Complete digestion is essential to good health. Once on a cruise ship I visited the spa which was operated by a Switzerland firm. As I was receiving a detoxification scrub the consultant told me the health of the entire body is determined by the health of the small intestine. We were discussing cellulite and toxins at the moment. This was many years ago and although I did not fully understand every detail at the time, having since experienced multiple autoimmune issues personally combined with my education as a nurse, I know full well how essential it is to maintain health of the GI system.
Whether you have digestive upsets or a compromised ability to absorb nutrients – symptoms (if any) may be intermittent to none or quite obvious and regular, such as painful bloating, gas, or constipation. A person with an optimally-functioning GI tract will typically feel refreshed, energized, and focused whereas with compromised digestive issues you may notice a feeling of being sluggish, experience “foggy-brain,” feel a little off-balance & not yourself, or tired especially after meals. Flatulence and belching are not normal; however, many people experience this throughout their day and “assume” it is related to acid. Believe it or not, acid reflux which is often assumed to be too much acid and the opposite, which is too little acid (achlorhydria) produce the exact same symptoms (a burning sensation and belching) so it is very important to get tested before running out to the local drugstore to get any type of OTC antacid. It is quite shocking to me considering the health risks associated with antacids that they are sold over-the-counter!
If you want to improve your digestive wellness, you must begin with your diet. I recommend you eat “clean” meaning lots of organic nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. However, if your digestive system is woefully compromised and not functioning well, you’ll have trouble absorbing essential nutrients from the food you eat. Again, the signs of a GI tract in trouble may include feeling fuzzy after a meal, bloated,  flatulence or belching, or simply a sense of feeling unwell. Often incomplete digestion can be due to dysbiosis (overgrowth of bad bacteria or yeast) in the intestinal tract from consuming a poor diet, Candida (yeast), use of antibiotics, high intake of sugar, and/or chronic stress. The result may be anything from poor digestion and feeling yucky to weight gain, mal-absorption, inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and manifestation into a full blown autoimmune disorder.
Here are my 11 tips to improve digestion:

  1. Begin the day drinking a glass of non-fluoridated warm water with the juice of a fresh lemon & ¼ to ½ tsp unrefined sea salt.  This helps to alkalize the body and support the adrenal glands for the onslaught of the day.
  2. Consume probiotic and enzyme-rich foods. Sauerkraut is a good option, as is Kefir and Kombucha. Don’t overdo it on fermented foods as they can cause GI upset but it is okay to have them in moderation. Consider taking a quality probiotic to balance gut flora. It is important also to rotate probiotics to populate the gut with a variety of strains of good bacteria.  My top favorites are VSL#3, TheraLac, TruFlora and TruFiber.
  3. Drink Bragg’s apple cider vinegar  with meals to stimulate hydrochloric acid production which is essential for digesting and breaking down foods for absorption. This can also be used mid-day with a teaspoon of raw, local honey for a healthy pick-me-up.
  4. Drink ginger tea throughout the day. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and digestive aid. Take fresh ginger root, grate and peel, and steep it in hot water for 5-10 minutes depending on preference. A teaspoon of raw, local honey may be added here as well.
  5. Eliminate inflammatory foods from your diet. Particularly gluten, soy, corn, dairy, and conventionally-raised meats. Opt for pastured grass-fed beef instead. Foods that contribute to intestinal inflammation damage the GI tract and disrupt the balance of healthy gut bacteria and digestion.
  6. If you suffer from heartburn you must eliminate soy, dairy, corn, and gluten. Heartburn is exacerbated by food sensitivities, and gluten, dairy, corn and soy are the most common hidden good sensitivities. Many research scientist’s and integrative physician’s recommend eliminating all grains and possibly legumes, which have the potential to irritate the gut and are high in phytic acid preventing absorption of nutrients. Nuts, due to mold issues are a culprit as well. Ask your doctor about stool testing to check for H. pylori, a bacteria commonly associated as one cause of poor digestion and heartburn.
  7. Don’t drink more than 6 oz. water with meals. It dilutes your natural digestive juices. Drink room temperature or warm fluids with meals.
  8. Consider digestive enzymes to improve digestion.  My absolute favorite is MegaZyme Pancreatic Enzymes to enhance digestion. Be aware that digestive enzymes taken at the beginning of a meal may result in you eating more than you normally would so take them midway through or toward the end of the meal.  TIP:  Digestive or pancreatic enzymes may also be taken between meals to counter the body’s systemic natural inflammatory mechanisms.
  9. Vitamin A. A deficiency in Vitamin A can cause digestive and thyroid problems.  Leaky gut and mal-absorption are the typical results of a vitamin A deficiency.  Many people with Celiac disease or other autoimmune disorders cannot absorb or use many forms of vitamin A including what is commonly found in foods.  I personally use Bio-Ae-Mulsion by Biotics Research for quality. This is vitamin A in an emulsified form and is the easiest to absorb.  This form can  be taken for longer periods without affecting the liver and taking 3 drops per day is the recommendation. Since vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, be sure to take it in the presence of fat.  I place a drop on a spoon of coconut oil and take it by mouth.  My labwork always showed I had a vitamin A deficiency until I started using this form (I tried tablets, softgels, & capsules and had absorption issues).
    NOTE:  During pregnancy, women should not take  more than 10,000 IU’s daily so one drop every other day is best but be sure to check with your OB/GYN doctor first.
  10. Zinc. Zinc is critical in maintaining a strong and healthy lining of the intestines and the recommendation by most integrative doctors is 25-50 mg per day.  The higher dose of 50 mg is for anyone with Celiac disease, recurring colds or infections, rough skin, white spots on finger nails, acne, stretch marks and poor wound healing.  Zinc also presents an obstacle for many as it can be difficult to absorb so I use Zinc-Stat by Douglas Labs. It is also in drop form and I mix it in 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice or almond milk at bedtime because the taste of zinc is not all that pleasant!
  11. Consider making bone-marrow broth and consuming between and with meals. Bone broth is full of minerals and using grass-fed beef bone marrow bones provides many benefits. Bone marrow broth fortifies the immune system, enhances digestion, and nourishes all body parts related to collagen including the joints, tendons, ligaments, skin, mucus membranes, and bone. Gelatin in bone broth heals and seals “leaky” areas in the intestinal tract and is very nourishing. It tastes good too! See my Bone Broth report and recipe here.

Shannon wants to know: How do you maintain a healthy GI tract?