Our time is precious, so thank you for carving out some yours today and visiting my blog. For today’s topic I will dive into the digestion process, the best food for digestion problems, and what changes we can make for optimal digestion.
The digestive system is highly misunderstood even by our medical and nutritional experts. Bloating, digestion problems, constipation, and gas are some of the most common health issues that people face, especially here in the west, so you can imagine that antacids and laxatives are some of the most purchased over the counter drugs.
What we need to understand is that these over-the-counter medications only treat the symptom. They treat the results of improper food combinations, which I will get into later in this blog. Why am I a credible source for this topic? Excellent question. I’ve been studying this topic for well over a year now, and I have done the dance with poor digestion my entire life up until recently.
Unfortunately, I just brushed it aside for almost 30 years. I paid for it immensely. I got my first colonoscopy when I was 25. I had gone days and even weeks without a bowel movement at one point in time. I’ll never forget the day I visited my gastroenterologist on the days leading up to my colonoscopy, and he didn’t mention or ask ANYTHING about my diet or habits. It’s quite troubling looking back at that and how often that must have happened and continues to happen today. It’s very sad seeing and hearing about people’s digestion problems. I’ve been there. Most people have, and I don’t want to go back. Nor will I. Nor should you want to stay there.
Even after that colonoscopy, which they didn’t find anything- not even a single polyp- I didn’t get any advice. Silly me, after doing the recommended 24 hour fast and taking the flushing solution (which basically gets rid of the newly accumulated waste-matter), I went straight to a sushi restaurant and took down damn near a full tray of sushi post-procedure. Yikes. No horror stories from that, thankfully, but, yeah, not the best food choice after that. It wasn’t until about 3 years later when nothing really improved did I finally realize what digestion was all about.
Good health requires good digestion. Plain and simple. When our digestive system is running properly we get more bang for our buck when we eat right, we heal quicker, and our brains operate more efficiently due to less energy being diverted to the midsection. The more backed up we are (and 95% of people are), the more potential health risks we will have. Some people may say, ‘Hey guy I must be in the 5%. I’m in good shape and don’t have any health issues.’ While you may be aesthetically pleasing, your digestion may not be running at its fullest potential. One thing we have to understand is that the third stage of digestion is not studied thoroughly. There are three stages of digestion: consumption, absorption, and elimination. The elimination stage and bowel transit time is virtually unknown in most nutrition circles, which is where that 95% number comes in.
Another thing we need to realize is that health is the long game, for better or worse. We make mistakes, and those mistakes accumulate slowly over time. Some quicker than others. We may not see the effects of those causes for decades. That’s what makes health and digestion so complex, but it doesn’t have to be.
Now, let’s get into the digestion tips.
If you have read my previous posts, then this should be no surprise that fasting is among the tips. There are many different types of fasting. There is water fasting, dry fasting, juice fasting, intermittent fasting, grape fasting, the master cleanser, etc. All of these examples can improve our digestion. Logically speaking, it makes sense that the fewer times we eat per day, the better our digestion will be. The nonsense about eating 5 small meals per day needs to stop. One can get all their nutritional needs in two meals per day or even one.
The true magic happens when we go on an extended fast. Should you decide to embark on an extended water fast or dry fast, then I recommend doing it under medical supervision or guided by a professional who specializes in this practice. You can find fasting facilities if you do your research. People travel all over the nation and even the world to do this. There’s a reason why fasting has been around for millennia. What this does is give your body a much needed break from digesting food. 60-70% of our daily cellular energy goes to digesting food alone. We wonder why we are exhausted all the time, falling asleep at our desks, and pounding coffee. It’s because our digestive system is in constant overdrive.
If we don’t want to go the water fast route, we can start with intermittent fasting. Start small by skipping breakfast. Do the 16:8 routine. That’s the most popular place to begin, where you fast for 16 hours and eat within that 8 hour window. Just make sure you give yourself time between your meals to digest. Once you start getting good at that, try switching to eating once a day. In other words, 24 hour fasts. It’s not hard once you get going. The first week is always going to be the most challenging. The gnawing growls of the stomach are just withdrawal symptoms. They will pass. After you start getting good at that, throw in some 36 hour fasts. Our bodies are built to withstand lack of food. That’s what fat stores are for.
Finally, the absolute best fast for improving your digestion is a juice fast. Not just a three day juice fast. I’m talking about a real one. A juice feast or a solid food vacation. I’m talking a month or longer. This will do more than I could possibly explain in a few sentences. It flushes you out and completely resets your digestive tract for proper assimilation of nutrients, bowel transit time, and ridding yourself of the accumulated, un-eliminated waste-matter that plagues the world’s colons. I lost 40 pounds in 30 days my first juice fast, and I did another one several months later losing 20. I go into further detail here on why we need to do this, as well as before and after pictures of myself after my fast.
Lift weights, swim, perform HIIT training, cycle, hike, yoga, play Spikeball. Whatever floats your boat! It seems silly to say, but walking has been shown to be one of the best, if not the best thing we can do for exercise. Get out and walk at a steady pace. If we want to make it more challenging or get more out of it, then load up with a weighted vest or ankle weights. Walking keeps your heart rate up and gets the lymph fluid moving throughout the body. I love reading articles that suggest walking, as if this is some grand discovery in the world of fitness. It reminds me of a classic quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Society is often surprised at any new example of common sense.” Oh, I heard walking is really good for you! Crazy, right? It’s only been done since the first men and women roamed the Earth.
Get out and walk. Skip the Uber. Even if it takes an extra thirty minutes to an hour. Your body will thank you for it now and later.
This is another topic of great confusion and controversy in nutrition circles. I won’t go too far into detail on this one being that I have discussed it many times in previous posts, but what we have to understand is chemistry. Everything is chemistry. Everything around us has a pH level, and it’ll fall under the category of acid and alkaline. To spare you of extra details in this article, I’ll give you the basics. Fruit should be eaten alone, and ideally, one fruit at a time if you can help it. At least do not combine sweet fruits (bananas, figs, persimmons) with juicy fruits (pretty much everything else) or melons (melons should always be eaten alone).
Fruits are the quickest foods to digest, so they should be eaten alone. Skip the yogurt and granola. It’s best to think of in terms of the rabbit and the turtle story. Don’t combine a rabbit food with a turtle food in terms of digestion. Fruits and fresh juices are our rabbit foods, and the best foods we can consume for digestive purposes.
Some might have flu-like symptoms or diarrhea and blame the fruit for those symptoms. No, my friend. It’s not the fruit. You’re just so loaded with toxins that the fruit is trying to flush it out of you. Fruits are the cleansers. Fruit is the most natural food for humans to eat, anatomically speaking. It’s sad how much heat that fruit gets nowadays. The “too much sugar” nonsense is ridiculous. There’s good sugar and bad sugar. The refined, white sugar is what’s bad for you. Simple sugars like fructose and glucose are what’s good for you. The brain’s primary fuel source is glucose. How are we supposed to operate at full capacity if we aren’t feeding our brains with what it wants the most? Now, diabetics on the other hand may need to monitor their fruit intake for obvious reasons, but there are ways around that. One may need to turn more to fresh vegetable juice instead.
The next tip before we move on is to talk about concentrated proteins (meats, cheeses, eggs, fish) and starches (bread, pasta, potatoes, quinoa, rice). These should be eaten separately. Yes, I know. It seems impossible. What the hell am I supposed to eat? Well, it is possible. But why? Proteins require an acidic medium in the stomach to digest via the enzyme pepsin, and starches require an alkaline medium in the stomach to digest via the enzyme ptyalin. Again, chemistry folks. What happens when those two enzymes encounter one another in the stomach? They will neutralize and result in a fermented starch and putrefied protein. Neither will digest properly and be absorbed by our body. Some nutrients may be assimilated, but not nearly as much if they were separate from one another. Don’t freak out though. Remember, it’s not what we do occasionally that gets us in trouble. It’s the things we do day after day after day. It’s up to you to determine what occasionally means.
Here is an article on food combining and its benefits for weight loss and digestion, as well as ways to plan your meals to adhere to this method.
Plan the day’s meals in order of digestion speed
Remember the rabbit and the turtle. Eat your most easily assimilated foods first, then your hardest to digest foods last. What would that look like? If we are going the three meal a day routine it may look something like this.
Breakfast (when you break your fast, not necessarily in the morning): Green juice or smoothie.
Lunch: 1/4 of a watermelon
Dinner: Large leafy green salad with avocado and a small bowl of wild rice or quinoa.
The first two meals are going to be quickly absorbed by the body. The body won’t have to burn its digestive energy sources as much to give the body fuel, and we can move on with our daily activities with more ease. How often do you have a big lunch and could use a nap afterwards? There’s a reason for that.
Eat more water rich foods
What are the water rich foods? I’ll give you a hint. They are not proteins or starches. In fact there is barely any water in either of those things unless the proteins are on the raw side. This is why people in the west are arguably more dehydrated than ever before in history: overcooked meats, processed food, and the lack of raw fruits and veggies. The processed foods we eat contain no water or fiber. I’ll pair in the fiber in this tip, because water rich foods mean fiber. Eat more fruits, steamed veggies, leafy greens and JUICES. Juices are the best thing you can drink. They take virtually no energy to process, and they are the best form of water you can drink. And when I say fruit I mean make it a big meal of fruit. Not just one apple or one banana. Eat 4 or 5 apples or a pound of grapes for a meal.
If curious about juicers, then these are the three juicers that I recommend: Green Star Elite, Omega J8006 and the Aicok. The Aicok is the most reasonably priced. The GSE is the one I personally use, and I love it. It’s pricy, yes, but it’s worth it due to the technology and yield it produces. Any one of these three juicers will get the job done, and it’ll be the best purchase you’ve ever made for your health.
This one is important. Whether you’re doing 5 minutes or 30 minutes to an hour per day, anything is good. What deep breathing does is massage the internal organs. Specifically, it massages the intestines and kidneys. This is a good thing. It gets the juices flowing, as well as the blood and lymph fluid moving throughout the body. Think of lymph fluid as the sewage system that carries cellular waste out of the body.
The main pointer is to breathe with your diaphragm. Think of seeing a baby breathe. The belly rises, then the chest. A good way to practice this is to lie on your back with one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Upon inhalation, the stomach hand should rise first, then the chest hand. Then when we exhale, the chest hand goes down first, then the stomach hand. Start with 5 seconds in, 5 seconds hold, 5 seconds out, 5 seconds pause, then repeat. You can do this for a few minutes or however long you feel is comfortable. The yogis and Taoists refer to the diaphragm as the second heart due to its ability to circulate blood and lymph fluid. Start a deep breathing regimen, and your digestion will improve. Check out this post where I discuss 4 deep breathing exercises, as well as some advanced techniques to get the most out of them.
And, finally, hydration. There couldn’t be an article on proper digestion without hydration right? Of course not! We’ve all heard the classic medical statistic that we are 70% water. The sad thing is that majority of us are in the 50s. If we are lucky we scrape into the 60s. We need to bump up that water percentage. Grab a scale that measures your water, so you can keep track. Me, personally, I don’t eat anything until I drink a minimum of 2 liters of water. Don’t worry, I’m not ripping 8 bottles of Ice Mountain. I got my Big Berkey that I love. Feel free to grab yours via the link and use code LOGICAL for 10% off.
We need to hydrate. The fact is that we receive water in one of three ways: the food we eat, the fluids we drink, and the body’s natural oxidation process. Unfortunately, the foods we and the people around us tend to eat are very poor in water. In reality, we should be getting the majority of our water from the food we eat. Water-rich foods. We don’t, so we need to “supplement” with drinking more water than we’d typically need to in an ideal world. Aim to consume at least two liters of water per day.
One final thing about water. Do not drink water with your meals. What this does is dilute the enzymes and inhibit the digestive process. We want to improve digestion, not get in its way. If you want to drink water, aim to do it about 15-30 minutes or more before a meal. If out to dinner, avoid drinking the presented water if at all possible. If needed, drink it before you eat and not during.
Remember, true health means good digestion. We need to get there, and if you can start with sprinkling one or more of these tips into your routine, your digestion will improve. Add them all, and your digestion will go through the roof. You will be firing on all cylinders. You won’t be drained constantly throughout the day. Your coffee machine will get a break as well as your food pipes.
Making health changes takes courage. Every small step you take towards your dream health casts a vote in your subconscious that you are that person you are striving so hard to be. So keep seeking health, learning, moving forward, and be positive!
For additional resources, here are some other articles that relate to this post:
- Not Your Average Self Care Blog
- Food Combining: Myth or Method?
- 8 Reasons you Need to do a Juice Fast
- How to do a Juice Fast
- 4 Basic Breathing Exercises and Why We Should Do Them
Thanks for reading, and let’s live logically folks!