Why you should care about digestion

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WHY IS DIGESTION IMPORTANT?

Digestion is a super important aspect of health that many people don’t understand, or don’t care to understand. I urge you to take the time to read through this post to learn a little bit more about your digestion. If you follow my blog, you will soon find out that I am very interested in digestion and how it affects health. I’ve dealt with digestive issues first hand and know what a burden it can be to experience the not-so-pleasant symptoms.

First off, I want to point out that it’s NOT NORMAL to regularly suffer from poor digestion symptoms such as constipation, bloating, heartburn, etc. I have too many clients who just think it’s normal to not go to the bathroom for 3 or 4 days. News flash, that is not normal and you don’t have to live like that. Thankfully there are many simple + natural ways to help improve digestion, but first we need to understand why digestion is important in the first place. Read on.

Digestion is at the root of health and/or illness for so many reasons. When the gut is damaged, many diseases and conditions begin to appear, including: depression, autoimmune diseases, weight gain/loss, food allergies and seasonal allergies [all of which can be chronic inflammatory conditions]. In fact, even eating the healthiest diet may not do you any good if your digestive system cannot absorb nutrients, which is why we must address the underlying cause of your symptoms. So first and foremost, we need to create a healthy gut environment so the food we eat can be used to support the body naturally. But first we need to look at what causes poor digestion.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE POOR DIGESTION?

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, chances are your digestion can be improved.

  • gas
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • brain fog
  • fatigue

WHAT CAUSES POOR DIGESTION?

1. Poor diet.

A diet high in sugar, soda, refined grains, processed food and fast food [and low in fiber, fruits + veggies, healthy fats, high-quality protein and water] can lead to inflammation in the digestive tract. An inflamed digestive tract lacks the ability to absorb essential nutrients, leading to experiencing any of the negative symptoms associated with poor digestion I noted above.

2. Poor lifestyle decisions.

Being sedentary, smoking, and drug or alcohol abuse can all lead to poor digestion and malnutrition. For people who are chronically constipated, sometimes the simple act of moving more or getting in some structured physical activity can get things moving again. Alcohol or drug abusers tend to make poor dietary choices that include too many processed/convenience foods, or they hardly eat any food at all, leading to malnutrition.

3. Lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on hormone balance, blood sugar regulation and inflammation; all of which can affect digestion. It’s recommended to get at least 7-9 hours of high quality sleep per night. Not only is sleep important for digestion, it’s also been shown to have an effect on your waistline. In fact, people who sleep less than 6 hours per night can consume up to 500 more calories per day than people who get the recommended amount of zzz’s.

4. Stress.

Like sleep, stress can cause serious hormonal imbalances which negatively affect other organs + glands including the adrenals, the thyroid and the liver. Cortisol, the “stress hormone” rises during stress and then normalizes when stress subsides. However, when we chronically experience stress, cortisol remains imbalanced. Too much cortisol can trigger a pro-inflammatory pathway throughout the body [and in the gut], as well as increase body fat storage.

5. Hormonal imbalance.

As you can see, sleep + stress can both cause hormonal imbalance, but so can a poor diet and poor lifestyle habits. Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that play many important roles from regulating your metabolism to shuttling sugar into your cells. Having your hormones out of whack can cause a downstream effect of poor health + poor digestion.

6. Pathogenic [bad] bacteria overgrowth.

Eating too many of the wrong foods and not making enough healthy choices can lead to an overgrowth of pathogenic, or bad bacteria that negatively affect our gut. Surprisingly, our gut makes up nearly 70-80% of our immune system which is another reason why we need to ensure that harmful bacteria are kept to a minimum and probiotic [beneficial bacteria] intake is increased. You’ll find out how to do this in my next post, Supporting Digestion Naturally.

7. Food allergies or sensitivities.

When our digestive tract is inflamed, this can lead to a condition called gut permeability or “leaky gut.” Essentially, this means that undigested foods can leak through the intestines into the blood stream and cause an immune reaction where your body will attack such foods, leading to an inflammatory response. Gluten sensitivities are among the most common sensitivities I see among clients. Others include dairy, soy and sugar, yes sugar.

8. Vagus nerve dysfunction.

Put simply, the vagus nerve connects your brain to your gut. This is important because the vagus nerve sends signals to the digestive tract telling it to contract and release [this movement is called peristalsis] so the food you eat gets moved along the digestive tract in a timely matter. If the vagus nerve is unable to communicate with the gut, food can remain stagnant in the intestines where it can rot/ferment causing uncomfortable gas + bloating, among other not so pleasant symptoms. Dysfunction of the vagus nerve should be addressed with the guidance of a doctor.

 

So what’s the good news? This good news is that making some pretty simple diet + lifestyle changes can dramatically improve digestion and overall health. My next post on Supporting Digestion Naturally will address some tips that can get your digestion back on track in a hurry. It will be up on the blog soon, so stay tuned.

Have more questions?

Contact me here for more information. Or check out my Nutrition Services page here.

 

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Angela Freed

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