Digestive Health Solutions

Is something off with your digestion?

Address the cause with these solutions.

digestive health

Earlier this month we posted blogs about Bloating and Constipation. Over the past few weeks we’ve also been posting on Instagram about common ways to resolve these issues. Here, however, is a more thorough approach with step-wise solutions to improve your digestive health.

Chronic Bloating

Step 1: Address daily habits that contribute to bloating
  • Stop chewing gum and breath mints
  • Eliminate carbonated beverages
  • Avoid mouth-breathing throughout your day
  • Prepare your own meals. Know exactly what you’re putting in your body.
  • Cease taking over-the-counter pills/medications. If you are on prescription meds and you think these could be contributing to your digestive issues, speak to your doctor about alternatives.
Step 2: Encourage proper digestion
  • Schedule time for your meals (block off a non-negotiable 30 minutes for all meals) and set a timer. Each meal should take at least 20 minutes to complete:  Take time to chew and taste your food, breaking between each bite (put down you utensils, take a drink of water, etc.).
  • When you are finished eating, take 5-10 minutes to move: Walking is the ultimate digestive-aid in contrast to sitting after meals which compresses the abdominal organs and hinders digestion.
Step 3: Eliminate problem foods

This step can take several weeks, which is why it’s always important to cover your bases with Steps 1 & 2 before committing to any elimination diet.

A more detailed explanation of the most common bloating offenders can be found here, but the list includes:

  • Cruciferous & high-fructan vegetablesbloating
  • Legumes
  • Quinoa (and again, soy)
  • Dairy
  • Wheat/barley/rye products
  • High-fructose foods
  • Sugar alcohols

Start by eliminating all of the above foods for 4 weeks. Once bloating has subsided, reintroduce foods one at a time every 4 days: you can choose the order of reintroduction based on which foods make your life easiest but keeping a close eye on symptoms. The more thorough and patient you are, the better your results will be.

Step 4: Address any underlying stress and trauma

If bloating remains after Steps 1 through 3, the issue is possibly psycho-emotional or linked to a deeper underlying cause. The recommendation at this point is to seek some professional counselling or gut testing. If you’re not sure where to turn, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here and we can put you in touch with an appropriate Health Professional.

Chronic Heartburn/Acid Reflux

For years it was believed that heartburn and acid reflux were caused by having an excess of stomach acid. Although this may seem like a logical cause, research has shown that the majority of these issues are caused by the exact opposite: not having enough stomach acid.

When stomach acid is low, food doesn’t digest well and either remains too long in the stomach, or undigested food sneaks into the gut. This results in an increased production of gasses (which is the primary cause for bloating), and eventually leads to stomach acid being forced up into the esophagus as the gasses work their way back out of the body.

Step 1: Address daily habits that contribute to bloating:
  • Stop chewing gum and breath mints
  • Eliminate carbonated beverages
  • Avoid mouth-breathing throughout your day
  • Prepare your own meals. Know exactly what you’re putting in your body.
  • Cease taking over-the-counter pills/medications. If you are on prescription meds and you think these could be contributing to your digestive issues, speak to your doctor about alternatives. Please note: If low stomach acid is the cause and you’re currently taking a PPI, speak to your doctor about ultimately weaning off safely.

Please note: Taking PPIs or Antacids to prevent heartburn masks the painful symptom but makes the root cause of the issue worse. It’s paramount to work with your doctor towards stopping these medications entirely to achieve a full recovery.

digestive healthStep 2: Eliminate blatantly inflammatory foods
  • Remove all fried foods, fast food, and any processed food items that contain hydrogenated oils or trans fat (read the ingredients label if you’re not sure).
Step 3: Encourage proper digestion
  • Schedule time for your meals (block off 30 minutes for all meals) and set a timer. Each meal should take at least 20 minutes to complete. Chew and taste your food and take breaks between each bite (put down you utensils, take a drink of water, etc.)
  • When you are finished eating, take 5-10 minutes to move: Walking is the ultimate digestive-aid in contrast to sitting after meals which compresses the abdominal organs and hinders digestion.
Step 4: Take a swish of something acidic prior to meals
  • A 50/50 mix of 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar and water is a common and effective recommendation to raise stomach acid prior to meals.
Step 5: Supplement meals with digestive enzymes (if necessary)
  • If the problem has become chronic, supplementing meals with digestive enzymes containing pepsin can help the stomach with the breakdown of food. This is a good temporary solution while working to increase stomach acid: Low stomach acid is often paired with lowered production of digestive enzymes as well.

Continue with this protocol until symptoms have subsided completely for 3 weeks and then wean off the extra acid from Step 4 (and enzymes from Step 5, if they were necessary).

Please Note: Acid & Enzymes should not be used as permanent solutions but are instead stepping stones to restoring improved levels of stomach acid & digestive enzymes.

Chronic Constipation

Step 1: Avoid taking pills/medications unless absolutely necessary
  • Constipation is often the result of other medical concerns or as a side-effect of medications. The first step to resolving constipation is to stop taking all over-the-counter medications (Advil, Naproxen, etc), and to speak to your doctor about other alternatives to prescription medications that cause constipation.

Please note: Do not take laxatives or enemas as these will do more long-term damage than they will good. If you need instant relief, take 1-2 tsp of unbuffered vitamin C crystals (which can be purchased at any drugstore); this will clear you out without damaging your gut lining of gut flora.

Step 2: Ensure you are hydrated, active, and nasal breathing
  • Digestive health suffers when factors relating to baseline health are ignored. For more information please read this blog post, but make sure you move/exercise daily, drink 2-3L of water, and avoid mouth-breathing throughout your days.
Step 3: Adjust your fibre intake accordingly
  • If you eat a low-fibre diet (less than 15g/day, or any diet low in fruits/vegetables), it’s time to increase veggies, berries, and starchy-whole carb sources.
  • If you eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables (over 25g/day) and have been trying to increase fibre without relief, do the opposite: Remove as much fibre from the diet as possible to give your bowels a break. Yes, remove all fruits and vegetables, and opt for more processed carbohydrate options.
Step 4: Change your pooping process and reduce overall sitting time
  • If you sit all day, set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch at least once every 45 minutes. Set up a plan of precisely what movement(s) you will do to make sure you listen to the timer vs ignore the prompt and vaguely promise yourself you’ll do the next one.
  • If you read on the toilet (book or phone), stop immediately. Defecation should take just a few minutes at most. If you’re looking for more solo time, we won’t blame you for staying in there but please stand up.
  • Get a Squatty-Potty to ensure your knees are above your hips so that you are squatting (not SITTING) on the toilet (or alternatively put your feet on some stacks of books to achieve the same position as you would with a Squatty-Potty).
  • Stretch your hip flexors daily.

constipation

Step 5: Address any underlying stress and trauma

If constipation remains after Steps 1 through 4, the issue is possibly psycho-emotional or linked to a deeper underlying cause. The recommendation at this point is to seek some professional counselling or medical help. If you’re not sure where to turn, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here: If your issue is beyond our scope, we can put you in touch with an appropriate Health Professional.

Chronic Diarrhea

If your bowel movements are chronically urgent and loose (lasting more than 4 weeks), you could be having a major problem with your digestive health. Short bouts of diarrhea are common and associated with viruses, stress, and other transient or benign concerns. Chronic diarrhea, however, is almost always the result of a larger condition that needs to be addressed.

Step 1: Go see a Doctordigestive health
  • Chronic diarrhea will often be the result of an infection (notably if you have recently travelled to a tropical or developing country), or alternatively IBS or other bowel disorders (Crohn’s, colitis, etc.). People with chronic diarrhea should also be screened for Celiac Disease.
Step 2: Encourage proper digestion
  • Schedule time for your meals (block off 30 minutes for all meals) and set a timer. Each meal should take at least 20 minutes to complete. Chew and taste your food and take breaks between each bite (put down you utensils, take a drink of water, etc.)
  • When you are finished eating, take 5-10 minutes to move: Walking is the ultimate digestive-aid. That said, if walking entails rushing to the washroom, return to Step 1.
Step 3: Eliminate problem foods

Please see our blog on bloating for a complete list of foods that irritate the gut, but with diarrhea, here are the top-5 food items to target and eliminate:

  1. Dairy: It is possible to become more intolerant to dairy as you age. Dairy is the top culprit to remove when it comes to diarrhea.
  2. Sugar alcohols: Chewing gum and mints, and any “low sugar” food items that are sweetened with sorbitol, xylitol, etc.
  3. Trans fats/fried foods: Artificial fats found in processed snack foods and fast food, as well as any type of deep-fried food.
  4. High-fructose foods: Soda is the main offender to remove, but all fruit should be eliminated in an attempt to determine if fructose is the culprit.
  5. Caffeine: Energy drinks, coffee and tea.
    • BONUS: Supplements: Magnesium citrate and unbuffered Vitamin C (natural relievers of constipation) are often culprits of diarrhea. While Mg and VitC are not inherently bad, consider a different form of each if causing diarrhea.

If removing these items doesn’t resolve your diarrhea, then move on to remove other known irritants such as cruciferous & high-fructan vegetables, legumes, quinoa, soy, eggs, nuts, and wheat/barley/rye products.

Step 4: Address any underlying stress and trauma

If diarrhea remains after Steps 1 through 3, the issue is possibly psycho-emotional particularly if you’re experiencing periods of higher stress mentally or physically. The recommendation at this point is to seek some professional counselling or medical help. If you’re not sure where to turn, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here: If your issue is beyond our scope, we can put you in touch with an appropriate Health Professional.

Bonus: Ensure you are hydrated
  • Chronic diarrhea means you will be losing a lot of extra water through your bowels. If you notice that your urine is dark in colour (yellow/brown), it is paramount that you increase your water intake to fend off dehydration.

Summary

As you can see, issues with digestive health share many similarities but treatment can vary significantly. The most important take home message here is that you find the root cause instead of reaching for a Band-Aid solution that could make things worse. Many medications on the market are designed to treat uncomfortable symptoms and get people hooked by reducing initial discomfort but ultimately making the underlying cause last longer.

The solutions listed above can take weeks to implement and require attention to changes in habits. Addressing the root cause means putting your health first and gaining a greater understanding of what allows you to thrive. With a little patience, you will eliminate your symptoms and avoid any additional side effects. Please share this information with any loved ones who suffer with their digestive health and don’t hesitate to reach out for any further assistance.