Do you know where your digestion begins?
Think about your favorite meal. (Mines probably carnitas tacos with a hefty squeeze of lime juice at the moment.) Truly invision your favorite foods in your mind, the way it looks, the way it smells, the way it tastes…. Does your mouth water just by using your imagination? (Yes!)
(If you’re having a hard time visualizing, think about something sour, like a lemon. One memory that always gets me was when I used to eat lemon Sour Warheads. #bamf, If you know, you know. Still to this day, my mouth waters every time I think of eating one!)
And that folks, is where your digestion actually begins, with your brain!
Often times, we are distracted at meal times. Eating through your work lunch, driving while eating, watching TV while eating, picking up fast food, mindless snacking cause you’re bored, stress, etc. What all of these have in common is that you are distracted and not focusing on nourishing your body with the foods you are about to eat.
Your thoughts literally send a message to your vagus nerve (a cranial nerve that connects your brain’s thoughts to your bodies actions) to signal your digestive system to prepare for incoming food, thus creating saliva in your mouth that has essential digestive enzymes that begins the food breakdown process!
It’s a seriously complex system, but the main function of the whole digestive system is to, 1) break down the foods you eat into smaller molecules, 2) deliver these molecules/nutrients to different parts of your body to be used, 3) store the molecules or nutrients for a later use, 4) use the molecules to build new tissues throughout the body, 5) host 70-80% of your immune system, and 6) maintain ecological balance with your gut flora. Sounds pretty essential for life, amiright?
Without getting too in-depth, there are 17 different components/organs, hormones, and even the brain and spinal cord needed for the digestive system to flow effortlessly. All without us really knowing it’s even happening, (if the digestive system is working cohesively, that is)! When the digestive system is not working correctly, you flat out just won’t feel good, but this usually doesn’t happen until something has been off for awhile.
You could be eating the exact same meals as someone else who has a properly functioning digestive system, but if something in your digestive tract is off you won’t be able to absorb all those lovely nutrients and/or micronutrients!
Some common signs your digestive system is not working optimally:
- Weak nails: brittle, peeling & ridges
- Bloating, gas, & belching after meals
- Feel like food is just sitting there
- Bad breath
- Thin, dry, weak hair
- Dry and weak skin
- Premature aging
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Floating stool (steatorrhea)
- Undigested food in stool
- Foul stool odor or mucus
- Rectal itching
- Chronic fatigue
- Severe PMS
- Fatty liver
- Impaired detoxification
- Intolerance to fats
- Headaches, migraines
Some associated conditions with poor digestion:
- Autoimmune disease
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Small intestine bacterial overgrowth
- Intestinal permeability
- Low SIgA
Wow, so that’s just the most common list of things that can go awry when your digestive system isn’t functioning properly. It’s pretty lengthy, and I don’t mean to scare anyone, but only to let you become aware of the signs your body is trying to tell you.
So, the first step to a healthy digestive system and assimilate all those lovely, bountiful nutrients, is to RELAX while you are eating! Take 5 slow, deep diaphragm breaths to help calm your mind and absorb all those lovely nutrients from your food! This is especially essential for people going through cancer, or have been through cancer, as your digestive system gets pretty destroyed from treatment.
According to Dr. Nasha Winters, ND, L.Ac., FABNO and Jess Higgins Kelly, MNT, if you didn’t have an autoimmune disease before your cancer treatment started, you almost always will develop one after if you don’t work quickly to heal your gut. The one factor all autoimmune diseases have in common is a person WILL have intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome. (A post about how to fix leaky gut syndrome will come later.) The gut is soo important, it’s a shame that it’s not part of the cancer recovery process. Luckily, you have stumbled upon this post and my work and I’m here to help you feel your very best. Pre-cancer, during cancer, post-cancer, never-had-cancer, I gotchu’, fam!
If you’d like some “love your gut” actionable steps, make sure to subscribe to my Cancer Survivors Course newsletter, HERE! (A great resource cancer-or-not!)