As my first blog post for White Dog Studio I figured I should start out with my passion - gut health. Being the start of a New Year, when loosely based resolutions to lose weight and exercise don’t take long to fly out the window, I’d like to focus in on the concept of listening to your body and providing it the recipe it needs to best function. And then simply enjoying the weight loss that often follows. Because what if I told you that poor digestion was a barrier to weight loss? Did you know that? Would it be worth it to address your symptoms of poor digestion if you knew one of the many outcomes would be a few pesky kilos gone?
The vast majority of the population suffer with some sort of digestive disturbances, ranging from general reflux and heartburn to flatulence and bloating, with a smaller but still significant percentage experiencing constipation, diarrhoea, cramping and stomach pains, headaches, nausea, vomiting and feelings of fullness. Perhaps some of you have attempted to cut out gluten for a couple of weeks, to find the alternatives to your normal fare dry, crumbly, over sugared, gross. Others have put it all in the too hard basket and simply avoid certain social settings where noisy farting is inappropriate. Most often, you tell yourself that it’s just ‘normal’. To be fair, it likely does feel normal as you’ve been feeling bloated after meals for so long now it’s all you know. After all, it takes not being bloated and uncomfortable to know what it feels like to be bloated and uncomfortable.
Below are a few simple suggestions to treating your digestive system with the love and kindness it deserves.
Manage your stress.
This will always be the most important one.
Stress doesn't just wreak havoc on your mind; it WILL mess with your digestion! Read all about The Gut/Brain Axis is a hot topic as scientists understand more and more that the mind and body are intricately connected, indeed it is now commonly referred to as “the second brain”. Take the time to work out a plan best suited to you - 15 minutes a day of breathing exercises, moving your body, taking the time to enjoy your favourite past times, counselling, can all help. Only you have the power to decide to deal with stress better.
From the moment you get up! Start the day with a large glass of warm water. Should you feel so inspired, squeeze some lemon juice into it or add ½ a tsp of himalayan salt. Read why here.
Chew your food.
The first step to digestion begins in your mouth with saliva which contains amylase, an enzyme that helps break down starches. Chewing mechanically breaks down your food and also sends a signal to your stomach that food is on its way.
Eat REAL foods.
Focus on whole, fresh foods, such as meat, eggs, fats, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Avoid processed foods and fast-foods, which are typically high in refined salt, sugar, and processed oils. Limit grains, sugar and all refined carbohydrates.
Eat fermented and cultured foods.
Fermented foods are high in "good bacteria" and eating them will help you to regenerate your gut flora naturally. It has been shown that eating cultured food is more successful in repopulating beneficial gut flora than taking store bought probiotics. The greater the variety of fermented and cultured foods you can include in your diet, the better. Try eating sauerkraut, kefir, coconut yoghurt and kombucha. If you have a severe gut disorder, start slowly. Allow time for your internal environment to change and for your digestive system to become healthier and stronger. White Dog will soon be holding its first Gut Healing Workshop so you can learn how to make these foods yourself!
Be good to your liver.
Drink lots of water, eat raw beetroot, carrots and leafy greens. Chew bitter greens before eating, such as rocket, which is easily grown in the garden to stimulate digestive juices. Drink dandelion and milk thistle tea. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.