Some say that our “second brain” is the digestive tract, so yes, it may be true that feeling good starts in the gut. Now that the holiday season is past, you may notice that the last month put stress on various body systems: immune, emotional and of course digestive. Here are some easy ways to rebuild and restore your digestive process:
- Take probiotics – Probiotics are the “good bacteria” in your gut that are essential for optimal health. Some probiotics are found naturally in our food, but most of us need an extra supplement to adequately populate the digestive tract. Good sources include: Kombucha, yogurt and probiotic supplements (best brands: Jarrow & PB8).
- Eat cooked foods instead of raw foods – Cooking foods makes less work for your stomach – it warms food both physically and chemically. A variety of cooked vegetables should be the mainstay of your diet. This knowledge is backed by thousands of years of medicinal food knowledge (Chinese and Ayruvedic Medicine systems). Some percentage of raw foods may be appropriate for you; The greater your “digestive fire”, the better you may be able to metabolize raw foods.
- Eat room temperature and up – Your digestive organs work best when warm. Digestive enzymes can only work in a certain temperature range, so cold foods will inactivate those enzymes. This advice goes for fluids too – try to drink room temperature or warm drinks instead of cold ones.
- Relax while you eat – Eating any meal should involve sitting down and nothing else. Your body needs all it’s energy to digest in an efficient way, so moving around, working or being involved in a highly stimulating mental activity is not ideal.
- Chew – Many people do not chew their food! Chewing is the first part of the digestion process and is absolutely critical in the digestion of all food, especially carbohydrates. The enzymes in saliva are there for good reason as they are the first line of attack in breaking down foods.
- Wait until you are hungry – You body knows when it it is time to eat – your chatty relatives do not. When you feel the hunger building, this is your sign that the your gut will get the maximum benefit from a warm winter meal.
If you have chronic digestive issues, a Licensed Acupuncturist can help. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are very beneficial for strengthening digestion and reducing pain, gas, bloating or other symptoms of impaired digestion.
Here are five examples of foods that are considered healthy or at least considered good choices for dieting, but that can actually lead to weight gain. The first four options on this list can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, but if you are looking to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you are better off finding alternatives. Losing weight can be easy if you focus on a natural health diet and make lifestyle changes you can stick with. Focus on natural organic foods and avoid processed, ready made foods whenever possible.
Yogurt can be a healthy food in a balanced diet due to it containing probiotics and calcium. However if your goal is weight loss, yogurt may not be the best choice for you. Most store bought yogurt contains high fructose corn syrup and probably somewhere around 20 grams of sugar per serving. Eating two containers of yogurt nearly has the same sugar content as drinking a can of soda. Opt for the light version of yogurt, and you get stuck with artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Tip: Consider the use of a calcium supplement instead of dairy.
Juice is another healthy food that is best used in moderation while trying to lose weight. A 16 oz glass of orange juice has 50+ grams of carbohydrates, the same as 4-5 pieces of bread. Juicing removes the fiber from fruit and you are left with a glass full of fruit sugars. Tip: Try watering down your juice or simply drinking water.
Fat Free Salad Dressing – Salads are a great way to incorporate veggies into your diet. However, fat free salad dressing is not the way to go. Fat is needed by the body to aid in the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. Also, while the dressing is low in fat, it usually has replaced that with an increase in carbohydrates and sodium. Tip: Make your own salad dressing with organic olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dijon mustard.
Granola Bars – Despite some good ingredients and a package full of healthy marketing messages, granola bars are often closer to candy bars then a healthy snack. Granola bars often use a few different kind of sweeteners as well as oil to help them stick together. On top of that they often try to put in chocolate, dried fruits or other ingredients high in sugar. Grab a granola bar for a snack and you might end up consuming 30+ grams of sugar, a few hundred calories and somewhere around 8-15 grams of fat. Tip: Don’t eat granola bars as a snack, instead use them as a light lunch or breakfast on the go.
Diet Soda – The can may say zero calories, but there are a few reasons why diet soda drinkers gain weight. People think if they skip their regular soda for a diet soda, they can have additional food, which is often worse than the original soda. Also artificial sweeteners have an incredibly sweet taste and leave your body craving other foods that can match their sweetness.