Six strategies for your digestive health
A week after our diet consultation I get a note saying “much better thanks - the smoothies have helped”. (Wow! - lucky to get such a quick result)....
I’m a veterinarian with 20 years of clinical experience in digestion and nutrition, and I’m very passionate about transferring that knowledge to helping my friends and clients. (Here is how that worked for a Pilates client - enjoy the story!...)
A client shares that all is not well down below. Pilates sessions are difficult to get through without a dive for the small room, and it's getting in the way of their enjoying their day. So we sit for five minutes after the pilates session and brainstorm about how to improve their diet and make a list of things to try. A week after our diet consultation I get a note saying “much better thanks - the smoothies have helped”. (Wow! - lucky to get such a quick result).... You can skip to our list of things to try if your time is limited...
We don't go into fine detail about the symptoms because common things occur commonly and the basic diet suggestions that I make have fewer and less dangerous side effects than doctor's meds. It's enough to know that this is a long term problem and that they feel pretty awful while still looking lively on the outside. That’s the veterinary doctor in me – 29 years with animals means I can sense the difference between seriously ill and uncomfortable.
A necessary disclaimer here. I have no qualifications for treating human intestinal disorders – if you feel seriously ill it's best to consult your doctor.
How common are digestive problems?
Very! – For one condition only;- irritable bowel syndrome, estimates range from 12 to 30% of the adult population; If we include mild long term bowel discomfort, I'd pick that 60% of us would like to see some improvement down below.
(See comments under “Introduction” on the following page):-
So as I was saying, the client and I had 5 minutes to spare so we sat down and brainstormed on what could be done with diet and digestion strategies. The beauty of diet and digestive strategies is there are no dangerous side effects, you try some things, and you see what helps!
A week later I get a note saying “much better thanks - the smoothies have helped”. Great! - (And also lucky to get such a quick result).
Make a list of strategies
For digestive problems, make a list of strategies to try – preferably with the help a knowledgeable person - could be your doctor but it doesn’t have to be - and try one or two simple things. Over time you find which strategy or strategies work for you. Don’t worry about lack of high power scientific placebo-controlled, double-blind trials. You are your own research project.
Here’s the digestive health strategies we wrote down:-
(My client was free to use their intuition and try one or two of them).
1. Breathing to relax and get the digestive juices flowing
2. Get digestive enzymes from the health shop
With today’s lifestyle and especially as we get older, most of us are deficient in simple digestive enzymes such as pepsin and stomach acid (Yes I know - stomach acid is not an enzyme, but it acts like an enzyme, and in fact helps the stomach’s digestive enzymes to work). So go to the health food store and ask their advice, and they will recommend a couple of products to try.
(a) Stomach digestive enzymesBetaine hydrochloride
Use this if you don’t have severe acid reflux or heartburn, take strictly with protein rich meals and in accordance with the advice at bottom of this webpage:- - (look for the word “Challenge”):
Read consumer reviews here:
There’s a summary review here:-
(b) Pancreatic enzymes and bile
Use this one if you have heartburn/acid reflux, and especially to help you get off doctor’s or other meds for that condition, click on the reviews button on this page:-
(c) Plant and yeast-derived digestive enzymes
3. A daily yoghurt capsule
(Try someone local, in Southland:
To help encourage a healthy population of gut bacteria. This happens in two ways:- (1) There are live healthy bacteria regularly entering the gut. (2) If the yoghurt bacteria die, they still provide a stimulus to the bowel that encourages healthier bacteria to thrive and take over. I take “the Yoghurt Capsule" because I feel better when I do.
4. A daily smoothie that contains:-
- Whey powder
- An apple with the skin
- An orange with a piece of the skin.
- Spinach greens
All these ingredients provide the right kind of nutrition to feed and support the gut lining and encourage healthy gut bacteria. The apple skin, orange peel and spinach greens all help to replace the fiber that may be lost from eating a fibre-rich wheat - it’s important for those who eat gluten-free to add back fibre into their diet.
5. Fasting to rest the gut and reset the bowel bacteria
Nothing too severe – skip breakfast or don’t eat after 8 pm at night. This allows the gut to rest and repair for a period of 12 to 16 hours. It also promotes healthy populations of bacteria, and helps reverse type II diabetes.
Work with your doctor if you are on doctor’s diabetes meds and intend fasting – but at the same stand your ground if you are told that fasting is bad for diabetics because that is not backed up by research.
6. Avoid wheat and oats
Gluten and wheat intolerance is a vague sort of thing but if Dr Perlmutter - and the following independent research and review articles are right, then a good third of us will feel better on a gluten-free diet, and another third of us may have less obvious health-related benefits. By less obvious I mean auto-immune diseases that take up to 20 years to develop into full-blown symptoms, for example read:-Are Grains Destroying Our Brains?
To repeat, wheat-related problems may take 20 years to “mysteriously” develop despite feeling reasonably fit and active. Among gluten-free dieters, one-third of them can correctly tell if you’ve given them a wheat-containing test meal. How do they know? - Significant increase for the following symptoms: bloating, abdominal pain, stool consistency, tiredness, nausea, foggy mind, depression, mouth ulcers. And for at least another third of gluten-free dieters, there will be health benefits that may only become obvious after a period of months or years. If you avoid the gluten in wheat you also avoid the fibre and other nutritional benefits of wheat. But the smoothie just mentioned will help to add those back in.
Further reading:Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: A Review
Addendum: Gluten free diet reduces auto-immune damage to the thyroid:-
The modern woman's thyroid predicament
According to The American Thyroid Association, 20% or more of females will develop thyroid conditions in their lifetime. I'd say that Thyroid is a very much women's disease and therefore doesn't get the attention that a man's disease would get.
This same prestigious organisation states (on the page just quoted): "The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown". But the commonest cause is known and is listed in the article saying "Hashimoto's" above. The commonest cause is wheat in the modern western diet. Ladies! - If the prestigious American Thyroid organisation doesn't know the cause of your thyroid condition then what chance does your doctor have of knowing? No offence to the doctor.
My bottom line is, you should work closely with your doctor but also be aware of what a doctor can and can't do for you, and fill in the gaps for yourself.
Summary of six strategies for your digestive health
- Digestive enzymes
- Yoghurt capsule
- A daily smoothie
- Fasting strategies
- Avoid wheat and oats