Do you often feel bloated after meals? Gassy? Constipated? Are you feeling worried about these symptoms creeping up with all the heavy meals coming up with family and friends this season?
I get it. I've been there. And I'm here to help!
You know how it's often said that "everything starts in the gut"? It's because it really does. And when we have digestive issues like feeling bloated on a regular basis, it starts to effect everything else: hormones, skin issues, immune system, etc. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I specialize in helping people to find the root cause, or reason why they are experiencing these issues, and to start to heal the digestive tract so that we can eliminate these symptoms from happening all together. But for now, there are a few things I can suggest to help give you some relief from these uncomfortable symptoms, and to have a more enjoyable time over this holiday season.
A LITTLE WARM WATER + LEMON BEFORE MEALS CAN GO A LONG WAY...
If you follow along with my day to day on Instagram, I’m always drinking my cup of warm water with lemon juice squeezed in(with a straw of course, to protect my teeth). This little practice has loads of benefits, one of which is that you’re starting your day on a nice cozy warm note, and that is much less shocking to the body and the digestive tract than introducing something cold or having solid food right away. But in the bigger picture, and the most important reason why this is part of my daily practice is that the sourness of lemon juice promotes the release of stomach acid. I know, I know, in the medical world, stomach acid is deemed “bad” and we want to keep it low. But in fact, we’re finding more and more these days that the release of stomach acid is absolutely critical to our bodies being able to properly digest and break down food. When we don’t have enough stomach acid, our food actually just sits in our stomach for longer than it needs to, creating acid reflux, bloating or that gassy feeling(which we definitely want to avoid, especially during that holiday party!).
WARNING: if you have a stomach ulcer(that you know of), you should not attempt this until it has been healed. The presence of lemon juice will create a lot of pain and discomfort with an ulcer.
THE "HOW TO" OF THE WARM WATER + LEMON:
BOIL WATER AND POUR INTO MUG(ABOUT 8OZ OR MORE)
CUT A LEMON IN HALF, AND SQUEEZE JUICE INTO HOT WATER.
*USE ENOUGH LEMON JUICE SO THAT YOU CAN TASTE THE SOURNESS(THE JUICE OF1/4 OR ½ A LEMON).
WAIT FOR WATER TO COOL TO A POINT WHERE YOU CAN TOLERATE IT.
ENJOY YOUR FIRST MEAL OF THE DAY 15-20 MINUTES AFTER FINISHING.
THE MAGIC OF APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
We all have those friends who swear by apple cider vinegar(ACV) for curing all of their life’s problems. Well, they’re not entirely wrong. ACV, similarly to lemon juice, is helping to promote stomach acid, and that helps to better break down our foods, which is a good thing. ACV is also fermented. The good thing about this is that the fermentation process creates a bunch of good bacteria cultures. And why do we care about that? Because that good bacteria is also what helps us to better break down our foods, creating less problems down the digestive tract and less bloating. BONUS TIP: if you forgot to drink your warm water and lemon juice mixture or ACV and water before your meal, don’t stress! Taking a shot(2-3 TBSP) of straight ACV immediately after your meal can help to break things down too! Acid reflux, bloating, or that gassy feeling after meals can be an indication that the body might need a little extra boost of stomach-acid, which ACV can help with.
BITTERS, ENZYMES & PROBIOTICS
BITTERS: If you thought lemon juice or ACV was harsh, this next one is going to top that! Bitters are exactly what it sounds like: they are bitter tasting herbs that have been dissolved in alcohol, and can be purchased in this liquid form from most health food stores that sell supplements. Following along with the theme of promoting stomach acid, bitter tasting herbs or vegatables(such as arugula or kale) help to stimulate saliva production in the mouth, which trickles down the line to get stomach acid levels up to better break down foods. Additionally, when that stomach acid is released, the body then releases something called digestive enzymes.
DIGESTIVE ENZYMES: Each category of food has its own type of enzyme: there’s some for carbohydrates, other ones for proteins and another set of enzymes for fats. Sometimes, when our bodies aren’t releasing enough stomach acid(for whatever reason), it creates a problem with enzyme production too. This particular problem is something I encourage people to book an individualized appointment to dig a little deeper and find out why this might be happening. But in the meantime, you can purchase digestive enzymes from your local health food store too. Especially if you know you will be having a particularly heavy meal or might be consuming a lot of something that often triggers your symptoms(ie. milk, cheeses, or other dairy products), carrying some enzymes with you to take 10-15 minutes prior to your meal might help to prevent problems after the meal.
PROBIOTICS: these guys are the "good bacteria" in our gut. We all have billions and billions of bacteria all throughout our digestive tract. Some of them are considered "good" because they promote immunity and better digestion and elimination, and some are considered "bad" because the over-growth of them is what causes illness, and all the yucky digestive issues we've been talking about this whole time: bloating, gas, constipation, etc. The reality is, most of the foods(and even stresses) in our lives help to grow the "bad" ones, and a very select group of foods grow the "good" guys. So, we take probiotics in supplement form to increase that level of good bacteria so that they can crowd out the bad ones and create an environment where we have better digestion. To add to the confusion, probiotics come in hundreds of different strains, all of which are specifically geared towards a particular part of your digestive tract and help to relieve a specific set of symptoms. For example, there's a strain that deals with diarrhea, another ones that's good for relieving constipation, and so on. A Holistic Nutritionist would be able to tell you which one might be best suited for your individual needs, or if you have a local health food store that you know of, you can stop in and ask for a general multi-strain probiotic you can take over the holidays.
Kind of like LIFE savers, but with teas that help with digestion! You can try mixing your own healing concoction of lemon juice, honey and fresh ginger, or you can try some other herbal teas that I like to use. One of the most commonly seen brands at a variety of stores is one called Traditional Medicinals. Here are some of my favourites:
PEPPERMINT OR SPEARMINT: specifically good for post-heavy meal. Helps to relieve bloat or gassiness.
GINGER: ginger helps to break things down a bit more, and can be really beneficial if there is every nausea associated with your digestive discomfort.
CHAMOMILE: this one is traditionally used before sleep, but it can have the added benefit of digestive support too. Because it has a mild bitter taste, it can help to break things down quickly and help it all move through.
DANDELION: this one is for the more brave or experienced palates! Dandelion is considered one of the more bitter herbs, and as we’ve learned, bitter tasting foods can help to get stomach acid released, which helps to reduce the bloat. Ideally, you want to drink this tea as a preventative prior to a big meal, but because it’s caffeine-free(same as all of the teas in this category), you’re welcome to drink it any time your heart desires.
CHEW. YOUR. FOOD.
This one is a reminder I give to all my clients, and even to myself on a daily basis, because even I forget! And I know that sounds silly, how could you forget to chew your food? But the reality is, most of us aren’t chewing our food enough. Partly because we live in such a go go go world and we’re always finishing one thing as quickly as we can and then moving on to the next thing. Think about what’s happening inside your body though when we continuously eat our meals in this way: it’s not getting properly broken down in the mouth, creating more work for the stomach. Most of us have the problem of not producing enough stomach acid, so that food that wasn’t properly chewed, now doesn’t turn into the mush that it’s supposed to in the stomach, causing bigger chunks than normal to go from the stomach into the small intestine and then into the next phases of digestion, all along, creating problems, all because the food wasn’t properly chewed up in the mouth. Every other phase of digestion is just playing catch-up from there on. So simply paying attention when you’re eating and chewing your food can make a big difference when it comes to reducing bloat.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
Everything starts in the gut. It's true. Whether you're struggling with hormonal imbalances, PMS symptoms, food sensitivities, eczema, or acne, it can almost always be traced back to digestive issues. The tips mentioned here are certainly not going to solve all of our digestive issues, and there are always going to be individual cases that are different. These tips are merely a starting point to work with, kind of like building blocks towards finding relief. If you are someone who often experiences digestive issues, such as gas or bloating, I recommend you start with these tips and see how you feel. But when you're ready to go a little deeper, and find the root cause of why your body might be presenting these symptoms, and you want to work on healing your digestive tract, I welcome you to reach out and book a one-on-one consultation to get to the root of it.