3 Reasons to Change Your Diet Even if You Don’t Think You Have Any Digestive Problems

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)

 

Next Steps

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.

Sources

  1. “Ecological control of the gastrointestinal tract. The role of probiotic flora” from the journal Gut 1998;42:2–7
  2. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry (nih.gov)
  3. Links Between Immigration, Obesity, and the Microbiome – The Atlantic
  4. The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis – ScienceDirect
  5. Gut microbiome from patients with schizophrenia modulates the glutamate-glutamine-GABA cycle and schizophrenia-relevant behaviors in mice | Science Advances (sciencemag.org)
  6. Differences in gut microbiome composition between persons with chronic schizophrenia and healthy comparison subjects – ScienceDirect
  7. The fifferences between the gut microflora of children with autistic spectrum disorders and that of healthy children | Microbiology Society (microbiologyresearch.org)
  8. Mental Illness: Brain Disease or Gut Disease? | Psychology Today

5 Savvy Ways to Jumpstart Weightloss

Whether your motivation is a New Year’s resolution, planning a special outfit for an event or aiming for a Summer bod — fitness, diet and weight loss are top on the self-care hit list.  Am I right? We prioritize health and wellness and “finally losing the weight” at times when we feel most motivated.  Here’s the thing: if all it took was motivation, we’d be there!  And if it was about going to the gym or dieting, everyone would be getting results.  The bottom line is that it takes more than motivation and the standard strategies.  For results, we need to SHIFT from our notion of motivation, willpower and drastic action to a plan that focuses on simple, do-able, daily steps designed to SUPPORT your body’s innate wisdom.  Keep reading to learn the top 5 things to put on your daily action plan so you can ditch diets and stressful strategies and get closer to your goals, starting now.

 

1.      Break a Sweat:  Go for a short hike with friends, or a brisk walk or become a Wogger, like me – I’m a proud Walking Jogger. I walk a bit, jog a bit; wash, rinse, repeat.  Then, at least once a day, have a dance break.  I double-dog dare you to pop on some rockin’ tunes and dance around.  Grab a YouTube yoga video or something cardio (I love the Fitness Marshall videos – popular, fun music and cardio dance combined). Why not the gym, you ask?  2 reasons: #1, People fail to go to the gym due to lack of motivation. There’s always something better to do and driving to the gym becomes a low priority.  And, #2, gym workouts can put so much stress on your body that you produce more cortisol and halt weight loss.  If the gym is your zen zone, by all means, keep doing your thing, but if it’s not, know that you are allowed to find your own rhythm… you don’t have to train insane in the gym.  You do have to break a sweat, activate your muscles and get your heart rate up a little doing something that you enjoy.

 

2.      Drink Water:  I know you read this all the time and it sounds like the simplest advice. Drink at least 8 ounces of water a day… blah…blah..blah!  Gorgeous, I am telling you right now that without enough water that’s exactly how you feel (and you may not even know it).  Even as a Health Coach, I didn’t really believe it.  I used to get maybe 4-6 glasses of water every day in the lineup with a couple cups of coffee and some tea.  I figured all was well, all things considered.  But, I was way wrong, and you likely are too!  Especially in the summer and especially on sweaty days or days with higher activity, our bodies need more water.  Eight (8), eight-ounce glasses of fresh, clean, no frills added W-A-T-E-R is what’s on tap, for real.  Not only is it something your body has a critical need for (for basic metabolic functions and pretty much every bodily function), but it also keeps you out of the trap of sugary drinks with lots of empty calories.  Ditch everything else for a week and switch to plain water.  This step alone can result in a few pounds of weight loss, better sleep, improved skin tone, better focus and more energy.

 

3.      Mock Me: Alcohol contains sugar, stresses the liver and sets off insulin resistance – all of which can result in weight gain. So, if you are looking to lose some weight, take a break from alcohol and opt for the mock!  Not only are mocktails super refreshing and fun but they allow you to feel festive and engaged at social events without sabotaging your health! Many mocktail recipes can be found with a simple Google search, but you can also join me for a Mocktail or Kombucha Class for hands-on tasting fun!

 

4.      Prioritize Produce: When people look to lose weight fast it’s often at the expense of proper nutrition.  Short term “solutions” can add up to long-term weight gain because of the negative impact on metabolism and digestion. Instead of doing something drastic, shift your approach and prioritize produce.  While summertime means greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, stick with fresh seasonal produce or opt for frozen.  Eat Clean. Ditch processed foods. Eat the rainbow daily. Your body will respond with slow, even weight loss!

 

5.      Sleep: You’re not alone if you’re wondering what sleep has to do with weight loss.  What’s wild is that improving sleep almost always improves weight balance and overall health!  Studies show that insufficient sleep affects appetite and satiety hormones. It also impacts the ability of our fat cells to respond to insulin (if you’ve heard of “insulin resistance” this is it).  Without enough sleep or enough good sleep, we experience increased levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin and decreased levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin.  Sleep deprived study participants consumed about 300 calories a day more than when they are well-rested, with the calories coming from higher-fat and higher carbohydrate foods. Long story short — Don’t compromise on your sleep.

 

Cause I love ya, I can’t wait to connect with you some more.  Reach out on Facebook, tag me on Instagram or email me — sarah.lawrence@yourholistichealthcoach.com I want to hear about your savvy weight loss wins, your warms and wonders about everyday health.

xo,

Sarah

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