How does one achieve balanced digestion? I think we’ve all read a million and one tips out there—on the internet, in magazines, in various books. We’ve also heard a million different things from our doctors, the news, and of course, from Dr. Oz. But what is best for overall health and digestion? Truthfully, there is no one answer because everyone is so vastly different. What I would recommend for one person might be the total opposite for the next. Listed below are 10 very basic recommendations. Do keep in mind, however, that if you have any specific health problems, even these tips might not be quite right for you. For example, if you have a history of diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, or IBS, these tips might need to be tweaked.
I also do believe (at least in part) in various “diets” when it comes to digestive health, and I generally pull tidbits from different mythologies. Some helpful tips can be found in Ayurveda medicine, the blood type diet, low FODMAP eating, etc. So for each individual, recommendations will vary.
SO with all that in mind, here are 10 basic tips for healthier digestion…
1.) Warm water – Drink about 10 ounces of very warm water first thing in the morning (do this before anything else.) Simply run your tap water until it becomes warm, fill a glass, and chug away. Also, drink room temperature water rather than cold water throughout the day. Cold water can slow and aggravate the digestive process.
2.) Eat seeds and bran regularly – flax seeds, chia seeds, wheat bran, oat bran. You don’t need both every day, but try to get some of each here and there. For example, add chia seeds to a smoothie, sprinkle bran over your cereal, mix ground flax into your oatmeal, sprinkle any of these over a salad or mix into a rice dish.
3.) Eat more produce! Many health professionals recommend that you eat at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit, daily. I would say to start there as your goal, and then increase, as you can. Obviously, the more, the better. Snack on veggies, add vegetables to your morning eggs, have a salad with lunch and dinner, have fruit at breakfast or as a snack. Plant-based diets are best, so begin your meals by planning what plant foods you’ll be having. And you’d be surprised what prunes and/or warm prune juice can do for you! (Or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised… I guess that one’s obvious.)
4.) Avoid dairy. This is somewhat controversial. Being someone who LOVES dairy, it’s a hard one for me. I have read studies that have shown that children with chronic idiopathic constipation had tremendous success when the only dietary element that changed was the elimination of all dairy. In general, I would say avoid dairy if you struggle with gut problems (chronic constipation or diarrhea.) If you love dairy as much as I do, then treat yourself once in a while, but don’t consume it regularly. If you’re having bowel problems, give up dairy for a period of time to see if it helps.
And no, we don’t need dairy to get enough calcium and vitamin D. However, if you were getting most of your calcium and vitamin D from dairy, then you will need to be sure that you find other sources on a daily basis or take a supplement. (Dark leafy greens, fortified soy/almond milk, canned salmon, almonds, dried figs, tofu, soybeans, fatty fish, egg yolks.)
5.) Move your beautiful body! If your body isn’t moving, your digestion probably isn’t moving, either. Get walking, dancing, biking, jogging…whatever. It may also be helpful for you to take a *light* walk following meals for about 10-15 minutes. Do not go running right after you eat or do any stressful activity. That will compromise digestion; however, a very light stroll with a loved one may be beneficial.
6.) Practice yoga. You don’t have to take a yoga class every day, but it may be helpful for you to do a few specific yoga poses on a regular basis to aid in your digestive process. There are specific poses that would be recommended for you depending on your personal digestive process, such as constipation vs diarrhea vs heartburn, or a combination or 2 or all 3
of those. Yoga also does wonders for those of you who tend to hold stress in your digestive tract—or anywhere in your body for that matter!
7.) Practice deep breathing. Every cell of your body needs oxygen. Regular exercise and yoga help to bring oxygen throughout your body. Deep breathing exercises also help. Be conscious and aware of your breath, and practice Ujayi breath (as one does in yoga practice.)
8.) Create flavor profiles of food that work for you and your body. It’s hard for me to recommend just one type of flavor or food because everyone’s body is quite different. For example, if you tend to be constipated, I would suggest that you add warming spices to your diet, such as cumin and cinnamon. If you struggle with diarrhea, you may benefit from cooling flavors, such as fennel and cilantro.
9.) Try the squatty potty… I know it might seem silly at first, but I do think that it can benefit many people who struggle with bowel issues.
10.) Eat at roughly the same times each day. Your schedule is bound to change to some degree, but completely skipping meals or have an incredibly erratic schedule will place stress on digestion. Your work schedule may be variable, which I understand; I’ve been there, but do your best to keep your meal times within a 2-3 hour window. So most days, have breakfast between 6-8AM, lunch between 12-2PM, and dinner between 6-8PM.
And finally, to keep it all simple, be sure to get enough of the healthy versions of the 5-F’s… fiber, fluid, fat, fitness, and fun :) Fiber in the form of whole grains, produce, nuts and seeds; fluid in the form of water; fat in the form of olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, sesame oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado, olives; fitness in whatever way you and your body enjoy; and fun because without fun, we’d all be a ball of unhealthy, imbalanced stress!
Happy eating, happy pooping :-D