9 tips to get your Digestion On Track In The New Year

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With the holidays behind us many of us (myself included) are entering the new year a few pounds heavier and generally speaking not feeling all that healthy. One of the best ways to kick start our health for 2019 is to get our digestion back on track. A healthy digestive system allows our cells to grow, create energy, optimizes our immune system and promote cell repair. If our digestive system is not functioning well, all these areas will be impaired not allowing us to reach our potential. The good news is that making some relatively small changes in diet and lifestyle can make a massive difference. I wanted to write a quick note on the top 9 things you can do to get your digestion back on track for 2019. 

9 Tips To Get Your Digestion On Track

1 - Slow down - chew slowly
One of the most overlooked and easiest ways to improve our digestion. When we slow down, chew longer it will have multiple benefits. It first will break down our food better allowing the stomach to not work as hard to digest our food. The second benefit is that when we eat slowly we tend to eat less. It allows time for our stomach to tell us when we have eaten enough and to put the fork down. It supports better digestion, weight loss and an overall increase in the enjoyment of the food we eat.
2 - Get moving - exercise
Exercise is one of those things we need to do on a daily basis and digestive support is one more reason. Recent studies have shown how regular exercise improves digestion. More specifically, exercise has been found to change the microbiome of the gut improving digestion. The microbiome of the stomach (or gut flora) is the complex community of microorganisms found in the digestive tract that helps us break down food. The less diverse this microbiome is the less effective our digestion will be. It plays a massive role in many areas of our health and in animal studies exercise and the microbiome even shows a reduced risk of colon cancers.  
3 - Stick to warm foods
This is a traditional Chinese medicine rule that has been ingrained in me since I went to school  From both my own experience and clinical observation it is a true statement. Warm foods are generally easier to digest and are a better option for those who are experiencing digestive upset. Stick to foods that are warmed up or cooked while trying to eliminate cold beverages. The body has a much easier time digesting food that enters the stomach at close to body temperatures. Also cooked foods break down easier than raw. Think a hard raw carrot vs cooked softer carrot, the cooked carrot will break down and digest easier than the raw.    
4 - Digestive Enzymes
These are natural components found in a variety of areas of our digestive tract which help break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. When they are in short supply we are unable to properly digest foods. We are able to obtain many types of these enzymes from our food or we can supplement with a high potency product. Some of the foods we should be eating for these enzymes are: Pineapple, Kiwi Fruit, Papaya, Ginger, Miso and Sauerkraut.
5 - Probiotics
Different than Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics are bacteria and yeasts which aid the bodies ability to digest food. We generally associate bacteria as being a bad thing but our bodies are full of GOOD bacteria which help to improve and maintain our health. When these bacteria are out of balance all sorts of problems arise. Things like antibiotic use, excess alcohol, lack of exercise and inadequate sleep (sleep effects gut health) all damage these good bacteria. The good news is that most fermented foods can help build up your microbiome with good bacteria but sometimes supplementation is necessary.  
6 - How Stress Effects Digestion 
Have you ever felt those butterfly sensations in your stomach before a big event? Stress can impact almost every aspect of our digestion and left uncontrolled can lead us down a road of much discomfort. It may not be the sole cause of our digestive problems but it can aggravate most of them.  Stress effects our autonomic nervous system, hormonal system (cortisol levels) and puts us into a fight or flight state. This restricts blood flow to the digestive system, changes the way we breathe and elevates blood pressure. Chronic stress is a big problem for our digestion and is commonly associated with things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and ulcers. Bottom line is we need to properly manage stress in our lives. Stress is a normal part of life, only when it becomes unmanageable will it become a problem.  
7 - Boost Your Fiber 
There is a significant boost to a persons health if they are eating large amounts of fiber. A high fiber diet Lowers cholesterol, normalizes blood sugar levels, reduces cancer risks, supports weight loss and regulates your bowels.  Whats not to like about fiber? There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.  Both are types of plant foods which do not break down or are absorbed by the body adding. Because they are not broken down they add roughage or bulk to the stool. Soluble fiber will dissolve in water to create a gel like substance which passes through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber will not dissolve in water and adds greatly to the bulk of our bowel movements. Both are important to keep our digestive health optimized.  
8 - Drink more water
Another often over looked aspect to our digestive health. Lack of water in our diets will make our digestive system slow and sluggish and not allow us to eliminate toxins properly. Water is also necessary to properly digest fiber (soluble primarily) as it will help soften the stool. Water is also the transportation medium in the body. Lack of water will not allow minerals and other nutrients circulate properly through the body. The amount of water needed varies greatly depending on the individual, environment and lifestyle. As a general rule of thumb 1-2 liters per day is a good goal.   
9 - Acupuncture
This is a natural and effective treatment I use in clinic to help support and improve a persons digestion. It works in several different ways that optimizes our hormones and the nervous system while decreasing inflammation. These acupuncture treatments combined with the changes listed above can have relatively fast results improving digestive health. The points and treatment plan will vary with each individual patient depending on their symptoms and lifestyle. The more specific the treatment plan the faster I expect to see results.  
Acupuncture Study for IBS - Significant Control of IBS Symptoms
These are 9 great ways to improve your digestion. Each person may need to alter or adjust a few things depending on their situation. The basis of our health often relies on a strong digestive system to support our body through other problems. If our digestion is weak it leaves us susceptible to other disorders such as poor immunity. In 2019 I"m hoping you are able to adopt at least a few of these suggestions to get your digestive and overall health on track.  
Best of Health
Dr. Ryan Funk
Doctor of Chinese Medicine