Time to Take Care of Your Tummy

Stomach problems? Take a close look at your intake

By Deb Dittner

In determining your overall health and well-being, you need to take a close look at your digestive system.

Around 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut. So if your digestive woes are not addressed, the manifestation of chronic health conditions can occur. When your body becomes unbalanced from a variety of possibilities, look at digestion.

Today’s foods, water, soils and more are tainted by a variety of chemicals that compromise the health of your gut. When your digestive system is “off,” you may experience a variety of digestive conditions such as constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, heartburn, bloating, or gas.

Bringing your gut back into balance naturally takes patience and important steps.

— Eat real foods: This may sound silly but many eat the Standard American Diet, which consists of non-food items. These fake, processed and fast foods are typically high in refined salt, sugar and oils that your body doesn’t recognize and is unable to properly digest.

Real food is acknowledged by your body and can then be broken down into the nutrients necessary to maintain a balanced gut. These whole nutrient-dense foods are made in nature. Aim for 80 percent of your daily intake to be real food.

— Eat fermented foods: There are many fermented and cultured foods available to add to your daily nutrition.

Fermented foods provide your gut with a variety of healthy micro-organisms, good bacteria that will begin to regenerate your gut flora naturally.

Eating a small amount of these foods daily will aid in changing the gut environment and healing can occur. Try to incorporate foods such as sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kimchi, kefir, or kombucha.

— Reset your gut with a detox: A detox or cleanse will help to reset your digestive system.

There are many types of detox programs out there and I recommend one that you will be able to follow.

I run a five-day detox program every season (winter, spring, summer and fall) consisting of whole nutrient-dense foods with the elimination of dairy and gluten, processed sugars and caffeine. Doing a short detox allows the body to release excess toxins that have been absorbed from processed foods, heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum, environmental toxins and emotional triggers.

Symptoms of excess toxicity may be fatigue, food allergies, breathing difficulties such as asthma and allergies, skin conditions such as eczema, and digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, and reflux.

— Decrease chronic stress: I know, you’re thinking easier said than done. I hear you but you need to start somewhere and you need to find what works for you.

Stick to routine

Begin with a routine: be in bed by 10 p.m. each night, no electronics for a minimum of one hour before sleep, read, write in a journal, take note of what you are grateful for, have a cup of calming, soothing tea, take an Epsom salt bath with essential oils such as lavender, eat regularly throughout the day, maintain good hydration, move consistently through dance, yoga, high-intensity interval training, walking or kickboxing, play music, and take time daily just for you.

Chronic stress interferes with your digestive system and you may need to supplement with magnesium, zinc, and Vitamins B and D. I encourage you to discuss these options with your health care provider.

— Decrease intestinal inflammation: Digestive disorders require nutrients to repair, restore and regenerate the intestinal lining.

Some foods you may want to incorporate into your daily nutrition are cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli), beets, beans, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, clean lean protein, and herbs and spices such as parsley and turmeric.

Probiotics can be supplemented as well in therapeutic doses of 3-20 billion live cultures.

— Listen to your body: You are a unique individual and only you know your body best. What works for one person may not work for another.

• Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.

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