Good digestion, absorption, and efficient elimination are the foundation for whole-body health. When we are bloated, suffer from constipation, or have more serious digestive issues like leaky gut, candida overgrowth or heartburn it's hard to feel our best.
I used to have chronic digestive issues from heartburn to constipation - you name it. I have zero digestive issues now other than being a little bloated the day before my period, but that's totally normal.
Here are five reasons your digestion is not as good as it could be and what you can do about it. Below the video, I outline all the reasons why and solutions for how it can be better.
1. You're not drinking enough water
Water is critical for healthy digestion from start to finish. Being even a little bit dehydrated is a one-way ticket to constipation and a sluggish digestive system.
Starting with your mouth, water is necessary for adequate saliva which contains digestive enzymes to break down fats and carbohydrates in your mouth. The all-important gastric juices secreted in your stomach need water because it is an essential component of stomach acid. Water is needed to produce the mucus that coats the inside of your stomach and protects it from acids and enzymes.
In the small intestine, water helps to absorb nutrients and further down in the colon where many minerals get absorbed, water helps facilitate this process. Water is absolutely essential to soften stool and ease elimination so that you avoid constipation.
Solution: Drink plenty of water or herbal teas throughout the day. Drink enough water so that your urine is a pale yellow. Also, consider that you can eat your hydration too! Choose hydrating foods in your meals such as fruits and veggies especially apples, pears, mango, papaya (also great for protein digestion), cucumbers, romaine lettuce, sweet peppers, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
2. You're eating when you're not hungry
This is the most overlooked aspect of digestion and something that once you start paying attention to, you will see a noticeable difference once you make the subtle change to only eating when you're hungry.
Eating when you feel the sensation of hunger means you have adequate digestive enzymes and acid to digest your food.
That warm feeling or grumbling in your tummy is a signal to your brain that you are hungry, if you don't have that signal it's not time to eat. There are some exceptions to this, if you have an eating disorder or you have low stomach acid those hunger cues are not as obvious.
Being a mom, I get that it's not very convenient to eat only when you're hungry as you have a family to feed and you want to eat at the same time as everyone else. However, there have certainly been times when I did not listen to my body. I had a main meal like dinner with my family when I wasn't hungry and I paid the price with indigestion and bloating. On the flip side if you ignore those hunger cues this can cause digestive problems too. When I don't listen to my hunger cues (it's happened) I get bad stomach pains if I'm at the point of ravenous.
This may mean that snacking is not ideal for you. The rule that you should eat every 2-3 hours is very outdated and simply not accurate for everyone. If you are a bodybuilder or there's another reason you are focused on weight gain, then sure, snack often but remember every time you eat you're depleting enzymes and acids which you want to be potent when you have a main meal.
For me, most days I do not have a morning snack because I'm not hungry. There is often a longer stretch of time between lunch and dinner for me so that's when I often have a small snack like these energy balls or an energy bar. However, if I've been sitting at my desk all day not expending very much energy, it's less likely I will have an afternoon snack.
Solution: The key is to have awareness of your hunger cues. Here is a great hunger chart you can refer to to help you determine your level of hunger.
3. You have low stomach acid
Contrary to popular belief low stomach acid is also known as "hypochlorhydria" which is more common than high stomach acid. I wrote about this extensively in the digestive system chapter of my first book Joyous Health (worth checking out).
Stomach acid is absolutely essential for good digestion because it aids in the breakdown of protein, helps you properly digest and absorb nutrients, and destroys bad bacteria and viruses before entering the body. It's also what helps signal to your brain that you are hungry. Technically a hormone called "ghrelin" signals the release of stomach acid. When food is not in the gut this is why you start to feel an increase in hunger pains as your stomach acid begins to attack the lining of your gut.
Solution: There are many natural ways to stimulate stomach acid. Raw and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar aka "acv" is a favourite of mine and it's also the best way to address bloating in a pinch! Simply add 1 tbsp of acv to 1/2 cup of water and slowly sip before a meal. Digestive bitters, lemon and water and betaine + HCL supplements can also be very beneficial to support stomach acid.
4. You're eating too much sugar and processed foods
This is a total no-brainer! Eating sugar and processed foods means you're not eating enough fibre and therefore, not nourishing your gut microbiome.
Your body is like a bank. Eating nutritious foods is like a deposit you put into your bank account every time you eat. The vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients you obtain from your diet help your body manage stress in a healthful manner, aid in the production of neurotransmitters, nourish your gut microbes and so much more. Eating processed foods is like taking money out of your bank account because it requires many more nutrients to break down, absorb and detoxify junk foods. Add stress and lack of exercise to that crappy diet and you eventually end up bankrupt with poor digestion and a whole host of other health concerns.
Sugar and processed foods can cause bloating, constipation, dysbiosis, low energy, low immune system, blood sugar imbalance, cravings, moodiness, unhealthy weight gain, and the list goes on. If you need some motivation to ditch sugar, then join 21 Days to Joyous Health!
5. You're pooping in the wrong position
The inventor of the modern toilet did not actually consider how we humans should be pooping! The posture of our pelvic floor is totally incorrect! Using a stool to elevate your feet or a squatty potty to rest your feet corrects your posture for pooping with ease.
The posture of the modern toilet puts a kink in your drainage pipes and does not allow poop to flow with ease. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE! Once you correct your posture and poop while squatting, your bathroom visits for #2 will be transformed!!
This is the one I have - 7" squatty potty.
I truly hope my tips help improve your digestion. If you've got a question for me, please post below. I'm happy to help!