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Food and G.I. Upset

Does your belly hurt often? Do you have constipation or diarrhea? Do you have excess gas? Reflux? Bloating? Let's talk about it.

Our entire being relies on the health of our guts. Basically, if the gut isn't happy, ain't nobody happy. When we have any symptom or disease state, one of the early lines of defense should be gut health. A stool sample test or a food sensitivity test can be very helpful in pointing you to specific food your body doesn't tolerate very well. The good news is, our body is already telling us what we aren't tolerating very well via stomach pain, gas, constipation, or diarrhea. How handy! The tricky part is, sometimes your stomach will hurt for a couple of meals after you have eaten the intolerable food. I have certainly experienced this whenever I eat gluten.

If you aren't sure what foods are triggering these responses for you, here is a list of the usual suspects:

...Basically, all the fun stuff :).

Wow, so that may seem overwhelming because there are many potential triggers but here is an opportunity for a great free experiment! First, you need a clean slate. Try the Whole30 diet or the Paleo diet for at least a month. Both of these diets pretty much cut out all of the common inflammatory culprits and emphasize fresh fruits and veggies. While you're at it, cut out nightshades (1). Once you have gone at least a month, reintroduce a once "forbidden" food and notice your body's reaction. If this seems too extreme for you, you can try the elimination diet where you give up a suspecting food for 4 weeks to see what happens. Does your belly feel better? How about your mood, energy level, and the general body aches you used to feel? At the end of the those 4 weeks, you can reintroduce the food to how your body reacts. Or, you may discover you feel like a new human and never look back! Fantastic! The only shortcoming to this approach is there may be other inflammatory foods still in your diet so you may not experience the response you would have if you were working with a "clean slate".

Let's not ignore that poor digestion can also be a byproduct of other system dysfunctions. When used properly during breathing, our diaphragm descends with every inhale and literally smushes/massages our organs in our trunk. This rhythmic smushing that should be happening all day long is a mechanical boost to get things moving in our viscera. When we don't breathe well (ahem, chest breathers), our organs miss out on a lot of assistance! Our nervous system also has influence over our digestive system. Increased sympathetic arousal causes blood to be shunted from our viscera and increased to our appendages so we can fight or flee. Have you ever stayed somewhere away from home and stopped having a regular bowel movement? It's the pits. But when we aren't home and comfortable, our bodies know that. We need that calm state to allow blood flow to give our organs some love. Activities to stimulate the vagus nerve may help counterbalance this. Regular exercise/movements and hydration are also key players in digestion.

Does this mean we sit on our hands and eat like angels the rest of our lives? Sure, if you want to. It's totally up to you. Obviously, severe food reactions need to be respected. Outweigh the pros and cons to the food decisions you make. If it's your birthday and you want that piece of cake even though your stomach might be upset later, that is your decision. If you eat cheese daily, have chronic constipation, and you don't want to give it up, that is also your decision. Think of the big picture. Less flare-ups means less inflammation, which means less overdrive of our body trying to repair itself.

Check out my colleague's YouTube video about movements to target the digestive organs as well as how to massage your belly.


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