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A 6-Step Tune-Up for Better Digestive Health

by Ashley Koff, RD on Sep 14, 2017

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too! Improved digestive nutrition enables better health when you make better, not perfect, choices more often. Aiming for perfect will make you perfectly stressed, which will challenge digestion further, and as such be perfectly unhelpful and unhealthy. Here are six suggestions to help clients get optimal digestion and absorption up and running:

  1. Move more. The body’s digestive tract is a series of muscles whose ongoing movement enables better digestion. Beyond exercise, it is critical to find opportunities to move throughout the day. Additionally, doing abdominal twists (seated or lying on the floor), as well as bending in all planes of motion, can help to engage and support digestive muscle movement. Work with clients to ensure proper form and to emphasize not just twisting from the shoulders but actually moving the whole core to encourage abdominal muscle movement.

  2. Reduce (digestive) workload. The digestive system can handle a lot, but it can also get overwhelmed. By eating and drinking less at any one time, and by practicing better nutrient balance, clients can give their bodies a manageable workload that allows for efficient, effective work plus time for recovery and relaxation.

  3. Turn off digestive “DiStress.” Certain nutrients and nutrient forms can support the digestive system, reducing stress on it and allowing food to be broken down and absorbedmore efficiently. For example, cacao, nuts, seeds, grains, greens and beans supply your cells with magnesium, which turns off the body’s stress response (“fight or flight”) (Wienecke & Nolden 2016). Avocado,beans, goat’s milk kefir and cheese, raw spinach, and parsley provide glutamine, which helps repair the digestive tract lining, enabling easier and better absorption of nutrients (Rao & Samak 2012).

    Under stress, the body shunts attention away from digestion, which can make liquid nutrition a great temporary fix for aiding absorption.

    Nutrient-balanced liquid-nutrition recommendations include nonstarchy-vegetable-based soups with one serving of starchy vegetable, topped with hemp hearts or chopped nuts; and smoothies with one serving of fruit, nonstarchy vegetables, quality protein powder and a nut butter or other healthy fat.

  4. Build better balance. Fibers are essential to digestive health. Our bodies need both the insoluble and soluble forms, including those that function as prebiotics (food for probiotics). Bear in mind, however, that too much fiber at once can overwhelm the digestive tract, especially if it is already stressed or irritated. Balance your daily intake by splitting it up throughout the day (aim for 5–10 grams of fiber at one time, versus 20–25 g) and consuming an adequate amount of water daily (as a goal for how many ounces to consume daily, begin with half a client’s body weight in pounds, then split that number into 3–5 water breaks, as a starting point). Balance bacteria load by taking in probiotics from quality fermented foods to counter the “bad” bacteria ingested through our mouths and skin.

  5. Bite better. Chewing food more thoroughly and chewing on better-quality food give the body more of the resources it needs. Avoid the chemistry lab projects and hyperprocessed foods where nutrients are removed and only some are added back, in different forms, via fortification.

  6. Journal it. As with anything, we can’t know what’s working and what needs attention without knowing what we are consuming and how our body responds to it most often.

To read more about how good food and hydration, plus the human body’s built-in detox brilliance, promote the optimal digestion and absorption, please see "'Detoxing' Requires Guts!" in the online IDEA Library or in the June 2017 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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About the Author

Ashley Koff, RD

Ashley Koff, RD IDEA Author/Presenter

Ashley Koff RD is your better health enabler. For decades, Koff has helped thousands get and keep better health by learning to make their better not perfect nutrition choices more often. A go-to nutrition expert for the country’s leading doctors, media, companies and non-profit organizations, Koff regularly shares her Better Nutrition message with millions on national and local television, magazines and newspapers. Koff is a founding partner of Give Healthy, and in addition to her private practice, makes her better tools and real support available to anyone, anywhere with her online Better Nutrition membership. Koff is the author of two books and new audio / workbook program, "Road Trip to Better Health", has an award-winning social media platform and co-hosts the podcast “Take Out with Ashley and Robyn”. Currently living in Washington DC, Koff is re-learning trumpet, enjoys boxing workouts, and getting outdoors with Rerun, her dog.