Twelve Ways to Mindfully Improve Your Health and Digestion
Having spent the last three years learning about digestive issues and how to resolve them, I have a decent wealth of knowledge and experience to share. Last week, I typed up this list to help someone who also struggles with some-diet related health issues, so I thought I would share it here, too. This is by no means an exhaustive list of How To’s when it comes to improving your Health and Digestion, but it is definitely the best place to start. In future posts, I hope to expand upon this and explore more specifically the factors which contribute to poor digestion, which is what my own focus has been.
Note that these items are in no particular order, simply the order in which they came to mind:
1. Avoid all meat, dairy and eggs. No exceptions. If you must eat them, try to limit it to once a week and be conscious of portion size.
- In addition to carrying parasites and drug resistant bacteria - among other things - these "foods" WILL cause gut inflammation. Inflammation in the gut contributes to gut permeability which allows waste to leak through the wall of your gut into your bloodstream, causing systemic inflammation throughout the body. Hence the myriad of weird chronic ailments that exist and people’s greater likelihood of getting sick so often. It's like your body is constantly fighting off an infection, so it strains your immune system.
- Read food labels if you must buy things boxed or pre-made. You’d be surprised where milk ends up.
- Animal products all contain cholesterol. Humans produce their own cholesterol and do not need to consume any through their diet to survive, unlike cats and other carnivores. Consumption of cholesterol in humans is the cause of heart disease, the number one killer in the US.
2. Do not overeat. Use cronometer.com to make sure you’re eating the right amount each day for your height/weight/age/activity level. Aim to feel about 80% full at the end of a meal.
- Overeating will prevent your digestive enzymes penetrating all your food, overburdening your digestive capacity and forcing your organs to work harder than they ought to. Over time this will contribute to gut inflammation.
3. For optimal digestion and nutrient assimilation, practice proper food combining.
- Eat fruits alone. Never combine with cooked food or fats.
- Drink juice alone. Do not consume with anything else.
- Eat cooked meals with raw greens only. No other raw foods combine with cooked ones.
- Eat all vegetables but especially starchy ones like potatoes separately from fruit. Greens can be consumed with fruit if desired.
- Drink liquids before meals. Do not consume liquids with meals. Wait 2 hours after a meal to drink more liquids.
- Drink only clear water and herbal teas with no additives or sugar. Adding fresh lemon juice to hot water may aid digestion.
- Fatty foods like nuts, seeds and tofu can be consumed with vegetables, cooked or raw.
- Do not consume dried fruit with fresh fruit.
4. Avoid all coffee, chocolate and alcohol. These are stimulating, damaging and irritating to the gut. Many spices including garlic and onions can also irritate the gut or cause intestinal spaciticy.
5. Do not eat within 2 hours of going to bed.
6. Prepare all your own meals from whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible to avoid additives, oils, sweeteners, fake colors, added oils, high fructose corn syrup, and flavors entering your system. None of these are well-suited for human consumption.
7. Minimize fat intake. Most fats are difficult for the body to break down and very little overt fat is needed as fruits and vegetables also contain trace amounts of all the fatty acids the body requires.
- Avocados are the best option for fat consumption as they are technically a fruit and contain important minerals. The second-best option is raw nuts and seeds, followed by tofu.
- Avoid all added oils as these are not a whole food and the process of extracting them damages any healthful compounds in the original food. Unless kept in a dark glass bottle, all oils will begin to go rancid almost at once.
- Eating excess overt fat prevents the body from absorbing glucose from carbohydrates effectively, hence the reason people on high fat diets who also eat a diet high in carbohydrates gain weight and eventually develop type II diabetes over time. You can either be High Fat (think meat, oils, fish, eggs, nuts like the Paleo or Atkins diet advocates) OR High Carb (fruit, veg, whole grains, beans) but not both. Eating one OR the other will result in weight loss. Eating both together will lead to weight gain.
- Instead of using fats to add flavor or fullness to a meal, use fresh herbs diced into fine bits, or sprinkle the dish with spices or nuts.
- Even though nuts are very fatty, eating a handful of raw nuts a day as an addition to any existing diet does not contribute to weight gain. This finding was presented as a groundbreaking nutritional study.
8. Limit added salt and sugar. The more salt you consume the more water you must drink to compensate.
- Over time your taste buds will readjust to the natural flavor of food and you will no longer need these additives to enjoy a food.
9. Drink a ½ gallon of water each day.
10. Legumes, beans, lentils, chickpeas, are fat free and are full of beneficial fiber. In a healthy person, they can be consumed regularly, however they may prove difficult to digest due to their protein-to-starch ratio (see food combining above) and can cause intestinal distress, even in healthy persons. If tolerated, they can be added to curries, soups, and salads, eaten plain or in a sauce or spiced, blended as a dip with veggies or smeared on a wrap or sandwich.
11. Every person should be having at least one bowel movement each day and evacuation should be painless, odorless, and last no more than 20 seconds.
- If this is not the case, you are constipated and waste is caught in your colon causing inflammation and weakening the structure of the gut. Eat fruit and juice and raw watery vegetables (like cucumber and tomato) until regularity has returned and the gut feels vigorous and healthy once again.
- Avoid starches and fats until health is restored to the gut.
- You should feel empty and light each day. There should be no bulge in the abdomen.
12. Seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of the diet. Ideally, fruit should make up at the very least 50% of the diet for optimal health.
- The recommended breakdown is 80% of calories from carbohydrate, 10% from protein and 10% from fat. This is effortlessly achieved on a vegan diet with the primary caloric intake from fruit, veg, whole grains, and legumes.