3 Natural Ways to Improve Digestion

Oh those dreaded days when you want to look your best, whether it be for a special occasion or a work presentation, but you just can't imagine putting on that tight dress or pants due to uncomfortable bloating...Too many of us have been there, myself included. 

Digestive issues, including bloating, gas, constipation or heartburn are such common complaints and so often something I see in my practice. No doubt you have heard the term IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, or even been diagnosed with it. The problem is, usually when given this diagnosis there is no clear direction on how to improve your symptoms. The reason being is that IBS is very much an umbrella term for a number of different things that could be going on. When it comes down to it, the most likely root cause for indigestion of any kind is that your body is using resources to support the "fight or flight" part of your nervous system, and therefore taking focus away from our "rest and digest" component of our nervous system. We need our nervous system to turn on those lovely digestive juices to properly digest and breakdown our food, absorb necessary nutrients and eliminate toxins and inflammation. When we are too busy being just that, too busy, causing stress, insomnia and avoiding that (necessary) breakdown we can ultimately wreck havoc on our digestive systems. Some people may end up with too little stomach acid, causing heartburn, or SIBO causing constipation, and others an overgrowth of Candida causing more bloating, as well as skin issues and mental fog. We are all individuals therefore our bodies respond differently. 

Luckily there are a few things you can do today to start improving your digestive symptoms:

  1. Take a deep breath! I know it sounds simple, but a couple deep breaths can go a long way to decrease cortisol levels and shift your body back into β€œrest and digest.” This is especially important before eating any meal. If you tend to work through your lunch break or run out the door with your breakfast, you are not giving your body the much needed time and support to properly digest that meal. I love meals with loved ones as we tend to slow down and be present while we eat (with the exception of holidays where there seems to always be too much food! :)). So whether it is simply taking a few deep breaths before your next meal or a plan to eat with a friend at work, you are taking a step towards better digestion. 

  2. Drink chai tea. Herbal medicine can work wonders to decrease bloating! Carminative herbs, such as fennel, ginger and cardamom work to calm the digestive track by decreasing muscle spasm, eliminating gas and soothing the gut lining. They are best used after eating. A carminative tea you can make at home that tastes great is this caffeine free chai tea. Boil 4 cups of water with 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp crushed cardamom pods (5-6 pods), 1 tsp black peppercorn and 2 tbsp sliced ginger for 10-15 minutes. Strain this and drink after a meal on its own or mixed with nut milk and a little honey. Yum!
  3. Get your twist on. These days we are quite sedentary working at a desk or computer all day. Our digestive track is ultimately one big muscle that benefits from being massaged once and awhile with abdominal twists. It is like ringing out a towel to relieve any excess gunk we don’t want. Try a few twists at home such as the one shown above or find a yoga class near you that will most likely incorporate a few twists in a class. 

Additional testing, food elimination and more detective work may be helpful to uncover the root cause of your digestive concerns, in order to create a more individualized treatment plan. Looking for more support? I'd be happy to help. I offer free 15 minute consults to see if Naturopathic Medicine is the right fit for you!

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

(Photo credits: divalikes.com; corepoweryoga.com)