feel a TON better and so does my digestive system. Oh yeah, and I have lost weight. A nice little side effect.

Of course, I am far from a controlled experiment. Do I feel better because I am gluten sensitive? Or because I stopped eating the 21st Century’s warped version of wheat? Or maybe it’s because I’ve almost completely eliminated processed foods from my diet. Either way, it’s all good things. And I figured it out by listening to my body. I highly recommend it. 

What do you think?

1. http://www.celiaccentral.org/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity/

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-myers-md-/effects-of-gluten-on-the-body_b_3672275.html

3. http://paleoleap.com/what-is-wrong-with-grains/ 

Healthy Body

Happy Stomach Series Part III: Processed Foods

August 11, 2014

One thing I always promised myself with this blog is that I would never just copy and paste information from other sources without making better sense of it first, and without experiencing it myself.

Processed food is complicated. And I think I would be doing you a disservice here by trying to pretend that I have a complete understanding of all the chemistry involved in the process. But what I can do is offer something much more personal. A story…

Once upon a time there was a woman named Stella from the land of Great Britain. Where she grew up, the foods she bought were grown without chemicals, and the meals she ate were made in a kitchen – not a factory. She even had a man who dropped off fresh milk, hen eggs and freshly squeezed orange juice right at her door.

An adventurous soul, Stella decided to leave her home and move to the land of opportunity – the United States. When she arrived, she was surprised to find that the food in this land was not the same. It often came in brightly colored packages, pretty to look at and easy to use, but something was off about it. It was disgustingly sweet, overwhelmingly salty and, frankly, disagreed with her stomach. She decided that she would make a valiant attempt to try to keep real food in her diet as much as she could. And when she had a daughter, she tried to instill those same values in her.

The daughter followed suit early on. While her friends whipped out Lunchables at the cafeteria, indulged in McDonalds for dinner, and snacked on Oreos at night, she ate salads packed with vegetables from her garden, brought cucumber and egg sandwiches on grainy bread to lunch, and shocked waiters by ordering salmon and steamed veggies instead of mozzarella sticks and hot dogs.

As she grew into a teenager, she became weight conscious. She began to fear junk food and found the key to her troubles in “health food.” So she jumped head first into low-fat land, abundant with fizzy drinks with 0 calories, frozen meals with tiny portions, and flaky cereal that promised to shed 5 pounds in 2 weeks! And it worked. Her stomach got smaller…on the outside. But on the inside, it felt big, bloated, and frankly, hungry.

This marked the start of the stomachache that wouldn’t end. She couldn’t understand why, if she was eating low-fat Quaker instant oatmeal for breakfast, a low-carb wrap for lunch, and a Lean Cuisine for dinner, why her stomach continued to feel like one big bubble that would never deflate.

It wasn’t until years later when she fell in love with nutrition and began to read and research what it meant to eat real food. And then it hit her: Maybe all of the food that was packaged up in a pretty bow to look like it was good for her was actually what was making her sick.

It was with that thought that she began an experiment to replace as many of these packaged foods as possible, with real food. And guess what? It worked. Her stomach flattened – inside and outside. She finally felt satisfied instead of insatiable. And most importantly, her 10 year stomachache finally went away.

The End (almost).

Now I know I promised you no science, but here is my understanding of why processed food made me feel like shit all those years, and might be doing the same for you.

Reason #1: Processed Food Is Feeding the Bad Bacteria

Remember in the last post how I talked about the importance of good bacteria that comes from whole food?  On the other side of the coin, the sugar that comes with a diet high in processed foods actually serves as a fertilizer for bad bacteria and yeast. It’s this yeast overgrowth that can lead to a whole host of digestive problems such as leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, poor absorption of nutrients, excess gas, weight gain, and more carb cravings.

Reason #2: Processed Food Contains Chemicals That Are Really Shitty For You

Most of us know now that a long list of unpronounceable ingredients = bad news bears. The problem is, understanding why these mystery chemicals are bad for us. This is where my head starts spinning a bit. There is so much information out there as to what’s bad, what’s good, and what we’re overreacting about, that it’s hard to know who to listen to. For brevity’s sake, I’m only going to focus on a select few food additives. But per usual, I have new plans to write a whole other post on this one.

The number one chemical that I avoid in food is artificial sweetener of any kind (Nutrisweet, Splenda, Equal, and even Stevia). After years of falling for the BS of sweets without guilt, I finally realized that removing Diet and Low Fat everything from my diet was the best thing I could ever do for it. Not only was it contributing to my horrible stomachaches, but also to my weight fluctuation. The argument is still up for debate, but there is a lot of research out there that has found that artificial sweeteners are actually making us fatter, not skinnier. Ever since I have replaced my half-fat foods with their full-fat counterparts, I have lost bloat and weight. In my opinion, this stuff is the devil (said in voice of Bobby Boucher’s Mama). There is a lot of controversy out there as to exactly how bad it is, but at the very least, it can cause bloating and gas (1). At the very most, it could be eroding your stomach and intestinal lining and causing Irritable Bowel Disease (2). 

The second red flag in all of my food choices is vegetable oil/seed oil. People seem to be very unaware of the fact that a lot of the processed foods that we eat – even the “healthy ones” – are laden with chemically made oils. Any time you see vegetable oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and safflower oil on a nutrition label – you are looking at an industrially processed food that is not good for your body.

Contrary to what you might think, these oils are not squeezed from vegetables, sunflowers and canolas (what the hell is a canola?). They are created in factories through a harsh extraction process that includes bleaching, deodorizing, pressing, heating, and adding various industrial chemicals and highly toxic solvents. The way they are created causes them to be high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (the pro-inflammatory red-headed step sister of the anti-inflammatory Omega-3 found in fish). Yes, you want some Omega-6 in your diet, but nowhere near the amount that we get from all of the processed seed and vegetable oil that we are ingesting. These unnatural oils cause an unhealthy amount of inflammation and can lead to digestive diseases (3).

I hate to disappoint you, but now that I’ve told you this, you’ll start to realize that a lot of your favorite “healthy” foods contain these processed oils. I was incredibly disappointed to find that pretty much all  store bought salad dressings (even the organic ones) and most crunchy snacks at Trader Joe’s (plantain chips, wasabi peas, flax seed chips) contain one of these oils.

The good news is: olive oil and coconut oil are quite the opposite. As long as they are cold-pressed, minimally processed and unrefined, they actually provide the nutritious benefits from the plant they are extracted from.

Reason #3: Our Bodies Can’t Process the Processed

Processed foods are literally like a drug. They stimulate the production of dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter). This leads to cravings of more of the processed food. It’s this vicious cycle. You eat the junk, which makes you crave more junk. Further adding to the chemicals you are putting into your body.

Reason #4: Processed Food Does Not Have The Fiber We Need

There are two types of fiber. Both are beneficial to your digestion. Soluble Fiber helps slow down your digestion by dissolving into a gel-like texture. This helps you feel full longer. Insoluble Fiber does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food move through your digestive tract faster for healthy elimination.

I know what you’re thinking – what about the wonderful convenience of Fiber One bars? Yes, they have fiber. Fiber created in a factory rather than fiber that comes from whole food. And this fiber additive is mixed with high maltose corn syrup, fructose, sugar, chocolate chips and salt. Why not just eat one of the hundreds of real foods that have all the fiber you’ll ever need?

———–

Now that I’ve become so much more aware of the effect that processed food has on me, I try to eliminate it more and more. It’s a long process and it’s not easy. Processed food makes sense for the busy lives that most of us lead. But once I started feeling better, I knew I couldn’t turn back. And now that I’ve worked preparing food into my routine, I don’t even consider it time-consuming. I just consider it part of my day.

Stay tuned for my guide on slowly replacing the processed food in your diet with whole food. Until then, please comment below! Do you find that you feel better when you eat real food vs. processed? Would you be willing to give up some processed food to eat better and feel better? Do you think what I say is complete bullshit? Whatever it is, I want to hear it. 

 

1 http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/diarrhea-10/bloated-bloating

2 http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/10/artificial-sweeteners-leading-cause-of-inflammatory-bowel-disease-in-canadians.aspx 

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetable_oil#Negative_health_effects 

Healthy Body

Happy Stomach Series Part II: Fermented Foods

July 13, 2014

I think I can safely say that almost all of us have hopped on the Greek yogurt train some time over the last five years or so. Why wouldn’t we? Somebody handed us a creamy treat that apparently will make us lose weight and digest our food because it has this thing called “Probiotics.”

Next thing we know, Jaime Lee Curtis is touting the benefits of Activia and John Stamos is making Oikos look sexy. Probiotics start showing up in our frozen yogurt and people start taking pills with thousands of IUs of bacteria in them. I’m not going to lie. I was right there with everybody. I dutifully bought my Chobani and started taking my PB8 every morning.

But one of the things about writing Healthy Stacey is that it has made me a bit of a skeptic. I no longer take Self Magazine’s nutrition advice to heart. Nor do I blindly accept the latest health finding on the news for truth.

So I went on a personal journey to really understand how, why and IF probiotics work. Long story short (too late, I know): Yes, Yes, and YES.

What is a probiotic?

Probiotics are bacteria. Contrary to popular belief, these bacteria are actually good for us. The digestive system already houses somewhere between 300 and 1000 types of bacteria 1. Their purpose is to keep the intestines healthy and assist in the digestion process.

Okay, that’s awesome. Now why do we need more if we already have it?

Unfortunately, the balance of good bacteria can easily be disturbed. The most common way for this to happen is by taking antibiotics (I think the name itself is self explanatory).

But it can also occur as the result of:

  • Too much sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Stress
  • Toxins in our environment

As you can see, these are all things that are pretty common in most people's lifestyles. Which explains why so many people have bad digestive issues. 

So what happens to them?

Bad Bacteria starts to kick Good Bacteria’s ass, which means BAD NEWS BEARS. When the bacteria balance is out of whack, those infamous body warning indicators show up again: Gas, bloating and constipation.  But it can get much worse than that.

Other possibilities of bacteria imbalance include:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Colon Cancer
  • Candida infection
  • Weight gain
  • Dairy allergies and intolerances
  • Even Asthma and Arthritis (crazy, right?)

Alright. So now I am going to stop being morbid and get to the part where we can fix it. Yay!

We do actually have the ability to add that good bacteria back into the stomach to start balancing things out again. Those good-bacteria-touting probiotics I mentioned earlier don’t just come in pill form. They exist in food too. Fermented food, to be exact.

Why the hell would I want to eat fermented food?

We have all been taught to be deathly afraid of bacteria. God forbid you expose yourself to dirt and germs! You will obviously get sick and probably die. But the thing is, not all bacteria is bad; some of it is really, really good.

When you leave food out for a long time, you expose that food to bacteria. But not the kind that makes you sick. The kind that eats up the carbohydrates in the food and converts them into something essential to the digestive process…

Lactic acid!

Lactic acid is what our bodies already produce to assist in the digestion process. We’ve all heard of people who are lactose intolerant. This just means that these people’s small intestines are lacking lactic acid to digest the lactose in food. 

What I am telling you is that by fermenting your food, you are actually producing the acid your stomach needs before it even enters your body. And when it does…well, it’s a beautiful thing.

FERMENTED FOOD BENEFITS:

  • Produce the acid your stomach needs ahead of time, assisting you in the digestive process before it even gets to your saliva and stomach lining
  • Not only improve the digestibility of the fermented food, but any cooked food you eat along with it (awesome)
  • Multiply the amount of nutrients that your body absorbs from the food
  • Slow or reverse some of those diseases I mentioned earlier
  • Improve immunity (fully functioning digestive systems are well-equipped to fight off sickness)

This stuff sounds awesome! How do I get it?

GOING FERMENTED

The first time I ran out to try my first batch of sauerkraut, I made the rookie mistake of going straight to the condiment aisle in the middle of the grocery store.

Epic fail!

The sauerkraut and pickles you find on the shelf are preserved in vinegar. They have not been fermented; they have been pasteurized. Essentially, the good bacteria and other organisms have been destroyed so they could have a long shelf life.

To get the numerous nutritional benefits I listed above, the food must be RAW AND UNPASTEURIZED (i.e. fermented as the result of naturally occurring bacteria).

You will never find raw fermented foods on the shelf. If they are available in your grocery store, they will be in the refrigerated section.

Fermented foods can come in the form of:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Kefir
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt (full fat, Greek-style)
  • Kombucha (My favorite!)

Whole Foods has the widest selection of fermented foods I have seen (I like this kraut the best and this Kombucha the best). Mariano’s usually has one type of raw sauerkraut available, as well as a good selection of kombucha. And more recently, Trader Joe’s has hopped on the bandwagon and produced their own raw sauerkraut with persian cucumbers for much less than both Whole Foods and Mariano’s (they are so good at that!).

HOW I GET MINE:

  • I add sauerkraut to my salads, Kimchi to my sandwiches, or just eat either of them by the spoonful as a snack (warning: they have quite a bite to them, but for a spicy-tooth like me, I kind of love the burn).
  • As you already know, I love my Kombucha. I pick one up whenever I go to Whole Foods and continue to be in awe of the immediate boost I get right after I drink it. Next step, make my own! (much cheaper and available whenever I want it)
  • I enjoy Greek Yogurt a few times a week. But because it's been marketed to death, there are a lot of brands that have gotten a hold of it, pasteurized it, added tons of sugar, and slapped a health claim on it. So before you blindly pick it up and assume it's healthy, please read the nutrition label. Watch out for high sugar levels and low-fat and non-fat options that use tons of fake sugar to make it taste better. To be sure that it does have probiotics, it needs to have a label that says "live and active cultures." As I mentioned on my Healthy Resources page, Siggi's is one of my favorite for its low sugar content and low list of ingredients. More recently, now that I am happily enjoying fat instead of avoiding it, I have found whole milk yogurt to be my best option. So much more fulfilling and better for you. 
  • I have yet to explore the raw milk and cheese. Years of veganism and fear of the downfalls of dairy keeps me from really diving into these foods. However, if I can enjoy the decadence of a good stinky cheese and feel good about it, I am totally on board. Open to suggestions if you have them!

Any dedicated health nut will tell you that the best way you can get fermented foods is by making them at home. However, I have little to speak on this topic because I have not attempted this yet. (It’s on my to-do list). I can tell you that, from what I’ve heard, it’s super easy and much less expensive than buying it at the store. We’ll save that for a future post.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Fermented foods were never even part of my vocabulary before I discovered their benefits. But now, I can’t imagine my life without them. Ever since incorporating them into my daily routine, I have noticed immediate differences in my digestion. Personally, I found much stronger results from eating fermented foods than from taking probiotic pills. Although I think they all have their place, to me, nothing beats getting your nutrients from real food.

I highly recommend giving them a try. My stomach, my mind and my entire body are so much happier since I have brought them into my diet. I would much prefer that you see the results for yourself and post your awesome comments below than for me to keep using cheesy lines like that. 

Next up on our Happy Stomach Series…

PROCESSED FOODS WITH SUGAR ON TOP – Eating fake food is bad for your shit

http://www.puristat.com/coloncleansing/gutbacteria.aspx

 

 

Healthy Body

Happy Stomach Series: Part 1 – Don’t Drink The Water (With Food)

July 6, 2014

Digestion fascinates me. As soon as I really began to accept and understand its process, it became even more blaringly clear to me that the foods we eat directly impact our health. 

Excessive gas, bloating, constipation and heartburn should be obvious indicators that our bodies are “off.” But for whatever reason, we accept these horribly uncomfortable symptoms as part and parcel of breakfast, lunch and dinnertime. 

My guess is that it’s because processed foods have been part of our diet for so long that we assume a bloated, achy stomach is just how we are supposed to feel after our meals. Guess what? It’s not. We HAVE TO do a better job at listening to our bodies better to figure out when something is wrong.

After quite a bit of research and self-testing, I have come to realize that we can all live in a world of gas-free post-lunch hours, great digestion after every meal, and all around lighter bodies. I believe this is totally possible if only people would make a few key changes to their diet.

I will embarrassingly admit. I had a pretty shitty digestion system (pun intended, haha…awkward). For most of my adult life, I would only go every few days. As you can imagine, I felt bloated most of the time. And certain foods would just wreak havoc on my stomach (I’m looking at you cheese pizza). If I had to guess, I would say I’ve been uncomfortable since junior high. But like most people, I came to accept it as normal.

As I got older and wiser, I started taking small steps to improve my digestion. I began taking a probiotic. I went from going twice a week to every other day (Holy shit! Big improvement – pun intended again…still awkward). And as soon as I eliminated dairy from my diet as a vegan, my stomach was so very thankful. (We'll talk more about why these things helped in future posts).

But it wasn’t until two or three months ago, that I came across a podcast called Super Nutrition Academy Health Class that I began to think differently. The show, hosted by holistic nutritionist Yuri Elkaim, reports on the latest news and views in health and nutrition. The episode that caught my attention featured two guys who run a website called the SCD Lifestyle – an online resource for naturally healing digestive disease.

Their interview on this podcast – although brief – opened my mind to a whole world of natural solutions for shoddy digestive systems. I realized that things that I eat and do on a regular basis – even though I live a healthy lifestyle – were actually negatively affecting my digestion. No matter how healthy I ate, there were certain foods and habits that didn't sit right with me. I also found out that a lot of the typical cures we have for bad digestion (i.e. antacids, ginger ale, prescription meds), are actually making the problems worse. As usual, our bad digestive symptoms can be best cured with nutrition. 

I have since implemented a lot of holistic nutrition changes into my diet and have seen amazing results. I had no idea how good I could feel until…well, I felt really, really good. Since my digestion has improved, my skin is clearer, my hair grows faster, my eyes are brighter, my energy is higher, my stomach is flatter, and my body is lighter. Now that I know how “good” feels, I never want to go back. More than anything, I want to help other people who suffer from bad digestion to realize how good they can feel.

Digestion is a ridiculously deep topic so we are only going to scratch the surface today. But because I’d really like to get my point across, I am going to make this post the first in a string of digestion suggestions. I shall call it, dadadadaaaaaa….

The Happy Stomach Series

Throughout this series we are going to cover the top tips that have helped me have better digestion, regular “goes” (yeah, I’m going to be immature and call it that), and an overall lighter feeling. I can confidently say that following these guidelines has given me a renewed, rejuvenated, healthy, happy stomach. This four part series, starting with this post, will include:

  1. DON'T DRINK THE WATER – The one time to step away from our beloved H2O
  2. FERMENTED FOODS ARE AWESOME – Fill your stomach with good bacteria
  3. PROCESSED FOODS WITH SUGAR ON TOP – Eating fake food is bad for your shit
  4. WHAT'S UP WITH GRAINS AND GLUTEN – Why some of us just can't handle it

Let's get started, shall we?

PART 1: DON'T DRINK THE WATER

We’ve all heard the old adage that you should drink more water to improve your digestion. And we all have become accustomed to accepting ice-cold water at a restaurant to sip with our meal. Your stomach hurts? Drink water. The more, the better. But for the first time in my life, I am questioning this sound advice. Before you close my page thinking that I am crazy, hear me out.

Water is fantastic. It keeps your organs and tissues moist, it contributes to blood flow, and it helps remove toxins from your body. Without it, we wouldn’t function. But I am here to tell you that, from my research and personal experience:

Not drinking water during meals can immensely improve your digestion.

WHY:
We have natural digestive enzymes in our body. For one, the saliva in our mouth breaks down food as soon as it touches our tongue. For two, the gastric juice in our stomach aids digestion, kills bacteria and allows the stomach to contract and pulverize our food.

When we eat, our body releases these gastric juices.  But if we’ve added too much water, it thinks it doesn’t need to release as much. Instead, it waits for the water to be absorbed into the stomach lining before it releases more acid for the food that is still in there. This, in effect, delays the digestion process, and could even cause some of the food to be absorbed through the stomach lining before the digestive juices have done their pulverizing duty.

That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the digestive process. You see, food has to pass through something called the pyloric sphincter before it gets to the small intestine. This baby refuses to open when the insides of the stomach don’t have enough acid. It’s because the body knows that the undigested food will cause more problems further down. So instead, the food sits in the stomach and putrefies, producing gas, pressure and heartburn. 

WHAT TO DO:
Put half an hour before your meal and an hour after your meal between liquids. If you do this, you are giving your body the time it needs to create its own enzymes, attack the food and digest in its natural process.

Note: Not all waters are treated the same. One of the biggest culprits is that infamous ice water our server is always bringing to our table. Every time your body drinks really cold water, it needs to use energy to bring the water to body temperature. Whether you think about it or not, your body needs all the energy it can get to work on digesting your food.

If you feel you need to drink water with your meals, go for warm water with lemon, tea or small sips of room temperature water. BONUS: Add a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar to your room temperature water for an extra digestive boost.

MY EXPERIENCE:
Being the dutiful health nut that I am, I would drink water during meals like I was getting paid $100 a sip. At lunch, I’d tote around my plastic tumbler, sipping in between every bite at the cafeteria table, and taking big gulps immediately after I was finished.

As soon I discovered this tip, I decided to try it for ONE DAY DURING ONE MEAL to see what would happen. I literally felt a difference immediately. I was floored by the results.

Normally after lunch, I feel stuffed and bloated. I sit at my desk, pop a ginger candy to calm my stomach, and gulp water, hoping it will go away. As usual, I wait for hours (and sometimes the next day) before I actually digest my food.

This time, after I was done eating, I didn’t feel bloated at all. I actually found myself drinking more water throughout my day because I was more than ready for it after my hour was up. I snacked less because I was fulfilled and satisfied in between meals, no longer having weird cravings because I couldn’t tell if I was full and because I was too busy drinking water. Most importantly, I immediately started going on a daily basis after my meals.

I can’t say enough good things about this trick. It’s something I highly recommend to anybody who complains about indigestion after meals. However, per my last post, I strongly encourage you to do your own research and see for yourself. There are a lot of resources that claim that this idea is bullshit – that water most definitely assists and improves the digestion process. But none of that matters to me because this works for my body.

See if it works for yours and let me know the results in the comments section below!

Next up in the Happy Stomach Series: PART II: FERMENTED FOODS