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:
- DON'T DRINK THE WATER – The one time to step away from our beloved H2O
- FERMENTED FOODS ARE AWESOME – Fill your stomach with good bacteria
- PROCESSED FOODS WITH SUGAR ON TOP – Eating fake food is bad for your shit
- 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.
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.
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