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Digestive Issues Cramping Your Style?

Often, we tend to overlook the importance of our digestive system and don’t give it much thought. However, when it stops functioning properly and we experience unpleasant symptoms like gas, bloating, cramps, or constipation, it can be overwhelming and all-consuming. In addition to these discomforts, people often seek support for gut issues such as diarrhea and frequent bowel movements, which can require plotting out nearby bathroom stops or even keeping spare clothes on hand due to accidents. These issues can also manifest as seemingly unrelated symptoms like night sweats and unexplained weight loss or gain. We may accept these conditions as “normal for us” and learn to live with them, particularly if medical professionals are unable to provide answers.

The Prevalence of Digestive Issues

Ignoring the Signs

According to a 2013 study, almost 75% of the participants experienced digestive discomfort for at least six months. However, only 37% sought medical help from their doctor. Interestingly, 56% of those who experienced discomfort did not seek medical attention because they believed their symptoms did not require it. This is one of those conditions that we like to call “common but not normal.” Due to its prevalence, people may assume that seeking help is unnecessary, simply because many others also experience similar issues.

Overlooking digestive issues can be perilous, as they may indicate an underlying health condition. If you experience persistent or severe digestive symptoms, it is crucial to consult a doctor to identify the root cause and rule out any serious concerns.

What if it’s Nothing Serious?

The good news is, most of the time, relatively simple dietary changes can bring about big changes in your gut health. Targeted changes to your diet and lifestyle can go a long way. Nonetheless, it is important to note that certain gut imbalances, although not “serious,” can have lasting effects on your hormone levels, immune system, nutrient absorption, digestive capacity, and other aspects of your wellbeing.

Good Digestion: It All Starts With Chewing Your Food

When experiencing digestive issues, it is always best to start with the basics. Chewing your food properly is a simple yet effective step that supports the digestive process and enhances nutrient absorption. This is because chewing initiates the digestive process both mechanically and chemically. Mechanically, it breaks down food into smaller particles, increasing its surface area, and enabling digestive enzymes to work more efficiently. Chemically, chewing stimulates saliva production, which contains the initial enzyme that triggers other enzymes, leading to complete digestion and optimal nutrient absorption. Eating too quickly or while distracted can hinder proper chewing, so it’s essential to set aside sufficient time to enjoy your meals. If this is a new habit, scheduling mealtimes like any other priority can help establish the practice.

Digestive Health Tests Can Uncover Imbalances

Integrative, functional, and naturopathic medicine are experts in optimizing digestive health. We offer specialized microbiome and other laboratory tests to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms, even if your regular checkup did not result in a diagnosis of digestive disease. Our toolbox includes a range of strategies to evaluate your digestion and uncover any issues, such as:

    • Conducting stool tests to analyze the unique composition of bacteria and yeast in your gut.
    • Testing for markers of inflammation
    • Checking pancreatic enzyme levels
    • Looking at food sensitivities and immune markers, as well as celiac antibodies
    • Evaluating for nutritional deficiencies, diabetes indicators, liver function, stress hormones, and more.

4 Steps to Supporting Good Digestion

Eat a Digestion-Focused Diet

The food you consume has a significant impact on your digestive health. Opting for nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods that are packed with enzymes can help promote healthy digestion. A variety of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits are available year-round to choose from.

Probiotic-rich Foods

Including probiotic-rich, fermented foods in your diet such as unsweetened probiotic yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut can help fight harmful bacteria in the gut. Probiotics also lower the pH levels in the colon, promoting the health of your gut lining and nutrient absorption.

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats play a vital role in encouraging gallbladder function, which aids in mineral absorption from food. Incorporating healthy options such as avocados, nuts, seeds, oils, and fatty fish into your diet can support your digestive system while nourishing your body.

Avoiding Irritants

Reducing sugar and caffeine intake can also aid in digestion by minimizing irritation caused by gas and unfriendly bacteria. Harmful bacteria that cause gas and cramps thrive on sugar and multiply quickly. Stevia can be used as an alternative to sugar, while herbal or rooibos tea can provide an energy boost midday instead of an extra cup of coffee, which can irritate the digestive tract.

Reducing sugar and caffeine intake can also aid in digestion by minimizing irritation caused by gas and unfriendly bacteria. Harmful bacteria that cause gas and cramps thrive on sugar and multiply quickly. Stevia can be used as an alternative to sugar, while herbal or rooibos tea can provide an energy boost midday instead of an extra cup of coffee, which can irritate the digestive tract.

Here are some ways to improve your digestive health:

1 – Increase Fiber

High-fiber foods absorb water to form a gel-like substance that feeds good bacteria in the gut and soothes the intestinal wall. This adds bulk, which facilitates the passage of waste through the system. Eliminating waste quickly is crucial for detoxification and disease prevention.

2 – Stay Hydrated

Dehydration leads to constipation. Water is required for producing digestive enzymes, moving nutrients from food to cells, hydrating soluble fiber to clear the digestive tract, and coordinating muscle movement. The digestive tract comprises muscles that require coordinated, wave-like contraction.

3 – Reduce Stress During Mealtimes

Stress causes constipation and other digestive symptoms as the body directs water from the digestive system to serve immediate survival needs. Digestion requires a calm state. Sit at a table, breathe slowly, avoid screens, savor good food and company—this all helps to transition into rest and digest mode.

4 – Engage in Physical Activity Exercise can improve the rate of digestion.

Gravity and movement stimulate receptors in the colon, which triggers peristalsis that pushes digested food through the digestive tract at a regular pace. As the digestive health pioneer Dr. Bernard Jensen said, “After your meal, sit a while, then walk a mile.”

Helping Out Your Digestion with Supplements

Digestive Enzymes

For many of us these days, eating well, chewing well and relaxing are not quite enough to bring balance back. If meals still have you feeling overly full, your enzymes may need some support. Our nutritionists can help you to find the right enzyme supplement for your symptoms. Digestive enzymes can be found in papaya and pineapple.


The good bacteria in your digestive tract supports gut health by breaking down specific carbohydrates, soothing the lining of the gut wall and producing hormones such as serotonin, the “feel-good hormone.” Maintaining that microbiome is essential for avoiding digestive problems like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea – and for mental health.

A good quality probiotic supplement can help replenish and balance your gut bacteria, and it’s one of the foundational supplements we recommend for most clients. Ask us for guidance on which one would be best for you.

Need help with your digestion? No worries! Our team of expert nutritionists is here to help you get back on track. Book a breakthrough session today and say goodbye to digestive distress!

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