Jordan Douglas, MS, HHC
Digestive woes tend to run rampant during the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and running through into the new year. Supporting healthy digestive function is incredibly important to ensure we are assimilating the nutrients we’re consuming and effective eliminating waste materials. Our digestive system is intimately tied to our immune system (about 70% of our immune system is in our gut!). As you work to keep your immune defenses strong this winter, don’t forget about your gut. Here are 5 of my top tools and tricks for supporting healthy digestion, through the holidays and beyond.
- Chew your food. Digestion starts in the mouth, so it’s very crucial to start the digestive process off on the right foot by taking the time to chew your food well. Not only does this enhance our initial mechanical digestion and help to facilitate the chemical digestion that is to follow, but also the process of chewing helps us to really engage our sense of taste, allowing us to savor and enjoy our food.
- Eat plenty of fiber. Fiber comes in two forms – soluble and insoluble – and both are essential for digestive and overall health. Fiber helps with healthy stool formation and motility and also serves as food for good microbes in the gut. It supports feelings of fullness, which can help to minimize food cravings. Adequate fiber intake also helps to support healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Most adults need about 25-35 grams of fiber daily. Dark leafy greens, legumes, whole fruit and nuts and seeds are all good fiber sources.
- Digestive bitters. These are bitter herbs such as gentian, burdock, yellow dock, dandelion, ginger that are taken 10-15 minutes before meals. They work by stimulating the bitter receptors on the tongue, which signals our gut-brain axis that it’s time to eat. They help to make sure that our digestive tract is functioning properly both physically and chemically. In this way, they support proper nutrient absorption and assimilation as well as healthy elimination. They can also help to increase or normalize appetite, and to curb sugar cravings. Urban Moonshine is my go-to for bitters.
- Digestive enzymes. Our bodies make and secrete digestive enzymes to break down our foods, but we don’t always make enough, especially when there is GI compromise. Digestive enzymes (either broad spectrum or targeted for known trouble foods e.g. fats, dairy, gluten, etc.) can be helpful. Enzymes can be taken before or after meals.
- Eat mindfully. Too often, we race through meals or snacks as we’re multitasking or dissociate from the experience via various forms of media. If you’re experiencing digestive woes and are prone to eating on the go or in front of a screen, I invite you to carve out time to enjoy even just one meal with your full, undivided attention. This can be solo or in good company, but the focus should be on the food you’re choosing to nourish yourself with. Set the table, maybe light some beeswax candles and really tune into the present moment. Experience and savor the flavors, and don’t forget to chew!
Want to dig deeper into digestive wellness? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free 30-minute virtual appointment.