Health & Fitness Coach, Employee Wellness - Eat Clean, Get Fit, Be Healthy in NH
As a health and fitness professional having worked with a lot of clients over the years, I’ve found that many people have digestive issues.
Poor digestion often manifests as gas, bloating, burping, reflux, bowel irregularity and abdominal distention. But did you know that there are also some not-so-obvious signs of digestive dysfunction that could be making you feel bad? For example, headaches, fatigue after eating, constant hunger pangs, and pain in your muscles, joints, neck, shoulder and middle and lower back may also be your body’s way of saying that your digestion is not working efficiently.
Here are some of the most common causes of poor digestion. Before reaching for a Tums or Maalox, I’m giving you some tips to help you reduce your digestive stress and improve the health of your digestive system naturally.
1. Not Enough H2O
In order for your body to properly break down foods during the digestive process, your body needs adequate amounts of water. Chewing your food requires the production of saliva, as it contains digestive enzymes that help you break down foods. If you’re dehydrated and your body can't produce enough saliva, the foods you eat will not be broken down properly for the next phases of digestion.
When your body becomes dehydrated it will pull water from wherever it can, primarily drawing water from the mucus membranes of major digestive organs like your stomach and your large and small intestines.
When the moisture is pulled from the mucus membrane of your stomach, it leaves your stomach unprotected from hydrochloric acid (a.k.a HCL—the acid that helps you further break down foods), which may then trigger ulcers.
What do most people do when they get indigestion and heartburn? They take some sort of antacid. But taking antacids come with a price: For one, they contain aluminum, a toxic metal associated with Alzheimer’s. And two, antacids inhibit the complete breakdown of proteins before they enter the small intestine. If proteins are not broken down properly, they are less likely to be absorbed. Your body needs protein to repair itself, and if it's not getting the protein that it needs from digesting foods, it will begin breaking down its own proteins from your muscles.
When moisture is pulled from the mucus membrane of your colon, it leaves your colon lining dry which leads to constipation. Your colon’s job is to recycle water from your stools as your body needs it, and being dehydrated means your body is only going to suck even more water from your stools making it even harder to have a bowel movement.
A good rule of thumb is to drink about 50% of your body weight in ounces of water per day. Add a pinch of good quality sea salt to each liter of water to help increase water absorption and aid in HCL production.
2. Processed Foods
Processed foods contain thousands of different chemicals additives that are used to preserve, color, stabilize, emulsify, texturize, soften, and add flavor. Most of the foods you see in boxes, cans and wrappers are so highly processed that your gut receptors don’t actually recognize them as food. Our immune systems recognize these chemical concoctions as foreign invaders, and it will work with your digestive system to dilute and eliminate them from your body. The end result is diarrhea.
If the chemicals from processed foods are not removed from your body, they may contribute to constipation. The chemicals and sugars in processed foods elicit a stress response in your body, which causes the process of digestion and elimination to slow down ultimately leading to constipation and a very toxic bowel!
Keep in mind that many of these chemicals don’t have to be labeled by FDA standards, and all you might see on a food label are the words “artificially sweetened/flavored” or “contains artificial colorings.” When buying food, aim to eat whole, organic foods as much as possible to avoid these devils lurking in your food!
Some other common food culprits contributing to poor digestion are non-organic, pasteurized dairy products; processed juices; hydrogenated fats; unfiltered tap water and caffeine.
3. Too Much Stress
When you experience stress your body activates the “fight or flight” response, which triggers stress hormones thereby slowing the digestive process and compromising your digestion.
Most of us are in a “fight or flight” mode all day, which starts the minute our alarm goes off in the morning! We start our days rushing around to get ready for work and get the kids off to school, skipping breakfast in the process. This rushed behavior is stressful and shuts down your digestion resulting in constipation.
Your stress levels further escalate through out the rest of your by skipping lunch, working late, and sitting in traffic. The icing on the cake is when you binge on a large dinner in front of the TV—you basically eat enough food to make up for all of the meals you’ve missed but you feel bloated and stuffed. Keep in mind, up until this point the food you ate from the day before still hasn't left your body, so your body is all backed up—you’re basically not taking out your own garbage!
With this scenario, it isn’t long before your digestion becomes compromised. When your body knows that your own waste is not being removed, it doesn’t want more coming in, so you develop a constant feeling of being full, yet you’re still hungry because your body isn't getting the nutrition that it needs.
Keep your pipes clean and things moving along, by managing your stress. Try to start your day without rushing, take time to eat breakfast and lunch and eat a light dinner, and allow yourself some down time at night—preferably not watching something stressful like the news.
Well, there you have it! The major causes of digestive distress. Now you have a plan to help you combat the major culprits compromising your digestive health.
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To boosting your digestion,