Having digestive troubles? I used to struggle with major GI issues — IBS, constipation, acid reflux, bloating and discomfort after every meal — the whole bit. Doctor after doctor ran tests, prescribed pills, and told me that what was happening had nothing to do with what I was eating (yes, seriously), yet they didn’t seem to have any answers. Totally frustrated with their advice to manage the symptoms with medication, I said goodbye to conventional medicine, hello to holistic nutrition, and have been on a natural health kick ever since.
How exactly did I heal my digestive system?
A burning desire to feel good and a whole lot of trial and error.
Here are the top 12 things that made the biggest impact in my journey to healing and ultimately saved my digestive system. I hope these serve you wherever you are on your journey. Here's to living, thriving, and happy, healthy guts everywhere.
12 Ways To Heal Your DIgestive System Naturally
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Take 1-2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar before each meal. Look for raw, organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar like Bragg’s apple cider vinegar. Don’t be alarmed if you see sediment floating at the bottom of the bottle — that’s actually a good thing. That ‘sediment’ is known as the ‘the mother,’ and it contains raw enzymes and gut-friendly bacteria that aids in indigestion, gastrointestinal discomfort and chronic acid reflux.
2. Food Journaling
Keeping a food journal that contained a record of everything I ate and drank and how it made me feel was a tremendous help in my journey to healing. Our food philosophy at Urban Alchemy is simple, eat what you can digest — and food journaling is the fastest way to figure that out. Although I don’t currently keep a food journal, (I’ve done a lot of trial and error to determine what helps me feel my absolute best), food journaling is tremendously valuable if you’re trying to pinpoint what works for you.
There are tons and tons of food journaling apps out there but our favorite method is good old-fashioned pen & paper. To grab a copy of our High Vibe Food Journal handout (all of our clients use this and LOVE it!), click the button below and we’ll send it right over!
3. Ditch the dairy.
We go into this in much greater detail in our online cleanse course, Nourished By Nature, but ditching dairy is one of the first things to try if you’re experiencing GI issues. Lactose, the naturally occurring sugar found in milk and dairy products is extremely difficult to digest (about 75 percent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant — meaning, about 75 percent of the world’s population physically cannot properly digest dairy). When lactose isn’t digested properly, it sits in the gut causing gas, bloating, diarrhea and other digestive ailments. Need support with this or want to know what to eat instead? Get Nourished By Nature — it contains absolutely everything you need.
4. Try cultured or fermented foods.
Consuming cultured or fermented foods on a daily basis re-establishes a healthy inner ecosystem and dramatically improves digestion and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, and coconut kefir are loaded with digestive enzymes and gut balancing probiotics making them an incredible addition to any healing protocol. Try 2 tablespoons - ¼ cup with each meal. Make your own homemade sauerkraut with our super simple recipe and tutorial here.
5. Eat slowly and chew your food.
Food inhalation, as described by the shoveling of food into your mouth so fast it looks like you’re not even swallowing, is huge today. However, when we don’t chew well enough to allow the enzymes in our mouth to work, our digestive system has a hard time functioning properly resulting in bloating, gas, and other GI issues. So slow it down and really chew your food (smoothies included).
6. Follow the 80/20 rule for quantity.
I am constantly working on this one (my eyes are bigger than my stomach), but this makes a world of difference when I actually follow it. Very simple: Eat until you are 80% full so your digestive enzymes have room to work.
7. Drink between meals (not during).
Drinking fluids while you eat can cause dilution of stomach acids and digestive enzymes, making them less effective at breaking down food therefore slowing digestion. Instead of drinking during meals, aim to hydrate about 15 to 20 minutes before you eat, and try not to have anything (water, coffee, tea, etc.), until about 30 minutes to an hour after you’ve finished your meal. Implementing this change alone will make a huge difference in digestion.
8. Eat fruit alone on an empty stomach (i.e. before meals — not for dessert).
All food digests at different rates. Fruit digests extremely quickly (typically within 30 minutes of consumption), much faster than any other food group. When you eat fruit after a meal, it sits in your digestive tract (on top of the food that your body is trying to digest) causing fermentation, gas and bloating. Instead of having fruit for dessert, try eating fruit alone on an empty stomach, or before you eat.
A quick note on smoothies because we know you’re going to ask:
Fruit in smoothies is totally fine (it’s great, actually!). Blending makes everything easier to digest, but again, notice how YOU feel when you have them.
9. Always eat when you’re relaxed, not angry or stressed.
Our bodies process food differently when we’re in different emotive states. Have you ever noticed how your body reacts to anger or stress? Your muscles tense up, your stomach tightens, your heart rate goes up. Not exactly the ideal environment for healthy digestion. So before you eat take a chill pill. Try a few cycles of deep breathing, go for a walk, do something to relax before you scarf down your food, and in general try to dial down the stress.
10. Supplement with probiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria that aid in digestion, boost our immune system, and keep our inner-ecosystem functioning optimally. An in-depth blog post on probiotics is coming soon (with Urban Alchemy approved brands), but we highly recommend everyone take a good quality probiotic. Look for brands with the letters ‘CFU’ next to every strand like hyper biotics pro-15. CFU stands for Colony-Forming Unit, which is a measure of living, viable organisms (and what you want in a probiotic).
11. Find a doctor, health coach or holistic health practitioner that gets YOU.
You do have to take responsibility for your health, but you don’t have to do it alone. Find someone that will support you, guide you, and help you get to the root of the issue, (rather than prescribe medication to cover up the symptoms). Working with someone who recognizes that a pill isn’t always the best treatment is life changing. If you’re interested in working with us one-on-one, we have a few coaching spots open for the fall and would absolutely love to support you! Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. This is how we work.
12. Clean up your diet.
This is extremely important. None of the previous tips will work if you’re filling up with foods you can’t digest. A healthy diet is the foundation for a healthy digestive system. We highly suggest doing a food-based cleanse to kick things off. We cannot stress this enough — we actually believe in this so much that we created one (a really good one), just for you. Check it out here!
If you’re having digestive issues or want to amp up your gut health try some of these tips and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below.
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You rock, xo
Erika & Jess
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