You may be wondering how there can even be 3 reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems. I mean, why would you want to change if you think everything is okay?
In the office, I hear it all the time… “I have no symptoms or problems that point to my digestive system, at all. I’m pooping a couple of times a week. Only have occasional gas, no food allergies. My digestion is fine.” So, why would you need to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems?
Interestingly, the same people who don’t believe that their digestive system is an issue also talk about headaches. They have missed periods, heavy periods and joint pain. Anxiety, depression, thyroid imbalance and more. Believe it or not, all of those issues can have links to the digestive system and gut health.
What is the Digestive System?
Before we look at reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems let’s look at digestion. Here is a primer on the process of digestion and the digestive system.
Where it Begins
Digestion begins in the mouth. Amylase in your saliva begins breaking down carbohydrates. The mechanical action of chewing continues breaking down food to make it easier for your stomach to continue the process. What you swallow is called a bolus.
Once you swallow, it takes about 6 seconds for the bolus to move down your esophagus, past your epiglottis and lower esophageal sphincter into your stomach.
Where Most of the Breakdown Happens
Your stomach does most of the work breaking down what you eat. Protein digestion begins with Pepsin mixing into the bolus. Other stomach secretions are added and continue to liquify the bolus. Now it’s called chyme. Chyme passes through the pyloric sphincter into the small intestines.
In the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine), pancreatic enzymes (lipase) and bile are added to the chyme and fat digestion begins. Bile helps make fats water-soluble by breaking them into fatty acids and glycerols. (This is one reason why people who don’t have their gallbladder can have difficulty digesting fats!) The duodenum is the body’s primary location for digestion and biggest area for breakdown of nutrients.
Where Most Absorption Happens
Chyme moves through the small intestine from the duodenum to the jejunum, and absorption of nutrients begins. Most absorption happens in the jejunum before chyme enters the ileum. However, B12, bile salts and other products of digestion that weren’t absorbed in the jejunum are absorbed in the ileum. The Ileum walls have villi that facilitate absorption and the majority of GALT cells and Peyer’s patches that modulate the immune system.
Where It Ends
The ileocecal value opens the ileum/small intestine to the colon/large intestine. Water and electrolytes are reabsorbed here. Remaining indigestible waste leaves the body through the rectum, out the anus and into the toilet!
Digestion is more than just probiotics and your gut
As you can see from the path we traced, digestive isn’t just about the gut. Organs range from the mouth and salivary glands to stomach, gallbladder, intestines, and anus. Any disruption or imbalance in any step or accessory can cause issues with your health. It may not be that you suffer with constipation or diarrhea or gas, but you may experience fatigue or headaches, acne or joint pain. You may have an autoimmune imbalance or a thyroid problem or mental health challenges. Digestion, absorption, and elimination are all critical to overall health!
Let’s look at 3 reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems
According to an article in the journal Gut
The condition and function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are essential to our well being. After the respiratory tract, the GI tract constitutes the second largest body surface area, comparable in size to a tennis court. During a normal lifetime 60 tons of food pass through this canal, which is important for well being, but also constitutes an enormous threat to the integrity of the digestive tract and the whole body…
The GI surface is protected by large quantities of important secretions, from saliva in the oral cavity to colonic secretion in the large bowel. These secretions contain factors… for the lubrication of the mucosa and for functions of the GI tract but also hundreds of ingredients of importance for intraluminal microbial defense. The secretory functions are extremely sensitive to foreign chemicals.(1)
Knowing that the GI tract is both very important to health and very sensitive makes it important to protect.
1. Stress, Your Immune System and the Microbiome.
Stress affects the composition of protective intestinal flora. Even if you have no gastrointestinal symptoms, you likely have stress in your life. That alone can impact your health. It is VERY well documented that stress has a major impact on the immune system. 80% of the immune system stems from GALT cells in the intestines. So, protecting your gut with a healthy diet makes sense. (2)
2. Weight Issues and Risk of Disease.
A standard Westernized/American diet is associated with worse microbiome diversity and many accompanying issues, include obesity and other diseases. (3) Releasing excess weight and getting your body to a comfortable and healthy weight for your frame is one way to support your health. Simple dietary shifts and strategies can often help!
3. Mental Health.
Scientists know that there is a link between your gut and your brain. This is the brain-gut connection, or the gut-brain axis. Communication between your gut and brain is a two-way street, involving your immune, hormone and nervous systems.(4) People with gut conditions like IBS or inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or other mental health conditions. Some studies suggest that regulating your gut bacteria could influence your mood and may help to prevent and treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.(5,6) Autism spectrum disorders are also being studied for links with microbiome diversity and how changing microflora may help.(7,8)
What do you think? Do any of the 3 reasons to change your diet even if you don’t think you have any digestive problems resonate with you? Making dietary changes to help support your microbiome can have benefits. What changes you make depends on your current diet and your unique health circumstance. Are you working with a Functional Nutritionist or Dietician? Ask them what steps make sense for you and your health. If you don’t have nutritional support on your trusted team, reach out and schedule a discovery call with me. We will spend 15-20 minutes together, I’ll listen and ask a couple of questions and then share my thoughts on next steps you might want to explore.
- “Ecological control of the gastrointestinal tract. The role of probiotic flora” from the journal Gut 1998;42:2–7
- Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry (nih.gov)
- Links Between Immigration, Obesity, and the Microbiome – The Atlantic
- The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis – ScienceDirect
- Gut microbiome from patients with schizophrenia modulates the glutamate-glutamine-GABA cycle and schizophrenia-relevant behaviors in mice | Science Advances (sciencemag.org)
- Differences in gut microbiome composition between persons with chronic schizophrenia and healthy comparison subjects – ScienceDirect
- The fifferences between the gut microflora of children with autistic spectrum disorders and that of healthy children | Microbiology Society (microbiologyresearch.org)
- Mental Illness: Brain Disease or Gut Disease? | Psychology Today
4 Simple Nutritionist Approved Ways to Get Started when You Feel Stuck
Do you have a desire to improve your health, but you find yourself not knowing where to start?
Does a holistic mind, body, and soul approach feel good to you? Let’s walk through some basics that may be just the thing you need!
Making small changes and shifting based on how your body responds is a simple way to get started on your health. The goal is balance, right? Having the energy to do the things you desire, while feeling really good and being productive so that you can be your best self… You deserve that!
Now, you may think that untangling health imbalance is complicated… and it can be! But, getting started is quite easy.
Here are my 4 Simple Nutritionist Approved Ways to Get Started when You Feel Stuck:
#1. Identify Areas That Need Support
The very first thing you need to is to identify the areas where you need support. Do you struggle with digestive issues or acne or PMS? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you need to lose a few pounds? Or maybe you need time management strategies to help balance time for work, home, social life and self-care?
#2. Track The Basics
Jot down how you sleep, how you feel, your energy level, when you poop (and the quality of your poop).
Why journal? Easy – taking a mental note doesn’t let you review and assess. Actually jotting down the basics lets you actually SEE what’s going on rather than guessing. It may seem overwhelming to journal like that… and if it does, I want you to ask yourself what’s more overwhelming: jotting down a couple things during the day or continuing to feel off your game and not knowing what to do about it?
The beauty of this step and this “ask” is that it’s all about your individual path to wellbeing; no one else’s. You
#3. Track Your Diet
Before you raise your hand and point out that this is another thing to jot in your journal, know that I get it… this is a slightly bigger ask. Thing is, this is no more difficult and really doesn’t take much time. Just jot down what you eat in addition to basics or use an app like MyFitnessPal, to track your diet each day (BONUS points if you track what you’re doing for fitness too!)
Thing is, you don’t have to track forever. This is a for now thing. This is a couple of weeks thing.
#4. Assess and Respond with One Shift
- You made a list of a few things that you think need support.
- You tracked the basics for a few weeks.
- The next thing to do is review your work and assess the situation.
It may surprise you to see that you feel snippy the day after you eat dairy or have less energy on days when you drink less water. Be on the lookout for shifts in focus and memory when you have a difficult night’s sleep and look for changes in your poop around your monthly cycle (yep, that’s a thing).
Once you have the data, one or two things will probably stick out. It may be obvious what action to take to support yourself. For example, if you bloat or breakout after eating dairy, then the logical step would be to ease off the dairy.
If nothing sticks out, go back to your list of things that you know need some work. My suggestion is to experiment for a few weeks and see what happens if you avoid gluten, dairy, caffeine and processed sugar. Those four things are known troublemakers that can disrupt hormones, sleep, digestion/absorption and blood sugar. So many health issues are rooted in those four factors.
Why This Process Works
This process is similar to the model I use as a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner. The ART of Functional Practice includes Assessment, Recommendation and Tracking. Basically, we can’t know what steps to take until we have a clear picture of what’s happening. It’s why I don’t recommend particular supplements or targeted strategies to people in the produce aisle and the same reason neurosurgeons don’t diagnose people at the dinner table. Trusted practitioners take the time to use the tools and training that we know will get results and ensure your safety.
Tapping into the Functional process provides you with a framework not only for action, but for success! Take the four simple steps outlined above and get started. You’ll see that it’s easy to step out of overwhelm when you break it down and start slow. Track your basics and use that information to improve your quality of life as you continue your journey to overall wellbeing.
Start your journey from stuck to health savvy.
- Download your free journal page by clicking here (no strings attached – it’s instant access!)
- Print as many copies as you need AND commit to use them for at least 2 weeks.
- Post below and let me know if you like the worksheets and if this strategy is helpful.
Making a ton of changes all at once can actually cloud the picture! Try the 4 simple ways I outlined above and get started when you feel stuck… your mission is to start small, keep it simple and keep it up!
Before I tell you everything you need to know about turmeric tea, I need to share a bit about turmeric itself.
Turmeric is a plant that is native to Southeast Asia. It is in the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family. The turmeric root has been used as an herbal ally for thousands of years in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
78 percent of the global supply of turmeric comes from India. While turmeric powder, teas and supplements are available in health stores or online, you can also buy turmeric root in most grocery stores (and you can even grow it at home!).
In this article, we look at some of the health benefits. I’m also going to share everything you need to know about turmeric tea! Why turmeric tea? Let’s find out…
What is Turmeric Tea and Why Drink It?
Turmeric tea is made by simmering grated turmeric or turmeric powder in water. The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is fat soluble. This is why a little ghee or coconut milk is needed. To unlock the potential of the curcumin and improve bioavailability, we pair turmeric with a healthy fat.
There is no specific recommendation for daily intake of turmeric. Studies suggest 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric powder, three times daily, or 1 to 3 grams of grated fresh turmeric root is safe. Your trusted practitioner can help determine a good amount. Until then, a mug of turmeric tea daily can be an easy way to add a little turmeric goodness into your life.
Making Turmeric Tea
Turmeric tea can be prepared using fresh or dried turmeric root. Here is my easy recipe:
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated turmeric root OR 1 teaspoon dried, ground turmeric
- 4 cups water
- coconut milk
Add the turmeric to the water in a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Set the pan on low heat on your stove and bring it to a simmer. You want small bubbles, but not boiling. Simmer for 10 minutes and shut off the heat. Allow the tea to steep for another 10 minutes before straining. Pour into a cup with a splash of full fat coconut milk or a little coconut oil or ghee to improve absorption (because curcumin needs fat!)
- Add a little raw honey or a few drops of stevia or monk fruit, to sweeten the tea. Raw honey adds to the anti-microbial properties.
- Add crushed black pepper to the turmeric and water before simmering. Black pepper contains piperine, which also helps curcumin absorption.
- Add sliced or grated fresh ginger with the turmeric for a warming, spicy beverage.
- Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavor.
Some Benefits of Turmeric
A July 2017 review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine reported that the active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, can help in treating chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis (other autoimmune arthritis conditions likely too), Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. The review also found that turmeric may also help protect from cancers like lung, colon, skin cancers, stomach and breast cancer. And, curcumin looks promising for treating asthma, pulmonary and cystic fibrosis, lung cancer or injury, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties; all are known to improve immune function.
- Curcumin helps reduce pain and inflammation.
Turmeric is a traditional Ayurvedic and TCM remedy for many digestive conditions. Several studies have found that curcumin reduces pain associated with IBS and improve the quality of life of those people with the condition.
For people with transit time issues, it is possible that turmeric tea can help. A 2012 study in rats found that curcumin helped with speed gastric emptying (the time it takes for food to empty from the stomach to the small intestine). This may be beneficial for gastroparesis.
Who is this NOT good for?
Believe it or not, turmeric is not a good choice for everyone.
The National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network states no adverse effects are expected at doses of up to 8,000 milligrams per day.
Although turmeric is considered safe and non-toxic as a food, supplement and topical, there are studies that show turmeric can cause gastrointestinal issues in some people. High doses or long term use can cause stomach problems, according to The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Because turmeric contains oxalates, people who need a low oxalate diet or who have a history of kidney stones may want to use turmeric more sparingly than others.
People who are anemic likely should not supplement with high doses of turmeric. If you develop symptoms of anemia while taking or eating turmeric, consult with your doctor. This study has more information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6414192/
Use of supplemental turmeric is contraindicated for people who are taking medications including:
- antiplatelet meds,
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
If you have stomach issues or take any drugs of these types or if you are unsure, talk to your doctor. These warnings only apply to the supplemental form of turmeric. Turmeric is safe to use in its natural whole food form in cooking or in skin preparations unless you are allergic!
A Couple More Things You Should Know
Turmeric is a dark yellow-orange colored root.
- When you work with the fresh root, your fingers and cutting board may be temporarily stained.
- Teeth staining may also occur, but swishing with water or brushing normally should remove it immediately.
- If you have a temporary crown or plastic aligners, turmeric may stain permanently.
- Turmeric makes a great yellow dye for fabric!
Now you know about turmeric, where it grows, what benefits it offers, how to make it into a delicious tea and how to figure out if it’s a good choice for you!
If you decide to make turmeric a regular part of your diet, consider using a food mood poop journal to document your experience and help yourself assess your body’s response.