Oftentimes, when we experience digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, pain etc - our immediate reaction is to cut foods out. And while food could very well be an issue, proper digestive function isn’t solely based on what you’re putting IN your body. How you treat your body, how you recover, and how you respond to day-to-day events ALL play a role.
Here are 3 factors that can make or break your digestion-
Ever realized how great digestion feels when you’re on vacation, regardless of what you eat? Or how “backed up” you may feel on a daily basis at work? This is because how we move and feel throughout the day has a huge impact on how our bodies function.
Feeling stressed about a certain task, running late or even heavy summer air can all trigger shallow breathing patterns (think chest or trap breathes versus deep belly breaths). This shallow breathing cuts the oxygen supply to your body, which can lead to tight muscles and “stuck” digestion.
Make a conscious effort to reset your breathing patterns throughout the day by focusing on deep, diaphragm breaths. Do this buy slowly exhaling all the way out, pausing until your body tells you “I need a breath,” and then slowing taking a deep breathe in through the pit of your abdomen. Try this for 2 minutes every time to you catch yourself tensing up.
Have you felt “hung over” from a lack of sleep? (i.e. bloating, headaches, cravings) Do your new digestive issues coincide with your new crazy schedule?
It is common to have irregular bowel movements, slower digestion, and/or changes in appetite when your sleep schedule takes a hit. Why? Our hormones, livers, muscle tissue and digestive systems all reset and repair at night with adequate amounts of GOOD sleep. For most people, 7-8 hours is adequate. However, for those who are consistently stressed, you probably need more.
* Trouble falling asleep? Put sleep in your calendar and turn off all stimulants prior to bedtime. That means no screens (phone, TV, laptop etc) in the hour or two before bed so that your mind can calm down with your tired body.
* Trouble staying asleep? Practice the breathing patterns stated above. Listen to calming music. Make sure you’re eating enough before bed so that your body can relax and reset. Going to bed hungry can actually work against you.
* Not enough time? If getting 7 hours of sleep is 100% not doable because of your schedule, try fasting in the morning for better digestion. Fasting (or having just liquids) until your body feels ready for food and bowel movements feel regular will give your digestive system more reset time. Breakfast IS important, however over-stuffing your body with food first thing in the morning will work against you IF your body is not ready for it.
We all know stress is unhealthy. In fact, it really deserves its own blog series. For the purposes of digestion however, we will focus on keeping our bodies in the parasympathetic state, also known as “rest and digest.”
When stressful situations occur, or more commonly- we REACT in a stressed manner, our bodies jump to a sympathetic state known as “fight or flight.” Short term, the rush we get from being in this “fight or flight” mode is okay. Long term, our body prioritizes its energy towards that adrenaline rush (think increased heart rate, tunnel vision, heightened senses) and takes its energy away from our normal bodily functions such as growth, recovery and DIGESTION.
Stress will probably always be there in one way or another. However, learning how to respond to things makes it more manageable AND having different methods of de-stressing is crucial. Actively work to relax yourself (mind and body) DAILY. Repeat breathing exercises (see a pattern?), get up and move, read a good book, pick up a hobby, spend time with people who make you feel GOOD.
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