Healthy Living Magazine


Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most important – and that definitely applies to digestion. Remember when your grandmother told you to sit up straight, chew your food and eat slowly? Well, she was right.

Today’s society has forgotten that food is our nourishment to live and not just something to fill us up until the next meal. Perhaps that’s why so many of us suffer from digestive problems, many of which can be easily prevented.

Digestion, the breakdown of food into smaller components that can be easily absorbed and assimilated by the body, occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. While everything we eat travels through this long system, only those food molecules that are sufficiently broken down into smaller particles will enter the bloodstream to nourish the body, maintain organ function, and provide energy and nourishment for the growth and repair of cells and tissues.

Digestion begins with the thought of food, then the aroma. That’s why it’s so important to take time to eat and enjoy every bite. In our fast-track society, sometimes we can eat an entire meal not totally aware of what we are eating.
When rushed, digestion is compromised, making the breakdown and absorption of nutrients more difficult.

Signs of Poor Digestion

The most common and obvious signs of poor digestion include: gas, bloating, heartburn, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, poor energy levels, mood swings, decreased concentration and focus, joint pain, headaches and sinus congestion.

Often we ignore these symptoms until our health becomes compromised. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, take action today to resolve them naturally because these signs are compromising your absorption of nutrients.

Remember: we are made up, not of the food we eat, but the nutrients we absorb.

Bowel Movements

The characteristics of your bowel movements are the most important indicators for the health of the digestive system. Constipation, diarrhea, pain, straining, urgency and leakage are all signs of digestive system dysfunction. Blood, undigested food, mucus and fat in the stool also indicate problems with digestion and absorption. One to three satisfying bowel movements per day is normal and healthy. A satisfying bowel movement should feel like a full evacuation that didn’t require strain or stress to complete. If not, your body is telling you something is wrong and you should make some changes.

How to Improve your Digestion

Chew thoroughly! Inadequate chewing results in incomplete digestion which can increase bacterial overgrowth, gas and symptoms of indigestion. Eat in a relaxed state so your stomach can make adequate amounts of stomach acid. Research suggests as many as half of people over 60 years of age have low stomach acid, so chew your food, take your time when eating, and relax!

Identify and eliminate food allergens. Eliminate the most common allergenic foods from your diet for a trial period of two weeks. These might include sugar, dairy, yeast, peanuts, corn, alcohol, red meats, bad oils (too many saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils, cottonseed oils), gluten containing grains (spelt, wheat, rye), citrus and caffeine. As many of these foods can compromise your intestinal border, sometimes removing these foods for a while can improve your digestion.  

Foods that Nourish Your Digestive System

Nourish your body and intestinal lining with health-promoting foods such as non-GMO soy products, vegetables (except corn), fruits (except grapefruits and oranges), olive oil, organic butter, coconut oil, all nuts except peanuts, organic eggs, beans, organic chicken and turkey, oily fish in moderation, and whole-grain products such as buckwheat, brown rice, millet and quinoa.

Support the growth of probiotic bacteria as well. A good balance of probiotic bacteria in the colon crowds out pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms that compromise your health, preventing them from growing. Add fermented foods such as organic unsweetened yogurt to your daily diet, and decrease the amount of sugar you consume because sugar feeds the negative pathogens such as yeast.

Bon appetit!  

Did You Know?

  • The health of your digestive system affects your food cravings, moods and sleep patterns. Why do you crave sweet foods or carbohydrates when you feel sad? That is because 2/3 of the serotonin ‘happy hormones’ come from cells in your digestive tract and not your brain.
  • Stress has a negative effect on your body’s ability to digest food and can lead to leaky gut syndrome and lack of absorption of nutrients.
  • You should eat only at the table, never while standing up.
  • Sitting up straight and chewing your food thoroughly promote good digestion.
  • You should eat slowly and refrain from talking while chewing.

Shawn M. Nisbet, RHN, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Yoga Teacher & Nordic Pole Walking Master Instructor. 416.804.0938;;;


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