Key Steps To Improving Your Digestion And Bowel Health

IBS diet
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The Basics

Focusing on the basics is an integral part of healing the gut and recovery from IBS. We cannot expect a sound and robust digestive system if we don’t have the proper foundations in place. You wouldn’t start to put the roof onto your house until you knew you had a solid foundation in which to do so. I cannot reiterate enough the importance of getting this right. I have detailed below the instructions for you to follow to ensure you have this nailed. Be patient. This takes time to achieve and needs to be practised regularly. Once practised regularly, it becomes a habit and then it doesn’t feel like work.

Everyone will approach this slightly differently. If it feels overwhelming to make so many changes straight away, then work with one at a time. Get one nailed, then move on to the next. Work at your own pace, see how you feel and notice the improvements as you progress. You have this for life.

Follow this rule: Eat like a KING at breakfast and a PAUPER at dinner – quote on Rhside of page

Starting your morning with an abdominal massage in a clockwise direction is a great habit to get into.

The massage stimulates the movement of food and waste through your gut. At times, motility is slowed, which leads to a build-up of toxic waste in the gut. Re-circulating toxins puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your liver. The liver is the site where we detoxify. When it is overworked because your elimination channels aren’t opening effectively, the body becomes polluted. This can lead to symptoms, even diseases, if left unchecked.

By massaging your abdomen each morning, you are effectively helping your waste to eliminate alleviating pressure off your liver and the whole digestive system. If we have waste stuck in our colons, we can experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas, distention, abdominal pain, and flatulence. It never ceases to amaze me when clients come into the clinic for a colonic, and tell me they open their bowels daily, just how much waste is still left inside. God help the people who poop once a week like I used to.

The damage is far-reaching. The gut is the epicentre of the whole body. I recall a client once telling me about her mother, who at age 60 had her entire colon removed as it had become putrefied. Imagine that. This lady had opened her bowel on average 3 times a week for the majority of her life. I guess she thought that was normal, or perhaps she’d been told by her doctor it was normal. I hear this all too often from my clients.

Have hot water with lemon every morning.

Make it the first drink you have, unless you’re taking aloe vera juice, in which case make it the second drink you have. Water is vitally important to our overall health and weight, not just our gut health. Hydration is key to cleansing. I’d encourage you to use a good filter or buy in glass bottles, not plastic. Plastic is riddled with chemicals. These chemicals leach into the plastic, and then you ingest them. This puts a strain on your liver’s capacity to detoxify. The thinner the plastic, the worse it is. If it’s been in the sun, it’s even more likely to have leached chemicals into your water. We want to enhance our health, not destroy it!

Before each meal, start to focus on your breath.

Breathe in for 3 and out for 6. Or, if that feels too much, try breathing in for 2 and out for 4. Breathing in this way helps to take us out of our stress response, our sympathetic nervous system, aka ‘fight or flight’ and moves us into our parasympathetic nervous system ‘PNS’ aka ‘rest and digest’. When we engage our PNS, we secrete more hydrochloric acid, stomach acid and digestive enzymes needed to break down the food we eat. This helps with digestion right from the get-go! Less stress and strain on the stomach, small intestine and colon.

Chew each mouthful of food at least 20 times.

Digestion starts in the mouth. This is where we secrete salivary amylase, an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates. The more work we do in chewing our food, the easier it is for the entire system to digest, absorb and assimilate those vital nutrients needed to keep our bodies and our guts working effectively. If you currently chew very little, you could see some dramatic improvements in your bloating and IBS symptoms by following this one piece of advice.

Sit at a table and fully focus and engage in eating.

When we become truly present and engaged in eating, and it is an art, we experience a calm digestive system. It takes time to master, especially for those who are driven and push themselves hard. The calmer, more centered we are, the calmer our gut will be. Paying attention to the look, smell, taste and texture of our food helps digestion. Through our senses, our bodies know what enzymes to secrete. How awesome is that? This is why when we rush around mindlessly eating, we experience gastrointestinal symptoms. We’ve not given our bodies any opportunity to know what we’re eating and determine what enzymes are needed.

Focus on the taste and texture of your food, savour it, and don’t rush it. Make it an experience. If you really struggle to do this, try putting a mirror across the table so as you can see what you look like when you’re eating. Fast eating is ugly eating. This alone should make you slow down.

Never over-eat

How many times have you eaten until you’re stuffed? You ate way too quickly, reached for something else to satisfy that craving, then felt horribly bloated and uncomfortable. I used to do this all the time. It really is the worst thing you can do. Eat mindfully. Sit at a table if you can, and away from any distractions (TV, phone, iPad). Go and physically hide your phone somewhere. We’re all so addicted to our phones, but they switch us into sympathetic mode (‘fight or flight’). We want to be in parasympathetic mode (‘rest and digest’) when we’re eating. I know it’s difficult, that’s why I say to hide it! You can do it. It’s just for 30 minutes or so. Make it a new habit. You’ll see incredible results. Your body will not only digest better, but you’ll absorb and assimilate more nutrients that your body and gut need to heal.

Drink away from meals

The best advice with drinking is to have some water, fresh vegetable juice or herbal tea about 30 minutes before a meal to help with digestive secretions. Then ideally, around two hours (one-hour minimum) after eating to avoid diluting digestive enzymes needed to help break down food.

Add citrus

Every meal, try to include citrus from either fresh lemon, apple cider vinegar, ideally with the ‘mother.’ The mother is unfiltered apple cider vinegar that contains enzymes which help to digest your food. The bottle usually tells you if it’s filtered or unfiltered. Take it with meals to aid digestion.

Citrus helps to stimulate digestive secretions and, in doing so, helps your body to break down your food more effectively. You can dress your meals with citrus, or take a tablespoon in a little warm water just before you eat. You can also kick start your day with lemon juice and warm water. Simply squeeze half a full lemon into warm water. Tip, take an ice-cube tray and either juice or squeeze lemons and then freeze. Pop a couple of lemon cubes into warm water, let it dissolve and enjoy. You will need un-waxed, ideally organic lemons if you decide to juice. It tastes delicious with the zesty rind.

Fasting and Rest your gut through intermittent fasting. It’s soooooo good!

Your digestive system requires energy to digest your food. Whilst it’s doing this, it’s not using its full capacity to heal. So abstaining from food for long periods of time gives the gut a chance to rest. So give it a break! I used to eat constantly. I really didn’t do myself any favours.

A great way to easily fast is to have a light early evening meal such as some soup or a smoothie and then fast until midday or later if you’re not hungry. I’m often amazed by how long I can actually go without eating anything. I feel so much better for it, so I really encourage you to give it a go. It’ll help stabilise your blood sugar levels. It’s the spike in insulin that makes us hungry. So we tend to be hungrier when we eat than when we don’t. We should only really eat when we are hungry.

Intermittent fasting also greatly helps to improve the MMC, migrating motor complex. This is how the small intestine clears bacteria and waste to prevent build-up that could lead to SIBO. We need to fast for a minimum of 12 hours, ideally 16-18 hours. Start with an overnight fast and build on from there. But be sure to listen to your body. We are all unique. What works for one, may not work for another. If you feel unwell when you fast, this is a sign that fasting isn’t right for you right now and that’s ok.

It’s important to Avoid Raw foods

I know you probably don’t want to hear this. Eating raw food is good for you, but right now, if you’re experiencing a huge amount of digestive issues, I would either temporarily avoid it or have it earlier on in the day when digestive juices are higher. But be mindful to chew, chew, chew and chew some more! You might find steaming or using a slow cooker more helpful and easier on the system, especially in the evening.

Start every morning in gratitude. Spend 5 to 10 minutes or whatever you can muster on being grateful for all that you have.

Really connect with those things. It’s the feeling that shifts our energy and vibration onto a positive polarity. Hence, we attract more good into our lives and are less likely to succumb to stress and anxiety. It’s been said that just 5 minutes a day can really alter the mind and reduce anxiety. Give it your best shot. Do it consistently for 2 weeks and note how you feel.

If you want to learn more about IBS diet you can visit Inner Health Clinic – Transform Your Gut in Stockport or call 07712 620909 for an appointment.