Good digestion is essential to good health. The digestive system is the foundation of your health – it’s what helps you absorb the nutrients that energize your body, fuel your mind, and power vital aspects of your health like immune, thyroid, and hormone function. If your digestive system is struggling, it can have a big impact on your well-being. Keep reading to learn how to get your gut back on track.
Dr. Joseph Radawi at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine offers relief for a variety of digestive disorders. If you’ve been having trouble using the restroom, or you suffer from symptoms like cramping after you eat, excessive bloating, or embarrassing flatulence, you’re in the right place.
Overview of Digestive System Issues
It’s estimated that nearly 70 million people in the U.S. are affected by some sort of digestive disorder. This could be anything from acid reflux to pancreatitis. For many, these disorders are debilitating. But for every person dealing with a debilitating digestive disorder, there are thousands who assume the symptoms they are experiencing are “normal.”
Examples of digestive issues that may require some type of medical attention include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and reflux. Common complaints from people with digestive issues include bloating, heartburn, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of all the above.
Wondering if you have a digestive disorder? Here are some common symptoms to look for:
- Bloating or gas
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms can be brought on by history of antibiotic use, nutrition imbalances, increased stress, a gluten sensitivity, infection, or inflammation. Digestive disorders do more harm to the body the longer you avoid treating them. If you have any of these symptoms on a regular basis, here are some simple strategies to get relief and improve your digestive health.
Natural Ways to Optimize Digestive Health
- Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
A high-fiber diet keeps food moving through your digestive tract and is extremely helpful if you are living with a digestive disorder. However, there are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – and the body reacts differently to each.
Soluble fiber slows things down in the digestive tract, which helps with diarrhea. On the other hand, insoluble fiber can speed things up, alleviating constipation.
Foods which contain soluble fiber:
Foods which contain insoluble fiber:
- Whole grains
- Vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes
If you are constipated, try adding more insoluble fiber to your diet; if you have diarrhea, go for soluble fiber options.
- Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is by far the most common cause of constipation. If you aren’t drinking enough water, your body will take needed moisture from your stool to stay hydrated. Drink fluids throughout the day and aim for eight glasses of water per day. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can also help you stay hydrated.
- Don’t Eat Late at Night
Eating late at night can lead to reflux and indigestion. If you experience digestive issues at bedtime, try waiting three to four hours after eating before going to bed. This will give the food time to move from your stomach to your small intestine.
- Remember to Chew
By not completely chewing your food, you are missing the first enzyme intended to break down food. This causes large, undigested food to enter your digestive tract, which can cause bloating and gas. Aim to chew until your food is liquefied before swallowing, usually about 20 to 30 chews.
- Take Your Time to Eat
Chances are, you eat quicker than you realize. When you eat in a rushed or frantic state, your body enters fight-or-flight mode, which shuts down digestion. Your body also needs oxygen to properly digest food, so remember to take your time. Breathing in between bites is a great way to reduce digestive issues.
- Identify and Remove Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities are a common cause of bloating and gas. You can get tested for food allergies, or you can eliminate the most common food allergens for a few weeks —such as dairy, gluten, yeast, eggs, corn, soy, and peanuts – and then reintroduce them one at a time to see if they cause symptoms. If any of these foods lead to nausea, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or fatigue, then you have a food sensitivity or allergy that is harming your digestive health.
- Manage Stress
Stress negatively impacts your digestion and has been associated with diarrhea, constipation, and IBS. This is because stress or anxiety can cause your body to think you don’t have time to rest and digest. Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga can improve not only your mindset but also your digestion.
- Exercise Regularly
Moving your body on a regular basis helps to improve digestion. Regular exercise helps keep foods moving through your digestive system and reduces constipation. It also increases endorphin levels and reduces stress levels.
- Heal Your Gut
Incorporating healthy bacteria into your diet is a great way to support gut health. This can include a good-quality probiotic supplement or fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, miso, and pickled vegetables.
Functional Medicine Can Treat Digestive Disorders
Digestive issues are often thought to be chronic, lifelong conditions, but they don’t have to control your life. Conventional medical treatments usually try to decrease the symptoms, especially during flareups. But functional medicine uses a model of personalized care that focuses on the root cause of your digestive issue. Functional medicine’s primary goal is to heal the gut, improve digestion, and address imbalances within the body to restore function.
A functional medicine doctor can rule out various conditions that may be causing your digestive problems while assessing your nutrient and mineral levels. Usually, your functional medicine doctor will begin by reviewing your social habits and lifestyle to determine potential causes of digestive issues. Poor diet, food sensitivities, a history of antibiotic use, excessive stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and several other factors can lead to issues in the gut.
In addition to investigating your daily habits, specialized testing can be done to identify any issues that may be affecting the gut. Functional medicine testing goes beyond the typical testing you would get at your annual checkup. It looks into the function of your organs, how well you digest proteins, how well you absorb nutrients, if you have a viral infection, if you have antibodies associated with an allergy or an autoimmune condition, and how well your thyroid and adrenal glands function.
Digestive symptoms are often a sign of a bigger issue. While medications may help with your symptoms, they won’t correct the root cause. Here at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we discuss the symptoms and causes of your digestive health problems and come up with an effective treatment plan just for you.
Looking for real answers to your digestive troubles? Schedule a free discovery call.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.