Episode 033: The Truth About IBS & Secrets to Healthy Digestion
Have you ever had that uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating even the tiniest amount of food? Or had your belly
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Hello and welcome back to the Live FAB Life podcast.
Today we’re talking about one of my favorite subjects - the gut!
If you listened to Episode 028, we talked about what’s a gut issue, and if you listened to it, then you know that pretty much every health condition can be traced back in some way or another, to the health of the gut. This is what makes the quality of food that we eat, so, so important - and how food can be medicine, as well as poison.
Today we’re going to dive a little more into IBS. In Episode 025 I interviewed my client Kristen about how we used Functional Nutrition to address her IBS.
But today, we’re going to explore exactly what IBS is, which by the way, stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, if you didn’t know this.
I’m going to touch a little bit on how it relates to your mental health and I’m going to share with you 10 tips on what to do if you have any IBS symptoms.
So, have you ever experienced: Stomach pains or spasms in your belly? How about diarrhea or constipation? Or maybe both? How about thin stools? Or perhaps mucuous, fat or undigested food in your poop? Nausea? Gas and bloating?
Have you ever had that uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating even the tiniest amount of food? Or had your belly swell so much you look like you’re five months pregnant? Or have you had to excuse yourself from the room to release gas so painful that can barely move because you’re in so much pain?
Gas and bloating is a common, common symptom of IBS. Everyone experiences gas and bloating. It can merely be a sign that you swallowed some air, but when it’s habitual, painfully severe and accompanied by bloating so bad that you have to unbutton your jeans, well, it can also be a sign of IBS.
It’s believed that approximately half of all intestinal complaints are due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It is the most common gastrointestinal complaint which is why I said that you probably are already familiar or have experienced any of all of these symptoms.
You may have already been diagnosed with IBS, like I have.
But here’s the thing: IBS is an umbrella term, meaning, that it can be applied to a number of different conditions.
Have you thought about what causes debilitating gas and bloating? Well, common causes can be: Irritation in your digestive system from eating sugar, caffeine or rancid oils Nutritional deficiencies Infections like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) Candida or parasites Food sensitivities or intolerances and I talked more about food sensitivities in Episode 029 if you want to dive more into this specifically
IBS is usually a symptom of something else going on, and requires further investigation to truly address the “root cause” of what’s really going on.
So all of the things I just listed, the stomach pains and spasms, diarrhea and constipation, abnormal poop, nausea and gas and bloating are all common symptoms of IBS, which you are likely already aware of.
But what about: Headaches? Fatigue? Anxiety and depression? Even stress?
These are also symptoms of IBS.
I mean, I know that one of the main culprits that triggered my IBS was long-distance running. Not only is the effort a huge stress on the body, but before a race, I always had to go to the bathroom so many times because I had so much anxiety before a race.
And I’m not the only one because the porta potty lines before a race a always so long. All that nervousness is stress!
Have you ever heard someone say, "Trust Your Gut!", "Go With Your Gut!", "Listen To You Gut."
You may even be someone who always goes with your "gut instinct" or what is also known as your intuition.
Why are these phrases so common? Because your gut is the "second brain" of your body. You have your actual brain, and your gut is your “second brain.”
For years, researchers have studied what causes our moods to change, causing us to experience stress, anxiety, and even depression. We know that they are linked to serotonin, which is your happy hormone that is responsible for your mood.
Well, 95% of your serotonin is created in your digestive system, and upwards of 75% of your immune system is located in your digestive system.
So if we connect the dots, we can see that what you eat and fill your belly with is directly related to your emotional health.
This is why a healthy digestive system is key to optimal health, yet so many of us suffer from IBS and poor digestive health.
How well you assimilate nutrients from the food you eat, how hard your digestive system has to work to break down foods, how well you sleep, how much energy you have, how much weight you lose or gain, how often you’re sick, what kind of mood you’re in - all of these things are influenced by your gut.
It essentially defines your entire life.
So what can you do to have a healthy digestive system?
Well, my friend, I have 10 tips for you - let’s dive in:
#1 - Chew Your Food How many of you are fast eaters? Or you’re always eating on the go? If you’re doing this, I would bet that you’re not chewing your food well.
When you chew your food, digestive enzymes in your saliva begin to break down the food so it's easier to digest. Digestion requires major energy from your body, so if it has to work harder to digest your food, it’s going to use extra energy which could leave you feeling tired and depleted.
To get into the habit of thoroughly chewing foods, try to chew each bite for 30-50 times before swallowing. I know, that kinda sounds ridiculous, but give it a try, just for a few days to see if that feels normal or not. If it feels normal, cool, you’re probably chewing enough. If it feels odd, then perhaps you’re not. One tip to ease into this is to put down your utensils between bites. It’ll help you to better concentrate on chewing.
#2 - Slow Down! Digestion is about transforming your food into fuel and if you’re always nervous, anxious, frantic, stressed or always "eating on the run," your digestive system can’t function properly. Your body needs you to be calm to digest properly.
Before you eat, take a deep breath, check in with your body and focus on being fully aware and present in the moment. Take the time to savor the taste and aroma of the meal. The calmer you are, the better you’ll digest your food. And slowing down means a FASTER metabolism, and that leads directly to better digestion.
#3 - Soak Beans, Nuts and Grains BEFORE Cooking Phytic acid, found in grains, nuts, seeds, and beans is a gut disruptor and can hamper your digestion and leach vitamins and minerals from your body. So does this mean you shouldn’t eat these foods? Like always, that depends on each person.
But what you can do to make these foods easier to digest is to remove the phytic acid from these foods.
How do you do this?
Well, before cooking, add the grains, beans, nuts, or seeds to a bowl of room-temperature water. You can add 1-2 tbsps of lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar if you like, and soak the grain, beans, nuts, or seeds for anywhere from 12-24 hours. It takes a bit of forethought but again, if you’re suffering from IBS symptoms, it would be worth a try to see if it helps. After soaking these foods, you’ll want to be sure to rinse it thoroughly in a colander, and you can store them in your fridge for up to 1-2 days.
#4 - Check Out and Power Off So hopefully, we’ve established by now that when your body is stressed, it can’t digest properly. It can’t effectively transform your food into energy, or perform all of its other jobs and metabolic processes.
So let’s reduce some of the stressors in your life by putting down your phone, tablet, and laptop. Better yet, power them off. You may even want to turn off your tv, sit down, and gift yourself some quiet time so you can de-stress and digest!
Digestion is not just about digesting the food on your plate; it's also about digesting the life you live. If this sounds weird to you, start by taking one minute out of your day to breathe and think about the things that make you happy. Better yet, write them down so you can go back and reflect on them.
#5 - Get Cultured Add high-quality probiotics to your daily routine and in Episode 032, Mary from Wise Goat Organics educated us on why fermented foods are so healthy for us and why its better to get probiotics from foods versus a pill.
The Greek meaning of probiotic is ‘for life’. So, give yourself the gift of a healthy life and get cultured. with foods like kefir, kombucha, kim chee, sauerkraut and other cultured foods - these are all great ways to improve your digestion.
#6 - Stay Hydrated I don’t know about you, but I kinda take drinking plenty of water for granted. I mean, we all know its good for us, but there are times when I just assume that I do this, but at the end of the day, I realize I didn’t refill my hydroflask once that day!
I like to add flavor to my water keep things interesting! This not only makes it tasty but also enhances digestion if you choose the right additions.
My favorites ways to flavor my water are adding things like fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice, ginger slices, grapefruit, fresh mint leaves, cucumbers or essential oils like lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, wild orange or even peppermint!
#7 - Exercise Too much exercise can actually be a bad thing, and I have two episode on overtraining - Episodes 012 and 016, but, as we all know, moderate exercise is good for us
But did you know that it’s also healthy for digestion?
Healthy muscle tone around your belly helps food to digest properly. It helps to move food through your digestive tract so exercise (without overdoing it!) can improve your digestion!
#8 - Practice Gratitude This goes hand in hand with slowing down!
Before you eat, take a few moments to pause, reflect, and express gratitude for your blessings.
The act of doing this sends signals to your brain to release saliva, which has digestive enzymes that help to break down your food. This lights up your digestive fires which supports your digestion.
#9 - Boost Your Stomach Acid So in Episode 028, I walked you through the entire digestive process, using the example of what happens when you eat a chicken sandwich. And in that episode, I talked about how you want your stomach to be very acidic.
So how do you know when your stomach isn’t very acidic?
Gas, fatigue, headaches, acid reflux and so much more can all be signs of low stomach acid.
You can boost your stomach acid by taking a Betaine HCL (hydrochloric acid) supplement, or you can also start each morning with a lemon water elixir.
To make a lemon water elixir, mix room-temperature water with a capful of raw apple cider vinegar and freshly-squeezed lemon juice (or a few drops of lemon essential oil). You can even add a pinch of cayenne pepper to it as well.
#10 - Avoid Added Sugar and Processed Foods Remember earlier I talked about what causes chronic gas and bloating, and I mentioned sugar, caffeine and rancid oils? Well that stuff comes from processed foods. Yep, even the rancid oils are commonly found in processed foods - check out the food labels and you’ll see them there.
These foods don’t have nutrients - or at the very least, good quality nutrients. If there’s one thing that I’ve come to learn as a health coach, and even as a Beautycounter consultant - where and how ingredients are sourced matters. Quality matters.
And when you eat processed foods, you aren’t getting the quality you can get from eating whole foods. Your body has to use extra energy and withdraw nutrients from its own supply to metabolize poor quality foods. So what happens it that it ends up robbing your body of nutrients instead of adding to it. You want to eat whole foods as much as possible so you’re always filling your nutrient stores with the best quality possible.
So to recap:
- Chew your food
- Slow down
- Soak beans, nuts, grains and legumes
- Check out and power off
- Get cultured
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise, but don’t overdo it
- Practice gratitude
- Boost your stomach acid
- Avoid added sugar and processed foods
I have a handout, a beautiful one if I do say so myself - you guys, the Type A in me LOOOOOVES creating beautiful handouts and guides for you - its my favorite thing to do, so if you haven’t checked out my resources yet, go do it!
I have one for all of these 10 tips that I just shared with you! You can download them, as well as find all of the other related episodes I mentioned over on the show notes at www.livefablife.com/033.
So head on over there to download your copy so that the next time you find yourself suffering from any of intestinal and IBS-like symptoms, you can pull it out and put these things into practice!
If you have any questions, or have a topic you’d like to hear addressed on the show, there’s also a form on my website to contact me and submit your question or request. Honestly, those are some of my most favorite episodes to do.
We’ll see you next week!
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Hi, I'm Naomi
I’m an expert in Functional Nutrition, a nerd when it comes to clean living, and my obsession is debunking fad diets and weight loss myths by teaching others where food meets physiology so they understand where health and healing truly begins.
A San Francisco Bay Area-based health coach, 21-Day Sugar Detox Coach, podcaster and puppy mama to Coco Pop, my happiest days are spent empowering health-conscious women to speak their truth and become leaders in their own healthcare.