How many times have you grabbed at your distended tummy and moaned about how ‘fat’ you are? Or felt thoroughly annoyed for an entire day because all you wanted to do was go to the bathroom – but you couldn’t? Or spent an hour in front of your closet angrily throwing things to the floor because everything makes you look pregnant (you too, guys!) and you cancel your plans to go out because you just can’t take it anymore?
Cool, yo. You are not alone.
We are a culture of digestively troubled peoples, and it might not surprise you to learn that food has something to do with it.
There are the obvious culprits that put tremendous strain on our bodies: fried foods, alcohol, gluten, additives, processed foods, sugar… but there might also be something in your healthy diet that’s causing your body to slow down, bloat out and make you mad.
Here are a few things to think about that might make your body – and your brain – a little happier. After all, being happy and patient is just a little easier when things are, erm, running smoothly.
We carry around about 7 pounds of bacteria in our digestive tract (and they’re in charge of a lot).
Picture your neighbor’s daschund: you're carrying the weight of that dog around all the time, in the form of bacteria. These bugs are our friends! They're involved in a variety of processes in the body, including digestion, weight retention and mood. Their colonies need to be in a happy balanced place in order for them to do their best work. The happier our bugs are (read: the better quality food they’re deriving from our food), the happier we can be. Think plant foods containing soluble and insoluble fiber (basically all veggies, non-glutinous grains) and avoid sugars, preservatives, antibiotics and animal products as often as you can. Our bugs love plants.
Chewing is more important than you think.
We have teeth at food’s entry point to the body for a reason: the stomach doesn’t have a way of grinding or tearing what we give it, so for best digestion, food should arrive to the stomach as close to liquid as possible. Help your system out by chewing thoroughly: 20 chews per mouthful or chewing until it’s liquid are good guidelines. I like to put my fork down between every single bite to avoid the steam-shovel effect that invariably leads to a twin-sized belly.
Often, the ‘fat’ you’re grabbing on your tummy and moaning about isn’t fat.
Poorly digested or non-eliminated food can make us ‘feel fat’, but we’re actually just toting around a little food baby that’s just taking up space. It’s not fat. It’s edible stuff your body is trying to work through. It's just not worth having this ruin your day.
Breaking down raw food uses a lot of energy.
When we give the body more to break down than it can handle, all of our energetic resources head straight to our midsection. That need to take a nap after lunch isn’t a coincidence. It’s your body going, “Aaaaa, so much to do! Send the reserves!”. And then your brain crashes because it has no resources left. Being gentle to your GI tract is also a gesture of gentleness to the rest of your body.
Hydration and high-fiber.
It’s pretty simple: water helps things move. Fiber absorbs water from surrounding cells, which can help the body run smoothly… as long as there’s enough water to be had. Ample water – think 10-12 cups a day –is essential, particularly if you’re eating a high-fiber diet. Drink water at room temperature or warmer, when possible: ice cold water can slow down your body’s processes.
Hear me out. If food can’t leave your body in a timely fashion and sits in your large intestine in its ready-to-leave form (ie. poo), your intestinal walls will reabsorb the liquid and distribute it to your cells. TOXIC POO WATER. Spreading out in your body's tissues. For real. This is a huge motivator to be good to your digestive system, no?
Cooked food is good for you. Promise.
I wrote this article early this year about raw food in winter and how cool foods don’t promote digestive health, generally. They slow the system down and actually create more work for the body. Do your system a favor and aim to eat warm or hot foods when possible, particularly ones that are high fiber.
… So are oils.
Cooking with olive oil, coconut oil or sesame oil can lubricate the inside of the GI tract and help keep things moving.
Food allergies and intolerances might play a role.
It can take a little tweaking to determine if there are certain foods interrupting your body’s happy functioning. If you’re looking for some support in figuring out what the perfect menu for your body is, send me a note. I’d love to help you work things out. (Too punny? Too literal? Sorry.) :0)
Take care of you!