Many of my clients are excited about their new, healthier way of eating; they are feeling better, seeing weight loss and enjoying new foods. But their digestive system isn’t so happy. If you’ve made some healthier changes and you’re feeling bloated, constipated, and even having some lower abdominal discomfort, you’re not alone!
It seems backwards that digestion doesn’t improve when you’re putting healthy foods into your diet. However, any change can create a disturbance in normal digestion. Generally, when you start eating better, cutting out junk, trimming portions sizes and leaving out the grease, you have less coming in which results in less going out. That’s a given. But there are some things you can focus on to keep digestion normal and you feeling good.
Our digestive system, our “gut”, is like a little city in itself, running efficiently and affecting many other systems! Our intestines absorb nutrients, eliminate waste, synthesize vitamins, affect immunity and many many more necessary activities to keep us healthy. When we add more good nutrients and cut out the additives and chemicals, we do experience a detox of sorts as our gut pulls out the toxins and sludge to eliminate it from our bodies. Sometimes things get backed up during this process and we experience constipation and bloating. Here are a few tips to keep things moving comfortably:
1) Drink water – take your weight and divide by 2. That is a good goal to shoot for in ounces of water for the day. It’s not beneficial to drink more than a gallon of water a day but, since our body is 2/3 water, staying hydrated makes everything work better.
2) Add fiber – Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day. Fiber creates bulk and keeps things moving in the direction that we want. If you cut your portions in half but don’t add fiber, you won’t feel so good. Gradually adding fiber helps your system adjust and you won’t experience as much bloating and abdominal discomfort. Fruits, dried fruits, vegetables and dried beans added to salads, soups and casseroles are good ways to add fiber. I would recommend starting with cooked veggies rather than eating everything raw during the first week to ease in to this new lifestyle. Starting the day with a healthy dose of high fiber cereal (10+ grams per serving), choosing whole grains or quinoa can keep you regular as well.
3) Probiotics – these little creatures help to moderate that balance of our whole digestive system, keeping the bad bacteria in check. Antibiotic use, chronic diarrhea, poor eating habits and illness can cause an imbalance leading to digestive disturbances as well as other ailments. You can take probiotics in supplement form but certain foods are also excellent sources: yogurt, miso soup, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi and shakeology. Eating these foods on a consistent basis will keep your digestion regular and you feeling better.
4) Avoid certain foods – it’s not always apparent, but certain food sensitivities can cause constipation. Dairy and gluten tend to be the most common but everyone is different. Keep a food journal and see if you can determine what food creates problems for you. Beachbody’s “Ultimate Reset” is a natural, organic way to detox and cleanse your body of toxins while helping you to determine what foods create problems for you. After 21 days of the Ultimate Reset, I reintroduced dairy and immediately noticed bloating and that annoying pain under my ribs that I’d had for years. I’d never associated it with dairy before. I’ve eliminated dairy and, other than missing the ease of grabbing cottage cheese or yogurt for a snack, don’t miss it and I feel so much better.
5) Laxatives – Unless recommended by your doctor, I would use these as a very last result. Generally, laxatives such as Benefiber, Citrucel and Metamucil work by pulling water into the intestines to soften stool to make it easier to pass. I recommend eating foods naturally high in fiber, making sure you’re drinking plenty of water and getting a daily dose of probiotics before resorting to over the counter remedies.
Making healthy changes is supposed to make you feel better! Be patient with the temporary digestive disturbances as they usually resolve with continued lifestyle change. If you continue to have problems, contact me and we’ll figure out a solution together.
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