Let’s talk digestion!
In our first post of this series, we talked about signs of poor digestion, underlying causes of poor digestion, and foods and tips to help digestion. This post builds off these topics and addresses what optimal digestion looks like. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding what good digestion is, some saying it is whatever is normal for your body, while others normalize bloating, claiming it is a natural part of digestion. Our goal is to clear up misconceptions regarding digestion and shed some light on what we believe to be optimal digestion.
What does optimal digestion feel like?
This might sound like a funny question, but if you think about it, many of us know what poor digestion feels like, yet are not attentive to what good digestion feels like. Below we have broken down how you should feel after a meal versus how you should not feel to help you tune into your body.
How you SHOULD feel after a meal
- Energized and clear-headed
- Satiated (full, but not uncomfortable)
- Comfortable, and relaxed (gut-wise and all over!)
How you SHOULD NOT feel after a meal
- Uncomfortably bloated
- The feeling like your food is sitting
- Feeling gassy
- Excessive burping
- Feeling of heartburn
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Feel of nausea or disease
- Feeling of being very flushed or warm
- Feeling of brain fog/trouble focusing
If you are feeling more of the symptoms of how you should not feel versus how you should feel, then there is likely an underlying issue like an imbalance in the gut microbiome or a food sensitivity/allergy. To start, we recommend keeping a food journal. Here you should write down what you eat (list all ingredients) and the symptoms you feel post-meal (note that symptoms can arise the next day or even a couple of days later!). Then, take this food journal to a dietitian, like us, so that food triggers can be identified and the root cause of these symptoms can be uncovered and treated.
What do healthy bowel movements look like?
When talking about bowel movements – we are not shy! Bowel movements can be so informative, helping us to understand what is going on digestion-wise. While there are some people whose bowel movements are like clockwork, many find themselves to be on one side of the spectrum or the other (constipation or diarrhea). Newsflash: the goal is to be in the middle!
What bowel movement should look and feel like:
- Easy! (no straining to go the bathroom)
- Long and snake-like smooth texture
- Consistent (1-3x daily)
- Medium-dark brown
- Solid form
What bowel movement should not look and feel like:
- Running to the bathroom right after a meal (or ever)
- Loose-watery stools
- Feeling constipated (stool that is hard and difficult to pass)
- Greasy stools (stick to the toilet)
- Undigested food in stool
- Strong-smelling foul odor
- Grey, green, or light-brown color
- Blood in stool
We find that once bowel movements become regular, digestion becomes optimal and vice versa. Bowel movements and digestion overall have a symbiotic relationship, so diving deep into the underlying cause of what is behind irregular bowel movements is key!
Should you be reliant on supplements?
In our practice, we often recommend specific supplements to aid in digestion. However, they are meant to be used as a tool and are often used short term. Oftentimes being reliant on supplements for proper digestion is masking a problem and a sign of an underlying problem or imbalance.
Wondering what supplements we are talking about? Here are a few examples and why they are used:
- Digestive enzymes – helps to break down nutrients and reduce bloating and food in stool
- Betaine HCL- increases stomach acid to improve break down of food
- Bitters- helps stimulate stomach/pancreas juices!
- Magnesium – relieves constipation
- Caffeine – may stimulate bowel movements (though not a top rec!)
- Psyllium- helps promote bulk in stool (good for constipation and loose stool)
- Other motility agents (there are various ones)- help control movement in the gut
In an ideal world, there should not be dependence on these supplements/nutrients for good digestion. However, we recognize that using these on an as-needed basis can be beneficial especially to prevent the undesirable symptoms of poor digestion. For example, maybe you went out to dinner and had a very rich meal, or maybe you accidentally had some food that you are sensitive to, and so you decide to take digestive enzymes.
Other posts, written by us, concerning digestion that may be helpful!
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HEALTHY DIGESTION
- TOP TIPS FOR DIGESTION
- WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT CONSTIPATION
- LET’S TALK ABOUT BLOATING
- HOW TO ADDRESS ACID REFLUX
- WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT IBS
- EVERYTHING TO KNOW ABOUT DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
- GUT DYSBIOSIS
THE BOTTOM LINE
Having optimal digestion sets your body up to feel energized, happy, and healthy. There are a ton of underlying reasons for inadequate digestion ranging from food intolerances, to gut-dysbiosis, to histamine intolerance and more. We feel the key to good digestion is a balanced microbiome and adequate motility. Whatever your symptoms are and the underlying cause may be we are here to help!
Want to optimize your digestion? Contact us here!