Do any of those sound familiar? If you experience any (or all) of these on a regular basis, you most likely have some digestion issues. Duh, right?
A quick Google search will turn up the cause of your issues. You need your gall bladder out. You have Crohns. You have an ulcer. You are gluten intolerant. You have a dairy allergy. You have candida. You have Celiac disease.
All of the above are real issues, problems, illnesses, and intolerances. It's not just "in their head". And maybe, just maybe, one of those things really is the cause of your, um, bathroom issues. But before you self-diagnose and then self-prescribe the GAPS diet, low FODMAP, or any sort of drastic elimination diet, there are three fairly simple things that you can try first.
Before I recommend these things, be aware that I have zero medical training whatsoever. I am a certified nutritionist, which means that I know a lot about food and how your body processes and responds to different foods. So please do not consider this as professional, medical advice. These are suggestions that will most likely help you feel better. If you faithfully implement all three of these preliminary steps and don't experience any positive changes, by all means please see a physician and get to the, ahem, bottom of your problems.
Digestion Problems? Start With These Three Things:
1. Ditch processed foods.
I'm starting with the most complicated, but also the most basic. This will most likely make a huge difference in how you feel. I could go on for hours about this topic, but I'll try to keep it short. Ditching processed foods might seem overwhelming, but it is as simple as eating whole, one-ingredient foods. Or less-than-five ingredient foods. If you can't pronounce something on the ingredient list, it's not a whole food...and those unpronounceable ingredients may be the cause of your gastric distress. Instead, go for fresh (or frozen) fruit and vegetables. Homemade or bakery bread with simple ingredients and no preservatives. Plain meat and fish...add the herbs and spices yourself, and don't buy anything with breading. Potatoes instead of french fries. If it didn't swim, fly, walk, or grow in the dirt, don't eat it. Is this an adjustment? Absolutely. Will your stomach thank you? Absolutely. Do I expect that no morsel of processed food will ever cross your lips again? Absolutely not. How strict you are about this is up to you. Your stomach will probably decide for you. If you're not sure where to start, or exactly how to go about ditching processed foods, I can help. Contact me today and we'll get you on the road to eating whole foods.
2. Take a good-quality probiotic.
Easy. Just remember to swallow a pill or two every day. Probiotics are good bacteria, and you need a specific balance of good and bad bacteria for proper gut function. Obviously there's a more detailed explanation than that as to why probiotics help fix digestion issues, but it really is that simple. I highly recommend ProX10 from Biotrust. It's not cheap. But it's the good stuff. If you want to shop for something cheaper, you'll want to make sure that a variety of "live and active" strains are listed on the label. Acidophilus and Bifidus are the minimum ones you should see, but in general, the more strains listed, the better. You'll also want to check the number of cultures (CFUs...colony forming units). Basic, cheap probiotics will include 1-5 billion per dose, while others include 15 billion or up to 25 billion. Depending on the extent of your gut imbalance, a lesser population might be good enough for you...or not. It may take some experimentation to find out what works for you. My gut issues were so bad that I decided to go big right away. I figured if I was spending the money on this, I might as well spend a little bit more and make sure I got something good. I've never regretted it.
3. Eat yogurt.
Every. Single. Day. Don't skip a day. Yes, even if you are taking a probiotic, still eat your yogurt. Yogurt has good bacteria in it too. No, Yoplait Whips don't really count, sorry. Eat real yogurt. Something that says "contains live and active cultures" on it. If you must go for the fruity sugar add-ins, you can start there. But try to wean yourself off that stuff. You're ditching processed foods, remember? All yogurt contains sugar (the naturally occurring sugar called lactose), but in general, the less sugar it contains, the better it will be for you. While you're at it, you might as well go for the Greek yogurt and reap the additional benefits of more protein in your diet.
The reason I recommend these fairly simple fixes is, well, fairly simple: experience. With myself, and with clients. Over the past few years, I've made these changes. And I can honestly say I feel so much better. It's almost as if I didn't realize how bad I felt until I started feeling good. Occasionally, I still have issues. But when I do, it's always because I cheated too often in a short period of time, or because I fell off the yogurt wagon. I've also recommended these changes to my clients, and almost all of them have reported feeling better.
I can't guarantee that the above action items will fix your digestion issues. But they are a good starting point. Maybe you have something more complicated going on in there that needs more than clean eating and a probiotic to fix it. But start here. It's worth a try.