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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!
This is a great list, thanks Joy! Do you have to drink ACV daily for it to work? Or can it be a one-time solution? RE #5, I use the bathroom trash can. Haha!Reply
Omg, that's so funny re the trash can! No, you definitely don't have to drink it every day or at every meal. Typically people's digestive fire starts to wane after lunch and dinner is often when people don't have a strong digestive fire. This is evidenced by the fact many people become progressively bloated as the day goes on. I would suggest doing it before dinner and then do it anytime you feel like you need it. Beyond that advice I can share, I would suggest working with an ND or certified nutritionist to fine-tune things if you have digestive woes. Hope that helps!
Hi Joy regarding your pooping advice to squat ,I like to add that instead of using the toilet paper better clean the bottom with. Water. We can save billions of rolls going waste into the sea it is advisable to clean the vagina with water after each pee,Reply
Yes totally! Great idea. Too bad it's not standard to beside your toilet to have something to spray with in Ontario. I always see this when I travel to European countries!
I find myself struggling with the a cyclical battle of trying to eliminate refined sugar. Six months was my longest stretch, but I still never felt like I stopped wanting it during times of frustration and low moods. Did you quit and never look back, or was it more gradual?Reply
It sounds like you crave it when the emotions hit which is very normal but definitely something you can work through. I would suggest finding an outlet aside from food when you feel that way -- journaling, listening to a podcast, meditation or going for a nature walk. When I quit sugar and changed my diet as a whole, I didn't find myself as controlled by it so if I wanted a bite of my hubby's "pain au chocolat" (heart eyes!!) it didn't throw me off the deep end. Have you checked out 21 Days to Joyous Health? It starts April 12th and you have the support from a like-minded community on a 21-day sugar-free meal plan. You can join here: https://hi.joyoushealth.com/21days I think you'd really love it and find healthy ways to combat sugar since it's also a 21 day meditation challenge.
Hi Joy great tips on digestion.Are you familiar with BAM “Bile Acid Malabsorption “ it’s a condition most Doctors do not know about relating to Gallbladder removal. There is a support group on FB called BAM from people from all over the world desperately looking for a natural way of treating, since the medicine that is given depletes you of nutrients before being absorbed. BAM is a debilitating condition due to the bile acid not being absorbed and dripping into intestines causing chronic diarrhea, bloating, and pain. I know Your not a doctor but would love any feedback along with thousands of other people. I love All your products and have a great respect for your knowledge, I think you and Walker are helping many people , enjoy your podcasts!Reply
Hi Diane, I didn't know there was an actual name for this condition but it is a result of having your gall bladder removed, as you already know. I hope that one day doctors stop this surgery altogether and address the root cause. One of the best things you can do is make sure you're taking high-quality fat-digesting enzymes. It's best to speak with a natural healthcare practitioner.
Thank you for your quick response and yes I agree about the removal of gallbladder, I actually had no choice since my cecum was wrapped around my gallbladder, it’s called a mobile cecum,very rare no gallbladder stones and apparently it ruined the function of my gallbladder. I along With many others have tried so many enzymes but they have not solved problem, but will continue the search, and seek a natural healthcare practitioner as you suggested.thank you again 😊Reply
Check out Josh Gitalis, he's an excellent practitioner and I highly recommend him. https://www.joshgitalis.com/