Digestive Issues and Lifestyle Links

There are steps you can take and foods you can make to help keep your GI tract happy.

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In recent posts, we’ve talked about mindfulness and meditation as a way to maintain focus while managing stress and anxiety. When we hold onto stress, it can have adverse effects on our bodies. There is evidence to suggest that we can reach optimal health by tempering our stress levels and developing physiological awareness.

In especially hectic times, for example, digestion often suffers. If you are feeling the discomfort of gas, bloating, constipation or any other common digestive issues, it might be worth examining any contributing lifestyle factors.

Our bodies love routine – regular exercise, a sleep schedule, meal times. When this routine is suddenly altered, our bodily functions can be impacted. If you are a woman, it’s also important to consider how variations in hormones during different phases of your cycle can affect your digestion. I use an app called MyFLO. You can input your symptoms, exercise and more, and the app will give you suggestions based on your symptoms and needs.

Quick tips:

  1. outdoor hikingEat slowly and chew food well. Digestion begins in the mouth, and while your body will work to break things down, chewing helps the process happen efficiently. Chewing also begins the release of digestive enzymes, which help to process your food.
  2. Drink lots of water. Dehydration can lead to constipation. Hydration isn’t just about quenching thirst – it also helps to lubricate your GI tract. If you’re having trouble drinking enough water, consider dressing it up with fresh herbs and fruit. Mint and cucumber make for a yummy combination.
  3. Get lots of rest. Remember, your body needs a chance to reset and repair itself. Without proper rest, your body will not function optimally, digestion included. This is why digestive issues can be triggered by travel, as our usual routines are thrown off. If you’re having trouble staying on schedule, try using a sleep alarm to remind you to hit the sack.
  4. Exercise regularly. Exercise has the ability to strengthen our GI tract. Exercise increases blood flow, which means more oxygen is delivered to your major organs, including your colon.

In my case, there are specific things that trigger digestive issues, such as lots of travel, lots of stress or accidentally eating something on my food-intolerance list. Put some effort into figuring out what your own triggers might be. Once you recognize them, even if they cannot always be avoided, you can be more proactive about addressing them.

Over the years, I have found recipes that work for me in soothing inflammation and improving digestive function. I’m sharing them here, in the hopes that they might be helpful for you as well. But please, do diligence for your own circumstances and take active steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Bear in mind that these recipes may help tame mild digestive issues, but if or when you suspect more severe conditions, you should consult a physician.

Digestion Recipes: 

Anti-Inflammatory Asian Broth

This can help prevent inflammation, however, if you are already experiencing gas, bloating or stomach pain, leave out the chili paste, as it could further agitate the symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory Asian BrothIngredients

  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon (alternately, you can use chicken broth or bone broth)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili paste (optional)

Preparation

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then add bouillon cube. Stir occasionally to help dissolve, then stir in ginger, garlic and soy sauce, and remove from heat.
  2. Allow to cool a bit, then sip slowly and enjoy.

Makes 2 servings.

Notes: This soothing broth is meant to calm your upset stomach or nausea between meals, or to be used at the broth base for a delicious soup. Ginger is very effective for calming inflammation and curing nausea symptoms. Garlic is very effective at killing harmful bacteria in the gut, so it is smart to make it a part of meals when you’re feeling under the weather.

Chai Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 banana, frozen
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen  blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon chai seeds

Preparation

Blend until smooth and enjoy.

Makes 1 serving.

Notes: This delicious smoothie combines the calming, anti-inflammatory properties of ginger with the high fiber benefits of the berries and chia seeds. This is a great drink for constipation, and can be enjoyed any time of day.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cubed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup cashew milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Himalayan sea salt to taste

Preparation

  1. Cover sweet potatoes with water and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for 20-25 minutes or until fork-tender. Extract one cup of the sweet potato broth and set aside.
  2. In a blender, add sweet potatoes, cashew milk, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, salt and broth. Blend until smooth, and add more water for thinner consistency, if desired.

Makes 2 large servings.

Notes: The combination of starchy sweet potatoes with soothing spices is easy to digest and healing for your gut. Enjoy a bowl of this simple soup after a long week of travel where you eating habits may have been off track, or when recovering from an upset stomach. Turmeric and ginger soothe inflammation, and cinnamon is also great for an upset stomach as it is especially good at removing excess gas.