Many people experience different digestion when switching to a real foods based diet. Sometimes that is for the better and sometimes initially it can change for the worse. Here are some important things to know about digestion.
- Digestion begins in the brain. Smelling food, seeing food, or thinking about food can cause the hormones involved in hunger to be activated to prepare the body for food and digestion.
- Avoid drinking a lot of water before, during, and after your meal. Water weakens the stomach acid and the digestive enzymes and reduces their ability to help process and break down foods.
- Chewing is “pre-digestion” and it vital for optimal digestive function. Be sure you chew your food until it is soft and no longer resembles its original self.
- Sit, relax, and slow down for your meals. If you are stressed when you are eating (perhaps at your desk), your body and your hormones are in “fight or flight” mode. When your sympathetic nervous system has taken over (as in flight or flight mode), digestion is “turned off”. The body prioritizes other functions instead, like vision and fast twitch muscles. For optimal digestive function, it is vital to slow down to eat.
Health begins in gut. Here are some tips for optimizing digestion:
- Remove irritating foods. Removing vegetable oils, wheat, grains, sugar, soy, and conventional dairy is important to optimize digestion.
- Increase your probiotic rich foods. Add foods like kombucha, (here is a link to a widely available (and no added sugar kombucha), sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, beet kvass, and kefir.
- Heal your gut lining. Consider adding L-glutamine, an amino acid that is vital for gut health, bone broth, aloe vera juice, vitamin c rich foods, and collagen peptides.
I first heard the term GAPS on Pinterest about five years ago when I started finding and pinning healthy recipes. I continued moving forward on my path toward healthy eating and becoming a Nutrition Consultant and I kept hearing about GAPS all along the way. I bought the book well over a year ago and it’s been on my list of books to read for quite some time. I finally picked it up a few months ago and got to reading it.
Gut and Psychology Syndrome was written by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She wrote this book as a practical guide for those suffering from all host of mental illness issues including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD, as well as asthma, eczema, and allergies. I hate to be redundant here but “All disease begins in the gut” and so this too is a book about healing the gut in order to heal the domino of other issues that cascade after an inflamed and irritated gut.
Campbell-McBride draws upon her experience as neurologist, as well as her experience as a mother of an autistic child to detail the inner workings (pun intended) of the digestive system, the gut flora, the immune system, and how the gut and brain are connected. Later, she details how to treat the problems, with food and supplementation.
I’ll leave you with a quote: “In GAPS people, due to the abnormalities in their gut flora, viruses from vaccines or the environment have a good chance to survive and persist” (p.29). Some folks will tell you that it’s all in your head, but I’m starting to think that it’s all in your gut.
If you’re interested in learning more about the gut and how to improve your own health, GAPS Gut and Psychology Syndrome is an amazing resource.
I wrote this article for an assignment on autoimmune conditions, specifically Lupus. However, this applies to anyone that is looking to determine what is “off” with their digestion, what food triggers they may have, or trying to solve other “unsolved mysteries” about what may be causing skin problems, headaches, etc. Enjoy!
To address autoimmune conditions like Lupus, the 5-R Protocol would be highly recommended. It is like a “jump-start” into the diet plan that should be continued for optimal immune health. By removing offending foods, the body stops reacting negatively to those foods and can begin to use its nutrient resources to heal itself. Additionally, 80% of the immune system is in the digestive system and a healthy digestive system is key for a healthy immune system.
- Remove: Eliminate foods that are processed and devoid of nutrients, poor-quality fats, parasites, heavy metals, and foods that are potential triggers. Potential triggers include gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut), nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers) dairy, soy, and possibly fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. Each person will have to decide what he or she needs to eliminate.
- Replace: Once the offending foods have been removed, it is time to replace them with nutrient-rich, whole-foods. This step also includes replacing missing nutrients using supplements, as well as adding in digestive supports like digestive enzymes, bile salts, and hydrochloric acid.
- Reinoculate: The digestive system is home to billions of bacteria that we rely on to help digest food, protect us from foreign invaders, and to help make short chain fatty acids that we need. Over the years, our diets have been lacking in healthy bacteria and we take many medications that kill off the necessary bacteria. These healthy bacteria are found in cultured dairy products like yogurt and kefir, and in fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Supplementation with probiotics can begin with 10-20 billion per day and can increase gradually to 50-100 billion (Bauman, 2015).
- Repair: Over time, our standard diets have also damaged our digestive system’s ability to properly breakdown foods and absorb nutrients. Using foods like bone broth, grass-fed gelatin, and foods rich in fiber will help to repair and clean out the intestines. Additional supplements that can help to heal include: glutamine, gamma-oryzanol, boswellia, licorice, quercetin, goldenseal, aloe, marshmallow root, essential fatty acids, and cabbage.
- Rebalance: Digestion starts in the brain. If your mindset isn’t in the “right” place, proper digestion will not occur. If you are stressed, your body will be in sympathetic mode rather than in parasympathetic mode and your digestion will be compromised. The focus of step 5 is on stress management, quality sleep, adequate exercise, and a positive outlook. This last step is often a continual practice in mindfulness.
Bauman, E. (6/20/15-11/30/15). Personal Communication
Lipski, E. (2013). Digestion Connection. New York, NY: Rodale.
Health & Hugs <3,