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How to Improve your Digestion

Updated on November 6, 2014

Introduction to improving your digestion

Digestion is an important part of your body's daily functions which breaks down food into energy, macro and micro-nutrients for your body to use. Digestion is also an important part of detoxification and immunity as well. Having digestive problems can even have an impact on your mental health and vice versa.

Improper digestion can also cause skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. If you suspect a bacteria, fungal, or parasite infection its important to be looked into. Bacterial, fungal and parasite infections can often cause many health problems themselves and are common among first world countries as well as third world countries.

Finding a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner is worthwhile looking into if your digestion isn't where you would like it. Many other people have problems with low stomach acid. Low stomach acid can actually be the cause of heartburn and is more prevalent than having high stomach acid. Many medications that treat heartburn can even cause or exacerbate symptoms of low stomach acid.

Eating the right diet is important as well for digestion. Many people are either intolerant or allergic to many foods, or not eating a diet right for them which may cause digestive issues as well. While a paleo diet is a step in the right direction it may require some tweaking and adjusting to get it to work for your personal situation.

American Health Original Papaya Enzyme Chewable Tablets, 600 Count
American Health Original Papaya Enzyme Chewable Tablets, 600 Count

I'm not too picky about papaya enzymes, but these work great, and are chewable as well.

 
Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD
Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD

Covers more in depth information on stomach acid and why its good for you.

 

Diet to improve digestion

Going on a paleo diet or template will help a lot with digestion problems. It will take some time to find the right carbohydrate/fat/protein ratio for you. The right macronutrient ratio will depend on a number of factors such as weight, health status, activity levels and in some cases genetics as well. While dairy isn't considered paleo, it may help in some cases, especially if fermented, cultured or raw (yogurt, kefir or raw milk).

An autoimmune paleo diet may be helpful for those dealing with autoimmunity as well. An autoimmune paleo diet eliminates common problematic foods such as eggs, nuts and others. A more explanation of an autoimmune paleo diet is here: http://paleospirit.com/2013/what-is-the-autoimmune...

If digestion isn't improving removing FODMAPs foods (fermentable Oligo-Di-mono-saccharides and polyls), which I find a simple fix, and a complete list of fodmaps foods here: http://cassandraforsythe.com/blog/Complete+FODMAP+...

Removing nightshade fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onions among a few others http://www.livestrong.com/article/265055-list-of-foods-for-those-allergic-to-nightshade/ will help a lot, and some are already included in FODMAPs foods.

A GAPS diet (Gut and psychology syndrome) will help with especially difficult digestive issues, especially when present with mental or other health issues as well. Many people go on the GAPs introduction diet and don't need to go further, others may need to go on the full GAPs diet, experimentation and testing it out will show you what you need to do. The basic premise of the diet is to remove foods worsening digestion and slowly introducing foods until you find foods that you can tolerate and eat. GAPs diet is higher in protein and consists of soups, bone broth and vegetables, but removes dairy and fruit. Fruit is slowly introduced as well over time.

Vegetables and fruit are often cooked or stewed to increase digestibility as well in the diet. The GAPs diet is a grain and starch free diet as well. Starches such as rice and sweet potatoes may be beneficial for some but the fiber in it may worsen or flare up the digestive tract for others. Eggs can also be a problematic food for some, for a number of reasons, you may want to limit or stop eating eggs, especially if you are dealing with inflammation or autoimmunity.

Making bone broth and eating more gelatin can help out your adrenals, skin health and digestive health as well. It's easy and simple to use gelatin to make jello (not the kind with lots of sugar, dyes and additives), and you can use stevia and juice and takes very little time to make. Bone broth is simple and easy to make as well, you will need bones of a whole chicken and organs, with some pepper, salt, water, vinegar and garlic and put on a low heat in a pot or crock pot for at least 12 hours. Broth can be made with beef bones as well, whether using beef or chicken bones you can also add organ meats to add nutrition to it as well (I add beef liver typically to mine).

Bone broth can help with adrenal function, skin health and digestive health just like gelatin does. Broth helps heal and restore the inner lining of our digestive tract and provides some minerals and vitamins as well.

Some find that after cutting out dairy that they are able to reintroduce it into their diet and are able to digest it. Start with raw cow's milk or goat milk but also having yogurt, kefit and kombucha. Cultured, fermented and raw foods are very beneficial to your digestive system, such as kombucha, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and raw cow's or goat milk.

Doctor's Best Betaine HCI Pepsin and Gentian Bitters, Capsules, 120-Count
Doctor's Best Betaine HCI Pepsin and Gentian Bitters, Capsules, 120-Count

This is the kind I use which contains pepsin as well as gentian bitters to stimulate your digestion.

 
NOW Slippery Elm Powder,4-Ounce
NOW Slippery Elm Powder,4-Ounce

Slippery elm can help soothe and heal the digestive system and lower inflammation.

 

Supplements and resources to help your digestion

These are supplements and resources to help you with your digestion.

Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD
Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD

This is the kindle or ebook version of why stomach acid is good for you.

 

Supplements to improve digestion

While taking too many supplements can place a burden on your digestive system, for many they are a necessity. For me I take a colostrum with lactoferrin and multi strain probiotics. Colostrum with the added benefit of lactoferrin and multi-strain probiotics are very beneficial to the digestive system. Lactoferrin can help with those that may have a candida or yeast overgrowth and help limit excess candida.

Candida or yeast in digestive tract is food for the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. In some circumstances, depending on diet (poor diet such as eating lots of sugar), will contribute to excess candida. Excess candida can rob the body of precious iron in the body and also contribute to adrenal fatigue as well. Probiotics are very beneficial and its important to find a multi-strain probiotic with a variety of probiotics.

Low stomach acid is also a common digestive problem many people encounter. Finding out if your stomach acid is low is cheap and easy to figure out. Simply taking betaine hcl (supplemental stomach acid), and waiting to see if there is any heartburn. Lack of heartburn after taking betaine hcl is a sign of low stomach acid. Taking enzymes such as papaya digestive enzymes can also help with digestion as well. To find the proper amount of betaine hcl, it is good to start at a low dose, and increase every day until you find the proper amount you need.

When you start to feel heartburn after taking betaine hcl, decrease the dosage to the amount taken the day before getting heartburn and that is the amount of betaine hcl you will need. I personally take betaine hcl with pepsin and digestive bitters, which helps with protein digestion and also stimulates your body's natural digestion as well. Most betaine hcl supplements will automatically have pepsin with them but its important for digesting protein. Betaine hcl should be taken with any large meals with at least 15 or more grams of protein.

If inflammation or autoimmunity is what may be exacerbating your digestion it may be helpful to take marshmallow extract. It helps to soothe and heal the digestive system and reduce inflammation in the body. Slippery elm can also help with lowering inflammation, and healing your digestive tract as well, if possible use both marshmallow and slippery elm in combination.

Castor oil or hydrotherapy is another useful treatment for dealing with inflammation in the digestive tract and also healing your digestive system. Castor oil can be used 4-7 nights a week, and is applied on the abdomen, preferably after taking a bath or shower to warm up the body. After applying the castor oil to your whole abdomen, wrap in a flannel cloth/shirt then in another shirt or towel and then a heatpad or heated water bottle on top of that and done for 30-45 minutes. I typically apply and use right before going to sleep and after 30 minutes I then take the towel, shirt and heatpad off.

Some may need to lay down a towel beneath them and also another towel on top of them if they plan on reading. If possible wash the cloths and clothes used with castor oil every week or two in a washing machine, if not they can be soaked overnight (or for a few days), in a mixture of water, baking soda and laundry detergent. The cloths and clothes can then be sprayed off and dried.

Nature's Answer Alcohol-Free Marshmallow Root, 1-Fluid Ounce
Nature's Answer Alcohol-Free Marshmallow Root, 1-Fluid Ounce

This can help lower inflammation, especially in the digestion tract

 

More supplements and resources to help with digestion

These are some more supplements and resources to help with digestion.

Your Stomach: What is Really Making You Miserable and What to Do About It (Praktikos Health Series)
Your Stomach: What is Really Making You Miserable and What to Do About It (Praktikos Health Series)

this is another book by jonathan wright on stomach and digestive problems.

 
Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life
Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life

A great book coming out in december by Chris Kresser. His website is at www.chriskresser.com he does an awesome podcast and does a lot of health research and writing. He is a real life modern day dr house.

 

Finding help for digestion problems

Some may have digestion problems that won't be easily treated by just diet and supplements. The digestive issue may vary but may require outside help and guidance from a qualified health professional.

I would not recommend seeking out a gastroentologist, they may be able to treat severe health issues such as crohn's disease, or severe gut issues but from personal experience they don't know how to get at the root of the problem. I would rather recommend a doctor or naturopath who practices functional medicine and also embraces a paleo or paleo template diet.

There are many problems that may be affecting your digestion, it may be due to a bacterial, yeast overgrowth, fungal or parasite problem. I would recommend, especially if covered by health insurance to get a Metametrix GI stool test, as I have heard it will not only show potential gut issues but also levels of beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the digestive tract as well.

Finding out more specifically what the problem is will be a huge help with digestion. In some cases, antibiotics, medications or other treatments may be necessary.

To find a paleo physician in your area check out: http://paleophysiciansnetwork.com/

To find a functional medicine practitioner in your area check out: http://www.functionalmedicine.org/

Also while not solely focused on digestion I highly recommend checking out Chris Kresser's website at: www.chriskresser.com. Chris Kresser has lead me to not only find some current doctor's I have but also help find out what my own personal health issues are as well.

What kind of digestion problem do you have or have had?

See results

How to improve your digestion - videos on digestion

How to improve your digestion with supplements, therapies and more.

How to improve your digestion with supplements, therapies and more.

Improving your digestion with some simple steps

Remove problematic foods, try Paleo, or GAPs

Supplement wisely to improve stomach acid, digestive enzymes and reduce inflammation.

If necessary seek out qualified help from a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner.

NOW Castor Oil, 16-Ounce
NOW Castor Oil, 16-Ounce

What I use and sometimes buy at stores, is fairly cheap as well.

 
Wool Flannel 12 x 27 - 1 - Pack
Wool Flannel 12 x 27 - 1 - Pack

What to use when using castor oil.

 

Castor oil and other resources to help with digestion

These are some other resources that may help your digestion.

Heritage Store Castor Oil Pack Kit
Heritage Store Castor Oil Pack Kit

A starter kit with flannel cloth, castor oil and castor oil towelettes that help clean off castor oil once you are done.

 

Naturogenix - Natural supplements and therapies

Natural supplements and therapies for those dealing with chronic conditions such as mthfr, methylation, detoxification defects, chronic fatigue syndrome, metabolic syndrome, thyroid issues.

Disposable Castor Oil Pack
Disposable Castor Oil Pack

These can be used to protect your bed from castor oil and also help it from leaking through, this doesn't contain castor, just a pad you can apply to your body and on your bed. One side is absorbent and the other side is plastic.

 

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    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 3 years ago

      Good read! Worth the time. Great lens! Sundae ;-)

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      JaredHeldt 3 years ago

      @TapIn2U: thanks

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