Gut Medicine: 7 Quick Ways to Avoid or Soothe Unhappy Digestion
Occasional gut issues like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas are really, really common. Part of this is due to stress. And for the 10 to 20 percent of people out there who have IBS, it can be related to a misfire in the intimate relationship between the brain and the gut.
When your gut is unhappy, there are a few things you can do to help it calm down and get back on track. And there are more things you can do to avoid your gut turning sour in the first place.
Eat a healthy diet that’s right for your body. There is no one-size-fits-all diet out there. Because our microbiomes are so unique, everyone responds differently to different foods. Some of us respond much better to mostly warm, cooked foods, while others will prefer raw fruits and vegetables. Some of us digest meat better than others (though in general reducing meat is healthier for the planet). Listen to your body and notice how you respond to the different foods you eat.
Eat intuitively. Our bodies often know exactly what they need, how much, and when. When we ignore our cravings and try to follow some specific diet that’s supposed to be good for us, we might actually be missing out on what our bodies need. Especially if we’re not feeling well, paying close attention to what we feel like eating can provide the key to settling our stomachs.
Sit down (and slow down) while eating. It’s harder to digest when we’re stressed. Both digestion and stress take a lot of energy, so your body will always choose to focus on the stress. Sitting down in a relaxed environment and taking your time to eat can make a huge difference in your body’s ability to process your food.
Sniff and chew. Our digestion actually begins in the mouth, with our saliva beginning to break down our food as we chew and before we swallow it. And sniffing our food before we eat it helps us salivate, preparing our bodies for eating and kick-starting the digestive process.
Drink warm lemon water before meals. Our stomach acid plays a really important role in our digestion, and many of us could use a little bit of stimulation to our stomach acid before we eat (yes, even those of us popping antacids!). Warm or room-temperature lemon water can help to activate our digestive juices and help everything go down a little easier.
Wait 3-5 hours between meals (8-12 overnight). Our bodies have a natural process called the migrating motor complex (MMC), which moves any excess food through and clears out the intestines so they are ready for the next meal. It’s a little like a car wash for our GI system. The MMC will not activate, however, until 90 minutes after our last calories were consumed, and it takes about 90 minutes to move through the whole system. It basically requires that we rest between meals so that it can clear out anything that might have a chance to grow the wrong kind of bacteria.
Soothing Digestion With Diaphragmatic Breathing
Sometimes our digestion flares because we’re under stress or feeling some anxiety. Whatever we can do to calm our nervous systems will generally help our guts calm down. This could include five minutes of diaphragmatic breathing—lying down and breathing as deeply into the belly as you can, slowly in and out. It could also include a few minutes of stretching, a short walk, singing a song, or anything else that allows your system to calm down and remember that it is safe.
by Julie Peters