WHAT IS DIGESTION?
Digestion is a complex process involving numerous organs and organ systems to break down food and convert it to energy and nutrients to fuel the body. Our digestion impacts our energy, growth, weight, hormones, skin, detoxification, brain function, mood, and more – essentially everything, which is why many of us can feel when our digestion is off!
SIGNS YOUR DIGESTION COULD USE SOME SUPPORT
Some telltale signs your digestion is off include chronic constipation (3 + days), chronic diarrhea, greasy stool or undigested food particles in stool, acid-reflux (heartburn and/or burping after meals), chronic bloating, excessive burping or flatulence, abdominal pain or cramping, nausea, vomiting, fatigue after meals, and the feeling that your food is sitting in your stomach long after a meal.
Aside from digestive signs and symptoms, other less commonly recognized symptoms of poor digestion include overall lack of energy, brain fog, increased food sensitivities/allergies, acne/skin breakouts, unexplained, weight gain/weight loss, anxiety/depression, joint and muscle pain.
Chances are if you feel any of these symptoms regularly, your digestion could use some work!
OUR FAVORITE FOODS TO OPTIMIZE DIGESTION
When talking digestion, we look for foods with properties that will contain or stimulate digestive enzymes, stomach acid (betaine HCl), or bile, is a good source of fiber, will reduce inflammation, is rich in pre/probiotics, promotes motility, will help nourish the gut lining, and more!
- Bitter foods: Arugula, Dandelion Greens, Lemon, Apple Cider Vinegar, Kale and Brussel Sprouts, Ginger, Coffee, etc. – Stimulates the secretion of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile to help break down foods
- Root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets, sweet and white potato) – Contains fiber and is typically gentle on the GI tract, which helps prevent constipation and is easy to digest
- Ginger – Stimulates digestion, aids in motility, and anti-nausea
- Bone broth – Reduces inflammation, helps heal the gut lining, and promote overall gut health
- Asparagus and artichokes – Rich source of prebiotics (food for your beneficial bacteria)
- Chia and flax seeds – Rich source of soluble fiber which helps promote motility (keeps things moving)
- Fruits: pineapple, papaya, mango – Contains natural digestive enzymes: bromelain (pineapple) and papain (papaya) that help break down proteins, and amylase (mango) that helps break down carbohydrates
- Naturally fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir – Natural source of probiotics which are beneficial bacteria for the gut!
- Fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, thyme – contain nutrients that aid in digestion by helping release trapped gas, stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, reducing inflammation, fighting overgrowth of bacteria, and more!
Incorporating these foods into your diet will not only help improve your digestion but will leave your plate packed with different flavors and textures. If you want to challenge yourself, try to include one bitter food, one root vegetable, a pre/probiotic source, chia or flax seed, and fruit and fresh herbs listed above daily and make note of how you feel!
OUR FAVORITE NUTRIENTS AID IN DIGESTION
Similarly, when discussing digestion, we look for nutrients and supplements that will increase motility, reduce inflammation, and contain digestive enzymes or stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes, stomach acid (HCl), bile, and more!
- Ginger – Contains digestive enzymes (trypsin and pancreatic lipase, which breakdown proteins and fats), anti-nausea properties, and promotes motility
- Slippery elm – Helps coat the GI tract to reduce inflammation and irritation, helps relieve constipation
- Aloe vera – Relieves constipation by drawing in water to the GI tract and stimulating peristalsis (contraction of the GI tract). It also aids in digestion via anti-inflammatory properties and may help balance pH levels
- Dandelion bitters – Stimulates the body to release digestive enzymes and other secretions like stomach acid and bile – key players in digestion
- Probiotic – live beneficial bacteria that reside in your GI tract
- Digestive enzymes – Helps breakdown fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- Psyllium husk- A gentle source of fiber that helps regulate motility and promote bowel movements
- Magnesium – Helps relieve constipation by pulling water into the GI tract
- Herbal teas (ginger, mint, turmeric, peppermint, lemon balm, dandelion root) – all of which contain unique properties to aid in digestion
We recommend working with a health practitioner knowledgeable about utilizing these nutrients/supplements before starting to use them yourself. Remember, quality is critical, so using a reputable and high-quality brand is critical!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Your digestion is EVERYTHING as it is responsible for breaking down and processing the food you consume so that you can absorb its nutrients and use it as fuel. You will likely feel it immediately when your digestion is off, commonly manifesting as abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel movements. Chronically poor digestion usually begins to affect mood, energy levels, skin health, and more, so getting to the underlying cause of poor digestion is key. However, foods and nutrients containing unique properties that aid digestion, promote motility, reduce inflammation, and nourish the gut lining and microbiome may help reduce unfavorable symptoms and optimize digestion.
Does your digestion need some help? Click here to work with us!
Written by Alison Richman MS, RDN