How to Heal Your Digestive Problems Naturally (2)
by Justin Faerman
Read the first part of the article
Juicing and Cold Foods
Any food eaten or served cold tends to disrupt digestion to some degree. Our bodies are very warm (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and our stomach needs to heat everything we eat up to this temperature for optimal digestion. Eating cold foods puts enormous stress on our digestive system and causes us to only partially digest what we eat, which as you know, leads to digestive problems. Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to cold foods as damp, which alludes to the effect they have on our digestion. Think of a swamp, clogged and stagnant. Excessive juice or cold foods produce the same effects in our digestive tract.
Drinking fresh-squeezed juice, or any cold beverage regularly for that matter, also introduces excess liquids into our digestive tract as well, which, as discussed earlier, dilutes our digestive juices. Compounded by the fact that they are cold and typically high in naturally occurring sugar, juices can very quickly imbalance even otherwise robust digestion and create digestive problems.
Again, balance is key here. A fresh-squeezed juice a few times a week is usually not a problem if your digestion is strong and healthy. But a juice every day for more than the short term (for example, as part of a cleanse lasting a week or two) is a recipe for digestive problems.
Juicing and cleansing diets make us feel good initially as our body is purified and organ function improves, and so we assume that they are healthy and beneficial in the long term; but the reality is that they can and do burnout our digestion and create noticeable digestive problems quite quickly because they typically rely on juicing, fruits, salads and other cold, damp foods.
In addition to generally consisting of abundant amounts of salad, fruits, juice and other cold foods, raw food diets rely heavily on nuts and seeds which are the most difficult to digest of all foods. Depending on how nuts and seeds are prepared, they contain varying levels of phytic acid and trypsin, both considered ‘anti-nutrients’ because they bind up essential minerals in forms unusable by our bodies and inhibit digestion simultaneously.
They can be broken down to a degree by sprouting, which is commonly done on raw food diets, but this does not remove them completely; and, even in small amounts, they put quite a bit of stress on our digestion and can lead to chronic digestive problems.
For these reasons it is not recommended to engage in strict raw foods diets long term. As a short-term cleansing protocol, or as part of a more balanced overall diet incorporating cooked foods, raw foods can be an incredible asset towards promoting health, but be sure to listen to your body. If you are suffering from digestive problems, it is recommended not to follow raw food diets as they almost always make things worse.
Our digestive secretions are extremely acidic; and when we regularly drink alkaline water or beverages, it neutralizes our stomach acidity, which eventually breaks down our digestion. Alkaline water can be beneficial in moderation if it is naturally alkaline—meaning that it is alkaline due to naturally occurring or added minerals such as those which occur in spring water. All minerals are alkaline, and mixing them with water causes the water to become alkaline. However, many brands artificially alkalize water by passing it over metal plates with slight electric charges, which manipulate the ion balance as a shortcut to alkalinity. The body, as you might imagine, does not react well to these types of ‘processed’ waters and digestive problems form as a result.
Even in healthy diets, there can be a considerable amount of sugar. While it may not be refined, if you are particularly health conscious, eating excess fruit, fruit juices, honey and any other natural sweetener (with the exception of stevia or xylitol, which don’t actually contain any sugar), can actually create digestive problems by weakening your pancreas.
When you eat sweet foods, the sugar contained therein finds its way into your bloodstream (and quite quickly at that). Your body maintains a very delicate balance of sugar levels in the blood; and a sudden influx from eating highly sweetened foods—especially if the sugar therein is refined—causes your blood sugar levels to spike. In order to get things back under control, your pancreas begins to secrete insulin, which then safely transports the excess sugar out of your bloodstream. This is a normal, healthy process; but like anything in excess, it leads to digestive problems.
If you regularly eat sugary or sweet foods, the extra stress it places on your pancreas will cause it to become overworked and ‘burnt out’, just like you would be after working all day, everyday with no break. As mentioned, your pancreas is critical for healthy digestion, releasing a number of vital digestive enzymes to break down foods as they enter the intestines. Over stressing it by consistently eating sugary or sweet foods (whether or not you are aware of it) greatly diminishes its ability to produce enzymes and your digestion suffers. Over the course of weeks, months and years, this can severely affect the ability of the pancreas to function normally and your digestion is weakened as a result.
A piece of fruit or two per day, if your digestion is in good working order, is fine and nothing to be concerned about. However, if you suspect you may have digestive problems, it is best to avoid all sugar or limit your intake to a piece of fruit on occasion until your body gets back into balance.
How Digestive Problems are Formed: Overview and Summary
To summarize so far, the primary ways digestion is disrupted are as follows:
– Not Chewing Properly
– Excess Liquids with Meals
– Excess Juicing and Raw, Cold Foods
– Excess Sugar in the Diet
– Excessive Consumption of Artificial Alkaline Water
By becoming mindful of your eating habits, you can quickly bring your digestive health back into balance. The simple knowledge I have outlined so far of how digestion operates and digestive problems are formed in a general sense is enough to empower you with the foundational skills you will need to maintain resilient digestive strength for your entire life and correct imbalances as they occur.
How to Heal Your Digestive Tract
Healing your digestion has two main components: diet along with herbs and supplements that can speed the process. Diet alone is enough to repair most digestive problems, but is a more drawn out process on the whole. Those who find restricted diets difficult, for reasons social or otherwise, will appreciate the added boost of powerful herbs, supplements and special medicinal foods that can greatly speed up the healing process, sometimes cutting the time needed to restore digestion in half or less.
Guidelines for The Digestive Healing Protocol
1. Always listen to your body.
If whatever you are doing is too intense or uncomfortable, back off and move at a slower pace, giving your body the space it needs to heal at a pace it is comfortable with. Consequently, if you feel like a gung-ho approach is doable and necessary, then by all means give it a try.
“Give yourself space to enjoy life; after all this is why you are engaging in the digestive healing process—to get more enjoyment out of life”.
2. Maintain balance.
Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes two fundamental forces in the universe that apply to everything in life, diet included—Yin and Yang. Keep this in mind as you work to heal your digestive problems. Balance forward momentum with rest, activity with peace. If you feel like breaking the rules and ‘cheating’, then give yourself space to enjoy life; after all this is why you are engaging in the digestive healing process—to get more enjoyment out of life. So, apply that wisdom to the healing process as well and keep everything balanced.
3. If your symptoms worsen or you suspect there may be more at play, consult a Naturopathic, Ayurvedic or Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor for guidance. Although the recommendations below are safe for anyone, if in doubt, get it checked out.
The following suggestions, with the exception of eliminating artificial sugars, are only necessary until you get your digestion functioning back at optimal levels. At that point, you can reintroduce foods and see how your body is reacting to them. If you feel fine, then you can include them in your diet in a balanced manner.
Foods to Emphasize
Ideal Foods for Healing Digestive Problems
– Whole, gluten-free grains (brown or any other colored rice, non-GMO corn, millet, amaranth, quinoa, etc.)
– Beans, lentils and other legumes
– Vegetables of any kind
Eat in Moderation When Healing Digestive Problems
– Nuts and seeds, sprouted or roasted
– Fermented foods*
Recommended Oils & Fats
– Coconut oil
– Olive oil
Seasonings for Healing Digestive Problems
– Celtic, Himalayan or other unrefined salts
– All natural spices and herbs
– Always choose whole, organic, unprocessed, non-GMO foods whenever possible
– All food—with the exception of fruits—ideally, should be cooked
– Limit intake of liquids and cold foods when eating
– Chew food thoroughly
Foods to Reduce or Eliminate
– Wheat and other gluten-containing grains
– Cheese and milk products
– All artificial and refined sugar and limit natural sugar intake (honey, fruits, juices, etc.)
– Eat nuts and seeds sparingly; and if so, make sure they are sprouted
– Pay attention to how your body reacts to eggs. If you feel fine, you may continue to eat them; however, many people find them to be difficult to digest
– Limit intake of soy products
– Be careful when eating at restaurants, as all of the above-mentioned foods are frequently added in copious amounts to improve flavor
*In small amounts, these can sometimes help, but they can also hinder, primarily because they are damp, wet and cold. As always, listen to your body.
**If your digestive problems are severe, then fruits may need to be limited. In this case small amounts of berries are usually tolerable.
It is important here to note that the above mentioned foods are not bad for you by any stretch, especially if they are eaten in a whole, unprocessed form (again, with the exception of artificial and refined sugar). In fact, they are all highly nutrient-dense foods that provide many health benefits and should be included as part of a well-rounded diet. However, if you are suffering from digestive problems, they can be aggravating because of their difficulty to digest. Eliminating them from your diet in the short term will allow you to heal much faster, so you can get back to eating the foods you enjoy once again. If unsure, check in with your body and see how it reacts when you eat them.
The time needed for your digestion to regain its strength and digestive problems to heal is largely influenced by how closely you follow the suggestions in this article, your individual mindset and life circumstances and how deficient your digestion has become. For someone who is tenacious and committed, great progress can be made in a few weeks. For others, it may take a bit longer. Remember you are reversing a pattern that may have been months or years in the making, and so it is important to be patient and give yourself space during the recovery process. That being said, if you follow these suggestions even loosely, you should start to see progress immediately.
July 20, 2019