Everyone needs it in order to live. But what happens when food become a detriment to your body rather than a source of nourishment? Nobody wants to feel gassy, bloated, or in pain after eating a meal, and yet these are the types of digestion problems that millions of people suffer as part of their mealtime ritual. Food items that should be producing energy and providing physical sustenance, in other words, are actually hurting them. But the question is… why?
For some, allergies are to blame for digestive issues. For others, it’s the growing number of chemical toxins in the food supply. For still others (perhaps most people) it’s a generalized gut imbalance. This imbalance can stem from not having enough digestive juices − including vital enzymes − to effectively break down food so the body can effectively use it.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that as many as 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from some type of digestion problems. Nearly 50 million ambulance calls are made every year for folks who suffer severe digestive episodes, while more than 21 million hospitalizations take place for the same reason. And, quite soberingly, nearly a quarter of a million people living in the U.S. die every year because of digestive disease.
These are worst-case scenario digestive problems, mind you. Millions more people suffer from everyday stomach aches, indigestion, acid reflux, and gastrointestinal upset after they eat − and perhaps you’re one of them. Such symptoms might be common in today’s society, but they’re certainly not normal. So what can you do to overcome them and actually enjoy eating a meal rather than dread it?
Here are 5 tips that can help prevent and/or alleviate many common digestion problems:
#1: Take Probiotics
Your digestive tract isn’t just a set of mechanical tubes through which food enters and travels through the body. It’s a vibrant ecosystem made up of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics that functions as a living organism to support the body. It does this by taking the foods you eat and breaking them down into smaller molecules, which are passed through the wall of the digestive tract into the bloodstream for use throughout the body.
This diverse probiotic environment within the gut also functions as a powerful immune defense against pathogenic invaders and toxins. The billions upon billions of beneficial bacterial strains that live within the gut serve as a well-trained army to let the good in while keeping out the bad. These bacterial strains also function as the bulk of the body’s natural immune system. If fact it can be up to 80 percent of the immune system, which is why it’s critical to keep them in check.
Besides eating probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir, taking a probiotic supplement can help keep the body’s “second brain” fruitful and multiplying. Maintaining a healthy probiotic environment will help ensure that the gut is adequately and optimally processing the foods you eat, while also protecting you against digestive disease.
#2: Drink Plenty of Water
Another important part of maintaining optimal gut health is to drink plenty of clean (filtered) water − at least a gallon per day, especially if you work out or lift weight. Hydration is essential for keeping the intestinal tract smooth, flexible, and clean. Without water, food can become hardened and impacted, leading to constipation and buildup. It then starts to rot from the inside, creating a toxic environment that both damages gut bacteria and progressively destroys the other digestive co-factors that process nutrients from food while discarding of waste.
In his book Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life, author Carl Zimmer explains how hydration is essential for maintaining healthy gut flora. Dehydration can also cause immune cells in the gut to go awry. This can lead to a situation where the immune system is no longer able to differentiate between the good and the bad that enters it − not a good thing for your health. When hydrating, be sure to drink purified or spring water that is free of fluoride, chlorine, and other pollutants commonly found in municipal water supplies.
#3: Learn How to Manage Stress
Believe it or not, stress is also a major contributor to gastrointestinal upset. Since the gut and brain are intimately connected on a neurological level, what you think about − and more importantly, what you worry about − often gets transferred to areas inside your midsection. Your gut then responds by releasing various secretions to offset it, including those involved in the “fight or flight” response that over time can take a huge toll on the health of your body.
Then, there’s the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” scenario. Stress is known to cause damage to the gut in the same way that a damaged gut is known to produce more stress. In many cases simply due to the way that compromised digestion harms brain chemistry. The solution here it to learn how to better mitigate daily stressors, which may include adjusting your work-life balance and making more time for family and friends.
If you don’t effectively take care of the stress in your life, your body will progressively lose its ability to absorb nutrients, oxygenate the gut and blood, ward off disease, manufacture enzymes, and perform vital repairs and maintenance. In other words, your body and its systems will deteriorate as a result of having to try to overcome the abuse it’s being exposed to.
#4: Supplement with Digestive Enzymes
Similar to probiotics, the digestive enzymes that your body naturally produces are designed to break down the foods you eat into substances that your body can use for maintenance and repair. Your body also relies upon food enzymes that exist naturally in raw and fermented foods. Unfortunately, these are foods that many people do not consume nearly enough of to maintain a healthy digestive flow, often leading to digestion problems.
Full-spectrum digestive and proteolytic enzyme supplements can help bridge the gap here and give your body that extra boost it needs to take full advantage of the nutrition you put into it. This still requires eating healthy and following the other advice outlined in this article, but it’s also an important piece of the digestive puzzle that you simply can’t overlook when trying to correct or avoid digestive disease.
#5: Eat More “Living” Foods
Where many of these recommendations converge is diet, which when it’s properly aligned can tie in probiotics, enzymes, and hydration into one single package. “Living” foods are foods that haven’t been processed, cooked, or pasteurized. In many ways these types foods represent an all-in-one solution to the problem of digestive problems and disease.
Raw foods grown without chemicals or irradiation in healthy soil are the healthiest kinds of foods you can feed your body. Raw foods that have been fermented, cultured, and/or sprouted using traditional preservation methods can be even better. This is because they contain enhanced levels of probiotic bacteria and enzymes, both of which unlock the full nutritive potential of food and make it optimally bioavailable for the body. Just remember to chew your food thoroughly to make it suitable for reception into your digestive tract.
Some examples of living foods that can help with digestion include:
- Chia, hemp, and flaxseeds
- Organic fruits and vegetables
- Probiotic foods like kombucha, kimchi, and kefir
- Raw milk, and especially that of a goat, sheep, or camel
- Fresh juices from things like wheatgrass, celery, and green apples
- Therapeutic herbs like dandelion leaf and cilantro, both of which stimulate enzyme production
OrganiZymes from Organixx is a cutting-edge supplement designed to improve digestion and reduce the enzyme load on the pancreas. It provides 17 digestive enzymes in a base of sprouted and fermented superfoods, along with humic and fulvic acid for faster and more complete absorption of vitamins and minerals.