Problems with digestion are some of the most common reasons why clients come to see the naturopaths here in my clinic. More obvious symptoms can include heartburn, bloating or sensations of fullness, indigestion, excessive flatulence or burping, constipation or diarrhoea.
Less obvious signs that your digestion is not as good as it could be might include skin, hair or nail problems, fatigue, mood and concentration issues, sleep issues, frequent infections, hormone irregularities, weight loss or gain, muscle loss and more.
Every element of your health will be affected if you are not digesting and absorbing your food effectively
So it’s not surprising that, regardless of what you might come to see me for, I will spend a fair bit of time asking you about your digestion and the food you eat.
As a naturopath, I work a lot with improving the quality of your diet…ensuring that you have all the nutritional building blocks you need for your body to function effectively, taking into account your personal food tastes and preferences along with any diagnosed health conditions or medications which might affect your vitamin and mineral levels.
But just as important as diet, I hone in on your digestive system including stomach acid, digestive enzymes, gut bacteria, liver function and integrity of the “digestive machinery”.
So, five tips to get you started towards better digestion:
- Choose a healthy diet – you need to be eating the foods that will supply sufficient nutrients for your particular needs. Your body can’t manufacture the nutrients it needs out of thin air.
- Look at your “process of eating” and this is where your mind, your stress levels and your “relationship” with food comes in to play.
- Slow down and chew your food (did your mum ever say that to you?). Good digestion actually starts with the anticipation of food. Have you ever noticed how you start to salivate at the thought or smell of something delicious? Your saliva contains enzymes to help extract the nutrition from your food. This is one of the reasons why you need to take your time when you eat … time to be aware of what you are eating and to chew your food thoroughly so that your body has time to produce saliva and the saliva can do its job.
- You also need to be physically relaxed when you eat otherwise your digestion will have difficulty “switching on”. (You might notice you can’t eat when you are nervous or stressed. Our bodies are just not designed to be stressed and digest at the same time. It’s something that many people struggle with). So, you’re not going to have the best digestion if you are eating on the run, eating while working or eating standing up.
- Give yourself the time and permission to enjoy your food. Eating when you are relaxed and developing a healthy relationship with food is vital to good digestion.
These 5 tips really underpin good digestion and better health.
But, if you still aren’t firing on all cylinders we may need to dig a bit deeper to work out why. This might require some simple pathology testing and perhaps some deeper analysis of your diet and lifestyle. That’s where a naturopath can help.
So, if you feel like your health is not as good as you would like it to be, have you considered your digestion?