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.
September’s Clean Eating Book of the Month is Gut by Giulia Enders. After Eat Dirt, Brain Maker, and Gulp, you may begin to think that I’m obsessed with the digestive system. And well, I guess I am. I am a nutrition consultant, after all.
Enders takes a unique scientific approach to teaching us about our gut. A microbiologist by trade and currently enrolled in a gastroenterology PhD program, Enders infuses humor throughout her book and her sister creates simple and enlightening illustrations like this one of how to properly use the toilet to go poop (Ender, 2015, p.19).
I hear from many people that like to debate the existence of gluten intolerances. Enders does a wonderful job of clearing up the confusion for folks. Celiac disease is what Enders terms a genetic intolerance to gluten. Here is how she explains a gluten intolerance: All grains (and all plants for that matter) have a small amount of toxins in them. These toxins exist to ensure the survival of the species. Compared to other grains, wheat produces more toxins. Because of the high level of toxins in the proteins in wheat, gluten (and gliadin), can pass through the small intestines into the bloodstream, undigested. In turn, it can weaken the junctions between the cell lining the small intestines (microvilli). When those junctions are weakened, food particles (like gluten) can pass through unregulated and cause the immune system to go on overdrive. The job of the microvilli is to keep out large (undigested) food particles and toxins, so when food particles are allowed to pass through and the immune system is on overdrive, many other health problems occur, resulting in an intolerance.
In addition to clearing up confusion around food intolerances, Enders also discusses poop, acid reflux, constipation, vomiting, the brain-gut connection, the HUGE role of bacteria in our lives, and much more. This is a fascinating
poop book. I actually did type poop there first, so I thought I should leave it. 😉 I highly recommend it for all homo sapiens. 5/5 Strawberries!