Create your balance. Design your life.

Digestion, Health and Life

A lot of work I do in my private practice involves switching mindset focus from weight change, to health change. We’ve swallowed a big fat pill from the media, and each other, that intentionally changing your weight equals healthier, wherever you are headed with that equals happiness, and many people find themselves anxious, depressed, and in a constant state of self-criticism about the numbers on the scale and the pants’ size they wear.

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In reality, when we have enough nutrients to meet our bodies’ needs, and underlying conditions and imbalances are appropriately resolved or managed, weight often normalizes on its own, or with less effort and intervention. When an underlying state of wellness is created, the aspects of our life that revolve around food work like a well oiled machine.

I am not saying you can’t be zaftig and healthy, or thin and happy. But I am saying you can’t revolve your life and self-esteem around your size, and be happy.  It’s a rabbit hole with no end.

When we take a look at the overall functioning of the body, the system that comes up as fundamental to repair for optimum health is digestion. Our digestive tract is where we break down and assimilate nutrients: nutrients that are the building blocks of our hormones, our neurotransmitters, and literally all of our physiologic processes and functioning. When I put it that way, it’s easy to see that if digestion isn’t working and those building blocks aren’t being absorbed, or they aren’t being fed into the system to begin with due to extreme dieting or inappropriate (for you) food choices, we’ve got a problem.

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Add to the picture that inflammation in the gut equals inflammation in the brain, and the vicious parallel and cycle of food and mood dysfunction, and it’s no wonder it’s hard to tell which end is up in the food/mood/weight/health ballgame.

So maybe you’re reading this article and you’re thinking wait, could that be me? Something’s landing with you in the pit of your stomach and you’re starting to wonder, well how do I get off this roller coaster ride? Perhaps you feel unwell a lot, or maybe not but you are perennially unhappy with your body, and tired, often, at the end of the day. So what now?

There are some simple places to start. Consider trying these for a week, and see how you feel:

  1. Stop eating things you don’t like. That’s right, if you don’t like broccoli, stop eating broccoli. If you don’t like milk, don’t drink it. If you hate chocolate, skip it. There are many options available for most of the nutrients we need in our bodies. If you are unsure how to get them, get some help finding them from a nutritionist, dietician or health coach. Why is this important? We digest things better when we are relaxed and happy. Stress disables good breakdown and assimilation (not to mention eating up nutrients that could be doing other things). Also, life is short.
  2. Find a way to relax while you are eating. Many people preach mindful eating where you never do anything else while you are putting food into your mouth. A worthwhile exercise to explore, at least for a while, not always practical or desirable for everyone. But, you can reduce stress while you eat. So if you are eating while you’re working, choose a project that you enjoy to work on during your meal rather than one that makes you mad. Tip: relaxing while eating helps when you aren’t eating things you hate but making choices that you like.origin_6263244437
  3. Identify gastrointestinal or mood dysfunction symptoms, as well as other nagging health issues, and get some help with them if you aren’t already. Not every ache or pain in life can be eliminated, but there’s often a lot more room for improvement than you’d think, when you are eating and living in a way that is supportive to your body. What symptoms am I talking about? Less than one well formed and firm bowel movement per day. Gas, nausea, pain, diarrhea, bloating, depression, anxiety, negative self-talk, anger, skin rashes, mental ‘fog’, fatigue, sleep problems, and of course any more extreme or overt versions of those symptoms or diagnosis of a problem.
  4. Eat when you are hungry, and eat real food. Real food that tastes good to you. I’m talking basic food groups, vegetables, grains, protein, fat, condiments as opposed to fat free cheese or diet soda. Neither table sugar nor aspartame are essential to your health and well being. Processed foods, packaged foods, and foods with long lists of ingredients can be reduced or eliminated. Apart from the addictive natures of some of the additives, non-processed food will be more satisfying and nourishing.
  5. Start each day with a cup of warm water, and drink water throughout the day. To your early morning cup, add a squirt of lemon or a pinch of cayenne or cinnamon. Believe it or not this can be quite stimulating and rejuvenating, get your digestive tract moving, and initiate hydration after your long night’s sleep.

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This list is what I see as the essential set-up for effecting health change. The very first place to start. Once routine is established and the low hanging fruit of ‘first steps’ to improve digestion are underway, the next steps will be easier. For some people, simply getting things moving will be enough. For others there might be more to do to get you feeling your best.

The last aspect of digestion I want to write about today is the metaphysical one. Just as our digestive tract is responsible for letting the ‘good’ things in, and moving the ‘bad’ things, or things we don’t need, out, the same thing happens in life with our experiences. Did you know that your digestive tract is actually considered the outside of your body? That membrane is a powerful boundary between you and the world! So consider, also, for a moment, to what extent you are able to let in the good experiences in your life, and let the less productive or nourishing ones stroll on by. Do you have any habits or practices, like exercise or art or kvetching with friends, that you use when feeling emotionally constipated or malnourished? Just like with your body, consider ways you might start each day with a mental cup of warm water, or how you can ‘eat’ more experiences that nourish and fill you up.

Food for thought (I couldn’t help it).

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About the author: Jen Kahn MS, RYT is Natural Wellness Therapist and Functional and Behavioral Nutrition specialist. Her practice focuses on supporting clients who are dealing with chronic health conditions, eating, and mood dysfunction. Through the blessings of modern technology she works with clients all over the world in private consultation and through online workshops. If the article above leaves you wanting more, you can contact her by email: jen@elementalhealthwellness.com. When she’s not working with clients, running events, or writing, she can be found biking, cooking, painting, snuggling with her cats, inventing recipes, or doing nothing at all in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Waistline photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/tipstimesadmin/11376047053/”>TipsTimesAdmin</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=“http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

Molecule photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/scalefreenetwork/4893904394/”>scalefreenetwork</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

Soup photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/calafellvalo/6263244437/”>calafellvalo</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=“http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Lemon photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/2ni/5626298483/”>tö</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=“http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

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