Nicole Kovalenko

| 05/25/2016

4 Steps to Healthy Digestion

4 Steps to Healthy Digestion

Most people know that gastrointestinal issues begin in the digestive tract. But did you know that many other diseases start there as well? Over 70% of your immune system is located in your gut. It also produces neurotransmitters that people assume are only manufactured in the brain. Therefore, problems stemming from the gut and digestion can affect your brain health as well.

Because it can negatively impact all parts of your body, a healthy digestive tract is critical to your overall health and wellbeing. Excess stress, antibiotics and the Standard American Diet (high in sugar and processed foods) can imbalance your gut flora and cause problems with your digestion. If you want to improve your digestive health, here are four suggestions to get you started.

1. Focus on a plant-based, whole foods diet

To feed your good gut bacteria and keep your digestive system healthy, eat as many plant-based whole foods as possible. Remember to eat a rainbow of colors to get the micronutrients and antioxidants your body needs. Also include healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, coconut, and olive oil. Staying hydrated with clean water will also improve your digestion and gut health.

2. Reduce your sugar intake

Though it tastes delicious, sugar has an inflammatory effect on your whole body and feeds the bad bacteria in your digestive track. To reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, learn to read labels on the food you buy. Look for the grams of sugar and identify which ingredients are less obvious forms of sugar. This includes high fructose corn syrup and anything ending in an -ose or -ol. It’s also useful to know what the numbers in labels mean. For example, four grams of sugar is the equivalent of one teaspoon. Ideally, we should limit our added sugar intake to 25-35 grams per day (6-9 teaspoons).

3. Try an elimination diet.

Food sensitivities can cause inflammation that irritates your digestive system, but you may not always have gastrointestinal symptoms. A pain or symptom anywhere in your body can stem from dysfunction in the gut. The top five foods that most people have sensitivities to are gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. To find out if any of these foods are causing you problems, eliminate them from your diet for four to six weeks. Then add one item back at a time, waiting a week before introducing a new food. Record any symptoms or reactions you notice.

4. Add probiotics

Your digestive health depends on the bacteria that live in your gut, which includes both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics introduce good bacteria to help keep your gut flora in proper balance. The more live cultures in your supplement the better, but taking too much at first may cause a laxative effect or irritate your stomach. Start with a supplement that has 10 billion units of live bacteria and slowly work your way higher to as much as 100 billion. Be sure to look for a reputable brand such as Garden of Life or Renew Life.

Probiotic foods have the same beneficial bacteria-introducing effect as probiotic supplements. You can introduce good bacteria into your system by eating fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut (i.e. fermented vegetables), kefir, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, and plain Greek yogurt. A word of warning: store-bought sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir have been processed and do not contain as much, if any, beneficial bacteria. Instead, try making your own. It’s fun, easy, and so much healthier!

Digestive issues are complicated and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there is a lot you can do to improve them. The important thing to remember is that you don’t need to try everything at once. To create lasting change, implement one of these suggestions at a time, and keep with it for three to four weeks before making another change. Listen to your body, and you’ll be able to tell when the changes you implement make a difference, as you become your healthiest, happiest self.

Nicole Kovalenko MS, IAHC, AADP

Nicole is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach who helps women with thyroid and digestive issues improve their health and energy levels naturally. The support and guidance she provides is something she desperately wanted and needed when she was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease (Autoimmune Hyperthyroidism) in 1999.


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