There comes a point in every woman’s life when your digestion doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did in the past. Many women experience occasional cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas. They simply ignore the discomfort and go on with their lives. What I’ve learned from dealing with my chronic illness is that your gut is home to almost 80 percent of your immune system, so if your gut isn’t healthy, well then you’re likely to end up seeing other health issues creep up in your body. There are ways to help relieve the symptoms of poor digestion and I recommend working with an Integrative/Functional M.D. to understand what’s going on inside your rumbling tummy before starting any supplements or protocols.
Dr. Mark Hyman, who is a best-selling author and well-known Functional M.D. has incredible information about how to help relieve occasional bloating and other symptoms related to digestion. Did you know that everything from hormone imbalance (occasional gas, constipation and bloating as well as cravings and emotional fluctuations are common in women with PMS) to the way you chew your food, the amount of good vs. bad bacteria in your gut, and what foods you are eating, influence your digestion, which in turn effects the rest of your body? Read on for a few tips on how to improve your digestion and beat the bloat and belly trouble for good.
- Take a digestive enzyme: These enzymes will help you break down your food, which may be the main cause of your bloating and gas. I take digestive enzymes with every meal to help my body digest the food and assimilate the nutrients of the foods I’m eating. When undigested food particles get into your gut, you end up with fermenting food that leads to the gas and bloating. My suggestion is to look for an enzyme brand trusted by your doctor. Check out my pages on FodMaps, IBS, and Enzymes for more information.
- Get rid of the bad bacteria: Sometimes gas and bloating are caused by the bad (pathogenic) bacteria in your gut taking over your good (beneficial) bacteria, which is what happens when we eat too much sugar as well as overuse antibiotics. I’m living proof that the bacteria in my gut was so bad from antibiotics as a child that my entire immune system suffered. Once I worked with an Integrative/Functional M.D. with natural anti-microbials to help clean up my gut and repopulate it with good bacteria (probiotics), I was a new person and my immune system improved.
- Add in high quality probiotics: The products I mention below all include high quality probiotics in each capsule so you don’t have to worry about taking an additional probiotic supplement. Above I discussed removing the bad bacteria but we also need to add back in the good bacteria to help our bodies absorb the nutrients and break down the foods we eat to keep us healthy.
- Remove troublesome foods: Gluten and dairy are common triggers in many people with gas and bloating. I know for myself and many of my clients, when they remove gluten and dairy, they feel amazing and they aren’t bloated like they were when they ate those food groups. Work with your doctor to try to eliminate gluten and dairy for two weeks on an Elimination Diet and see if removing certain foods is helpful for you. Everyone’s body is different so just because someone doesn’t get bloated or gassy from dairy, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a problem for your belly.
- Remove artificial sweeteners: These foods are often a huge issue for many people. Gums, diet sodas, energy drinks and so forth are made with "fake" artificial sweeteners that often lead to bloating and cramping. Once I removed chewing gum and diet soda from my life more than eight years ago, my digestion has drastically improved.
- Chew your food better: It might sound silly, but most of us don’t chew our food as well as we should. If you closely watch yourself when you eat, you probably chew a few times and then swallow large pieces of undigested food. I’m guilty of this when I’m in a rush or I’m hungry. We’re often distracted by work, family, TV, and so forth, and we’re not noticing when we’re full. Try to slow down, take smaller bites and chew your food with each bite.
- Reach for organic ginger root: Fresh organic ginger root is helpful for many people with digestive issues; you can simply grate fresh ginger into hot tea or your meals. Also, if you are pregnant and going through digestive issues, you can look for supplements to help relieve your digestive discomfort such as Enzymedica’s Digest Pregnancy, which many of my clients use; it has a special blend of enzymes to help combat occasional gas and bloating, while organic ginger root can ease nausea that is common in the first-trimester of pregnancy. Organic ginger root has long history of use in reducing nausea.
- Support your hormones. Fluctuating hormones and declining enzyme production due to the aging process can impact both digestion and energy levels in women. Work with your Integrative doctor on a product to optimize your digestion such as Enzymedica’s Digest Women’s 50+. It’s filled with enzymes, probiotics, Maca root and more to help promote regularity and create optimal digestion. If you are under 50 years old and suffering from PMS symptoms, you can ask your doctor to have your B6 level checked because women who suffer from PMS, are often deficient in B6 and also magnesium. You can work with your doctor to discuss supplements that include B6 and magnesium such as Enzymedica’s Bye Bye PMS. The enzyme blends included may ease occasional bloating and digestive discomfort common with PMS.
Amie Valpone is a celebrity chef and nutrition expert who healed herself from a decade of chronic illness. She is the author of the new cookbook Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body and the founder of TheHealthyApple.com. Amie has been featured in numerous magazines and TV. Visit Amie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.