Optimizing digestion is the cornerstone to your hormonal and overall health. A robust digestive system gives rise to a body that has the capability to nourish your body, mind and soul.
Regardless of the reason a client comes to me, digestion is often the first area we support and bring some vitality back into.
If you’re coming to me for acne we look at digestion. If you’re coming to me because of heavy flow and depression, we look at digestion. If you’re coming to me because you’re exhausted beyond measure and have endometriosis or PCOS, you guessed it we look at digestion first.
Even those coming in with more complex digestive disorders such as Crohn’s or colitis, we start with The Steps to Optimizing Digestion For Hormonal Health because optimal digestion sets you up for vitality.
Why is digestion so important for hormonal health?
The connection to digestion and say diarrhea, gas or bloating may have a more direct relationship in your mind than the menstrual pains you experience. You may be asking what does digestion have to do with your breast tenderness, chin hairs and monthly mood swings?
If digestion is weak you aren’t getting the full benefit out of your food. You aren’t able to utilize the raw material it takes to fuel and support the liver, to help balance the hormones through daily detoxification. You aren’t able to use the raw material to build hormones; you aren’t optimizing digestion for hormonal health.
You need the raw material to maintain and/or repair the damage to the gut so that the good bacteria can modulate the immune system, thyroid gland, neurotransmitters (brain-gut connection) and the adrenals.
Digestion and Inflammation
Weak digestion can be a huge source of inflammation, discomfort and frankly make for some loud and stinky embarrassing moments.
By reducing inflammation, a massive stressor in the body, you are taking the strain off the adrenals and seeing improvements in inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis.
Part of optimizing digestion is promoting the elimination processes (pooping). Constipation and diarrhea creates major inflammation in the digestive tract. Supporting health bowel movements is essential for reducing inflammation along with the removal of toxins, including hormonal metabolites.
The Steps to Optimizing Digestion For Hormonal Health
There are a variety of tips and tricks you can use to bring your digestive power back up. The best part of this list is that most of these suggestions are free or cheap. You have the power and capacity to take control of your health today.
Here is a quick overview of some of my fav suggestion to Optimize Digestion For Hormonal Health. Further down the page you’ll find a bit more detail on each to up level your digestion.
- Lemon water
- Ginger tea
- Digestive bitters
- Digestive supplements
- Chew your food
- Eat mindfully
- Limit water intake during a meal
- Eat fermented foods
- Warming spices
- Temperature control
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- Chai tea
- Heat up that belly
- Yellow and orange foods
- Emotional blockage
Where to start?
There are a variety of activities and choices that you can make to encourage a robust digestive system ranging from what you do before you eat to during eating, to afterwards and even how you prepare your food.
Choose one or two options to start Optimizing Digestion For Hormonal Health today.
Even before you start eating you can prepare and stimulate your digestive system. This has great benefit because you are giving your body a warning to start producing digestive enzymes and hormones it needs for optimal digestion.
A quarter of a lemon squeezed into a cup of water is an excellent way to wake up your digestive system upon rising. It stimulates the digestive juices and helps to promote a bowel movement.
The additional 1-2 cups of water first thing in the morning will help bring your hydration game up too.
Digestive bitters are one of my favourite ways to wake up and strengthen the digestive system. They can come in a range of forms from tinctures, drinks, tonics and bitter foods.
The bitter flavour has a powerful effect on the body stimulating the flow of stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes. They help to tonify the digestive system.
Eating a salad with bitter greens such as dandelion greens, arugula or radicchio before your meal helps to prime the digestive tract.
Alternatively you could take a bitters tincture 15-60 minutes before a meal to help get your digestion on point.
Starting a meal off with a small cup of warm ginger tea brings in warmth and fire.
Think of it as the pre- warming of your tea pot with hot water before adding the tea.
You want the digestive fire to be potent and unwavering when starting your meal. A small hot bevy with ginger to stimulate the gastric system is a win-win.
Taking a digestive enzyme can help alleviate symptoms of weak digestion such as bloat, gas, constipation, feeling full after only eating a small amount or feeling too full hours after eating.
Some digestive aids contain everything all in one with full spectrum digestive enzymes, betaine hydrochloric acid (HCl) and bile salts or animal bile (such as ox bile). You can also find these digestive supplements individually sold.
There are many digestive enzymes and aids on the market and having a discussion with your nutritionist, practitioner or doctor will help you discover where you need the extra support or if they are even necessary for you.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) can have a stimulating effect in the stomach to aid in digestion, reduce bloat and gas.
It can be taken before a meal or after a meal if you find you need that extra digestive pick me up.
Drink ~ 1 tbsp ACV diluted in water to get that food moving along.
Now you’re ready to eat, the food party has begun.
Chew Your Food
First things first, chew your food, chew your food, then chew your food some more. Keep chewing until your food is a paste or liquid. This often takes 20-40 chews per bite depending on what you are eating.
The denser and drier a food is the more you will need to chew it.
If you only choose one option from the list of Steps to Optimizing Digestion For Hormonal Health I recommend that you chew your food more.
It starts the whole digestive process through physically breaking down the food. The longer you chew the more saliva you mix in. Saliva contains digestive enzymes to start the chemical break down of mainly carbohydrates in your mouth.
Slow down and chew on
Prolonged chewing ensures adequate saliva. This is important because saliva contains leptin and grehlin, two hormones that regulate the suppression and rise of appetite respectively. Together they are part of the signaling that goes to the brain to tell you to stop eating.
Saliva contains good bacteria (the mouth has its own microbiome), antibodies and anti-microbial compounds that help regulate the health of the digestive tract (and you).
Simply chewing your food until it is a paste takes massive strain off the rest of your digestive tract. It provides enough time for communication between the stomach and brain to ensure you are not over eating , it actually starts digestion so the remaining digestive organs don’t have to work overtime, it increases nutrient absorption, it reduces gas, bloating, and regulates bowel movements.
Eating mindfully doesn’t mean you have to be in a meditate state. It is simply a reminder to come back to the task at hand, eating.
Pay attention to what you are eating, the smell, the colours, the tastes. Be aware of your actions.
Shovelling food in without a second thought, hardly chewing between bites all the while watching tv or on your phone or in the car. This puts you on alert, in action mode using your sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls fight or flight.
You want to be in the parasympathetic nervous system where you are relaxed, where blood flow and energy are going towards digestion.
Eating with limited distractions, ideally simply focusing on your meal or with in the company of others eating puts your energy towards the task at hand, eating.
Limit Water Intake During a Meal
Yes drinking adequate water throughout the day can be a challenge but I want you to focus on drinking your water away from meals.
Drinking too much water during a meal dilutes the stomach acid and digestive enzymes, reducing the digestive power.
I love fermented foods, they offer an unbound potential for your health. Specific to digestion, any food that is fermented is already partially broken down. The good bacteria and/or yeast started the digestive process for us before we have eaten it.
When food is fermented it becomes more nutrient dense because the good bacteria have made the nutrients more bioavailable to us.
The sauerkraut you eat with your soup not only is partially digested already but it aids in the digestion in the whole meal you ate it with too.
Talk about giving a big high five for those of us with digestive issues!
Imagine your stomach as a fire pit. If your fire was weak with hardly a flame you wouldn’t put ice or cold, wet food on it.
You would nurture the flame until it was mighty and roaring. If you then put a little bit of cold wet food on the flames it wouldn’t skip a beat.
When the upper digestive tract is weak nurture that fire pit. You want to feed it warming spices such as cinnamon, clove, fennel, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic and black pepper.
Many of these spices and herbs stimulate saliva and bile flow, pancreatic enzymes, soothe gastrointestinal cramps and ease gas and bloating too.
They are also high in antioxidants making them a key addition to your wellness journey.
Another temperature consideration is focusing more on cooked and warm foods think soups, stews, curries and casseroles.
Limit cooler foods and drinks such as ice water, salads, very cold smoothies and raw foods is recommended during the digestive rejuvenating process. These reduce the digestive fire and may be difficult to digest.
Food Allergies and Sensitivities
You know those foods that you choose to eat even though you know you shouldn’t? The ones that create the reactions and discomfort and pain? The ones you eat to feel good for a minute but regret later? Yeah those ones, stop eating them.
This is not a blanket statement to stop eating dairy, gluten, soy and whatever else the hot ‘no-no’ food is this week. This is an invitation to listen to your body and stop eating the foods that make you feel like crap.
When you eat that orange even though you damn well know you are going to get cramps later but you do it anyways, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. You are creating inflammation and damage to your gut. You are betraying your internal healing and innate wisdom.
Food diaries are the best tool to help uncover potential food sensitivities to remove them temporarily until your body is again capable of digesting and absorbing it.
Post Food Party
It’s the after food party if you will. Now that you’ve eaten your incredibly satisfying and soul nourishing food there are still ways to up level your digestion.
A small chai tea is a wonderful after meal digestive soother and supporter.
I’m talking about the real spices, the warming and digestive soothing ones mentioned above, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and ginger.
Don’t over do it to prevent gastric acid and enzyme dilution, a little cup goes a long way.
Heat on the Belly
Similar to temperature control in food, bringing external heat to your belly can aid in digestion.
Putting a warm water bottle on your stomach and abdomen area helps bring the blood flow and energy into the digestive tract. Plus it feels wonderful and forces you to s l o w d o w n helping to ensure the parasympathetic nervous system is switched on to maximize digestion.
Food For Thought
A couple additional tidbits to consider more on the energetic side of the digestive system.
Yellow and Orange Foods
The third chakra, the solar plexus is the energy center that houses the digestive and accessory organs.
You can find your solar plexus in the center of your torso, around your diaphragm. The colour of the solar plexus is yellow and eating foods in the yellow – orange range may support the affinity of the digestive power center.
Although emotional blockages is the last point on The Steps to Optimizing Digestion For Hormonal Health it can have a large impact on us; our mental and emotional well-being is tied right into digestion.
I could write a whole post on the relationship with the gut-stress-mental-emotional impact on digestion but to keep is simple – our thoughts, unresolved emotional issues and traumas we carry around with us can affect our digestion and elimination.
The stomach and colon especially can hold onto these stressors. Have you noticed when you’re super stressed, can’t let go of an argument or you are grieving bowel movements are often interrupted?
Our thoughts and mental health affect our physical body.
It’s pretty mainstream now that there is a major connection of IBS and stress. Unresolved emotions can be a major stress.
This is a much bigger topic and I am planting a seed for now. There are times you are ‘doing all the right things’ but you aren’t seeing results, your digestion and hormones are still out of whack? Optimizing Digestion For Hormonal Health can be more than drinking lemon water and chai tea.
Sometimes letting go of what no longer is serving you frees up enough space and energy to get you back to your vitality.
If you want to dive into this topic further I would love to hear from you.